A few years back, if you were trying to tell the world you were a middle-aged IT technician, a messenger bag would probably have been your first purchase. Until recently, these single-strapped shoulder vessels, with their poor weight distribution, were the height of luggage uncool. A sign that the wearer either didn’t understand the concept of style or had given up on it entirely.

It was a crying shame because, behind all the schoolboy connotations, this humble receptacle actually had some serious potential. Thankfully, a number of brands realised this and a full-blown messenger-bag revival has ensued.

All of a sudden, the messenger bag is back on form. There are premium versions, crafted from the highest grade leather. There are trend-led versions, courtesy of the world’s most respected haute-couture houses. The messenger bag is officially en vogue again – and this time it’s here to stay.

What Is A Messenger Bag?

Carl Friedrik Montagu messenger bag in cognac leather

Traditionally, the term “messenger bag” has been used to describe the canvas, cross-body sacks often worn by bicycle couriers and other delivery people. Nowadays, however, it has become a catch-all term for similar shoulder-strap bags, like leather satchels, too.

Typically, a messenger bag is rectangular, large enough to accommodate a laptop computer, has a single large flap opening and is carried either across the body or over one shoulder with a single strap.

Classic, canvas messengers are often waterproof, and sometimes even feature a second strap to secure the bag around the waist while cycling. However, this is a design motif rarely found in premium versions, which are often crafted from high-grade leather, suede or nylon.

Why You Need A Messenger Bag

Carl Friedrik Montagu messenger bag in chocolate leather

Simply put, a messenger bag is probably exactly what’s missing from your luggage rotation. It complements both smart and casual looks, is built around a core of practicality and functionality, and offers a more sophisticated alternative to a backpack or holdall.

A messenger bag is also a superb option if you work an office job in the city. Less stuffy than a hard-sided briefcase, it’s a smart, contemporary option that retains a refined, slimline silhouette yet has still got enough space to house those all-important documents and electronics.

The Best Brands For Messenger Bags

You know what it is and now you’re in the market for one. Here are the labels turning out the best messenger bags money can buy.

Carl Friedrik

For not far off a decade, Carl Friedrik has been forging a reputation amongst men in the know as the go-to label for slick, minimalist luggage. Founded by brothers Niklas and Mattis Oppermann, the brand’s output consists largely of contemporary leather goods, so when their loyal customers suggested (read: demanded) a messenger, Carl Friedrik was all too happy to oblige.

The label’s Montagu messenger bags are designed specifically with the urban professional in mind. They come fully equipped with everything needed to tackle day-to-day life in the city, including a spacious main compartment for everyday business essentials, a dedicated pocket on the interior for a tablet or laptop up to 15 inches, and a smaller zip pocket for keeping your cards, documents and pens safe.

Painstakingly crafted to exacting standards using the finest Italian Vachetta leather, for a smooth and natural finish,  each comes with a lifetime guarantee – so you’re assured a return on investment.

carlfriedrik.com

Mulberry

The name Mulberry is synonymous with high-end leather goods. Since 1971, the British label has been making luggage aficionados weak at the knees with its trademark brand of premium craftsmanship and elegance.

Ladies’ handbags are probably the accessories for which Mulberry is best known. However, its talents don’t end there. The Somerset brand’s selection of men’s luggage encompasses everything from full-grain leather weekend bags to commuter-friendly messengers. Expect luxurious materials, subtle branding and timeless styling as standard.

mulberry.com

Louis Vuitton

Many of the world’s best-established haute-couture houses have their roots in leather goods – and Louis Vuitton is no exception. It’s one of the most respected names in fashion and its bags are among the most coveted items money can buy.

If price isn’t a consideration, an LV messenger makes an excellent investment piece. Look out for shoulder bags in classic brown, emblazoned with the iconic LV monogram. If that’s not your thing, there are subtle plain canvas options available, too.

louisvuitton.com

Aspinal Of London

Aspinal Of London is a relative newcomer to the world of leather luggage. Founded in 2000, it’s considerably younger than many of its key competitors. However, what it lacks in years, it more than compensates for in quality.

Aspinal’s messengers for men are composed of a tasteful mix of rich, brown leather and subtly coloured nylon. The result is a selection of bags the boast a timeless appeal but also a contemporary edge. The Anderson tote is a standout design, featuring a removable strap and zip pockets for added storage.

aspinaloflondon.com

Ralph Lauren

No label does smart casual better than Ralph Lauren. Something which makes it perfectly equipped to deliver a top-notch messenger bag.

The preppy, New York label’s offerings are perfectly suited to weekend duties or as everyday bags for business casual office environments. That’s not to say it’s all casual, though. If you’re in need of something a little more refined, there are plenty of slick, leather options available, too.

ralphlauren.co.uk

Filson

Established in 1897, Filson is an outdoor brand created for people who need their gear to last.

Tough, rugged canvas is one of the American label’s calling cards, and it just so happens to make some excellent messenger bags. Filson’s designs aren’t exactly cheap compared to other canvas versions on the market, but they’re sturdy, hardworking and genuinely built to last. Not to mention they just look great.

filson.com

Dunhill

As far as British-made, luxury leather goods go, there are few doing it better than Dunhill. The brand has more than a century of experience in crafting the finest luggage, wallets and belts, amongst others, and has long been the go-to spot for a dose of that gentlemanly, London charm.

Dunhill’s leather bags are crafted from the finest Italian leather, then treated to protect against abrasions and water damage. These are bags that will likely outlast you, making the admittedly premium price tags worthy of investment.

dunhill.com