It wasn’t all that long ago that the term ‘man bag’ would be uttered with more than a hint of a pejorative tone, as if us men were supposed to traffic our increasingly numerous daily essentials in our pockets. Thankfully those days are past us, and men can freely and wilfully go about their business with a bag in hand.
From cross-body messengers to luxury weekenders, the humble bag has become an additional social and stylistic signifier at least as important as any garment in our collective wardrobes. Moreover, it’s always the details that are best remembered – so one’s choice of bag is not a decision to take carelessly. Hence why we set about to discover the brands making the finest and most functional bags right now.
Designed in Copenhagen, Denmark, Danish brand Mismo tap into the Scandi tradition of clean minimalistic design to construct an array of stunning bags that perfectly integrate with a smart modern wardrobe.
Mismo’s enduring classics consist of Italian cotton canvas weekenders and cotton jacquard briefcases and backpacks with leather detailing. The choice to use hardwearing canvas rather than leather certainly keeps the cost down, while also giving their designs a nice textural finish.
Carl Friedrik is relatively new on the luggage scene but the Swedish brand launched by two brothers in 2012 has already carved out a niche for impressive leather bags and polycarbonate luggage.
It’s probably best known for its timelessly elegant briefcases, which are crafted from Italian leather and come in a variety of sizes from sleek portfolio to a more versatile ‘25-hour’ case for that whistle-stop business trip.
More recently they’ve launched a very slick set of polycarbonate wheely cases that feature a removable lithium battery to charge up your devices on the move.
Steele & Borough
Despite the English-sounding name, Steele & Borough is the brainchild of Swedes Niklas Bandobranski and Catherine Nilson. The duo founded the brand in 2015 and have since made their name on the back of classic weekender and duffle bags as well as briefcases and backpacks.
The aesthetic leans retro, with traditional leather detailing. What sets them apart is their use of water-resistant PETA-approved vegan leather throughout the collection.
We’ve long been fans of British luggage brand Bennett Winch for its acute attention to details, beautiful functional designs and sustainable approach to bag making.
Its flagship product is the Weekender bag, which as the name suggests is designed for short trips. Available in a range of canvas and leather styles, the bag is perfectly designed for those constantly on the move – it features a fully protected laptop pocket as well as a tablet/tech internal pocket while being sizeable enough to hold a change of outfits or your gym kit (the waterproof side-sleeves come in handy here).
Moreover, the Weekender looks like the money, and is well worth the money.
Founded in 2017 in Mayfair, London by Melissa Morris, Métier is a very luxurious expression of bag design. Handmade in Italy to the highest standards using the finest quality materials, Métier’s modular collections are built to survive a lifetime (and improve with age).
While all of the bags are functionally unique and beautiful to boot, the Vagabond Messenger is perhaps the brand’s most iconic style for men, coming in calfskin, suede and military twill options. It riffs on vintage flight bags of the 1940s and features a number of interior and exterior pockets to better compartmentalise your travel kit.
It’s rare to find a British heritage brand still run by the original family but 175-year-old Tusting, based out of Lavendon near Northamptonshire (they used to supply leather for much of the shoemaking industry there), is exactly that.
For many years the company has produced white-label bags and accessories for the world’s leading luxury brands, but are only now being recognised for its own creations, not least its stunning burnished leather and canvas holdalls, as well as leather backpacks.
One of the most popular styles however is the canvas Clipper, a quintessentially British satchel that will outlast you.
If you know Valextra, you’ll probably think of it as a high-end contemporary leather bag maker, but the Milan-based brand has actually been crafting luxury bags since 1937.
Founded by Giovanni Fontana, Valextra still produces some of the original pieces from 1937, and is renowned for its sumptuous leather craftsmanship. Most of its pieces are made from soft-grained Martellato calfskin or Parigi leather while the majority of its bags are also lined with white leather. Another notable detail is that each bag features the individual artisan number of the craftsperson who oversaw its creation.
Unlike most other luxury labels, Valextra doesn’t use its logo or a brand-specific pattern to sell bags, but rather trades on its reputation, so much so that it offers cleaning and repairs for life. The house aesthetic is unfussy and minimalistic, with subtle geometric details giving the bags a hint of futurism.
Japanese bag-making icon Yoshida & Co. has been manufacturing contemporary-style bags and accessories ever since it was founded in 1951. Porter, branded in 1962, is the flagship brand of Yoshida & Co. and takes its name from the humble hotel ‘porter’, through whose hands the world’s bags pass.
Founder Kichizo Yoshida has always maintained the philosophy of ‘One stitch all soul’, which describes the company’s commitment to excellence and passion for what it does. Today, Porter’s aesthetic is very urban and perfectly complements a modern streetwear wardrobe.
The brand uses nylon fabrics for the most part, sticking to a dark urban palette of black and olive green with flashes of navy and orange. From its two-way overnight bag to day packs and belt bags, Porter is a great fit for those who like a techwear edge to their look.
In the same vein as Porter Yoshida, fellow Japanese brand Indispensable prides itself on uniquely contemporary bags designs with a highly technical and utilitarian aesthetic. Founded in Kita-ku, Nagoya in 2013, the brand uses hard-wearing materials such as ECONYL®, an eco-friendly nylon-based fabric that’s tough to kill.
Belt bags and backpacks are the brand’s calling cards, featuring multi-pocket functionality and unique design elements you won’t find anywhere else.
Groundtruth, founded by sisters Georgia, Nina and Sophia Scott, has one mission: produce bags that protect the earth. After previous careers in film-making and seeing the devastation caused by excessive human plastic consumption, the Scotts set out to design a backpack that made use of the waste.
The result was the futuristic utilitarian design of the RIKR backpack, entirely constructed from 120 post-consumer plastic bottles and 100% carbon neutral. It looks like it belongs on the back of a Special Ops and it has been tested in the toughest conditions, including sailing around Antarctica on the back of British explorer Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both the north and south poles unaided.
The RIKR range has since expanded to include a slick-looking technical tote, camera bag and multiple smaller accessories.
WANT Les Essentiels
WANT Les Essentiels is a Montreal-based design label founded in 2007 that makes minimalist and functional bags. It was one of the first of the new breed of men’s bag brands and has laid down a benchmark for quality and style ever since.
As well as using beautiful premium leathers across its impressive collection of backpacks, totes, holdalls and briefcases, it also incorporates upcycled materials, organic cotton and ECONYL® – all of which create lower impact products.
WANT’s go-to colour is black so if your wardrobe is of the noir-ish persuasion then you’ll absolutely love accessorising your shadowy looks with these creations.
Spanish-born, Florence-based designer Álvaro González has some serious pedigree having designed accessories for the likes of Valentino, Tod’s, Loewe, Emilio Pucci, Loro Piana, Valextra and Jimmy Choo for over 20 years. So when he broke out on his own in 2013 to create leather bags and sandals, you just knew he was going to flex.
You’ll need to head to the store in London’s Marylebone village to peruse the bags, otherwise you can find a good selection over on MR PORTER. The leather holdalls and backpacks are quite something and deftly traverse the business and casual divide.
Maxwell Scott is a family-run business that started out in 2002 by English entrepreneur William Scott Forshaw. With a passion for the iconic bag shapes of the past, Forshaw set out to find the finest, most sustainable Italian ‘Vachetta’ leather he could get his hands on before discovering a family-run factory in Tuscany with the artisanal experience to do it justice. Mission accomplished.
The very first bag Maxwell Scott made was the Paolo briefcase, a classically styled attaché perfect to complement smart business attire, but the collection has now expanded massively to include stunning leather weekenders, duffles and laptop bags.
Leather this good comes at a premium but with a 25-year warranty, it’s an investment for life.
Founded by former financiers Samuel Bail & Abel Samet, Troubadour came about out of necessity. The pair shared a love for sports and weekends away but between them couldn’t find a weekend bag that could transition from the city and have all the functionality they required when travelling. So they made their own.
Today, Troubadour’s clean lines and sleek silhouettes punctuate the brand’s raison d’etre: to create modern bags that provide a conduit between smart business attire and casual weekend wear. From high-end Italian leather styles such as the Apex rucksack to the recycled polyester Troubadour weekender, the brand is committed to quality but also sustainability, pledging to become carbon neutral and eliminate flurocarbons in 2022.