#282 In which our hero recounts his quest for the perfect man bag (part 1)
I have a long history with man bags.
It started in college where, like everyone else, I had a backpack to hump around my books. I believe it was the same backpack I used in high school. Some of the backpacks I see today are really cool with ergonomic strap placement and multiple zippered pockets and WiFi and God knows what else... but the bag I used was a plain old blue nylon backpack.
And this served me well for the first couple years of school. Then I came across an army gas mask bag at the Army-Navy store near campus. It was made of heavy, well worn canvas. I thought it was really cool.
After I graduated college, I didn't really have a need for a book bag any more. I worked in a restaurant for a while, then got a job at The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. There was nothing to carry to and from work, other than my lunch, and I just carried that in a plastic bag.After I left that job and moved to Cleveland, I was suddenly in need of a bag again. I was taking the train to work every day, and carried with me the newspaper, a book, my lunch and any work I may have taken home with me.
So I found a new bag.
I got this from The Fray, a website that used to be something very different than it is today. When they offered an interesting messenger bag via CafePress (a brand-spanking new online service at the time) I bought one.
This bag carried dozens of books and hundreds of newspapers on my daily commute. I loved how obnoxiously bright and yellow it was. It also saw me through a couple layoffs and one firing. Presumably unrelated to my choice of bags.
I was still carrying this bag when I came to the agency where I'm working today. However, by this time I was more serious about my career, and I was starting to think that I would be better off with a more professional-looking accessory. So I bought this:
I was hot for hemp at the time (not like that!) so I was really happy when I found an all-natural hemp messenger bag (this one was from Ecolution). This is the bag I've been using for the last two years and it's been great. Well, for the most part. My only complaint is that the bag is a little bit... floppy.
And, now that I look at it again, it sorta looks like a woman's purse.
Cool bag, but just as floppy as my hemp one. I was becoming clear that I just wasn't going to be happy unless I found a bag with some body to it. Thinking back to my college days, I tried another military bag:
It, too, was made of a canvas too thin to hold its shape. This was also a reminder to pay better attention to dimensions when ordering online. This bag, even if it was heavy enough, is too small to carry everything I need it to carry.So I continued to search. And did you know that there are numerous websites which have hundreds of bags from which to choose? I wasn'tsurprised, but I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of styles.
However, most of the messenger style bags which I favored where made of nylon, which just didn't appeal. That said, a quick google search for "canvas messenger bags" gave a lot of results. But, I was now gun shy of ordering a canvas bag in fear of it being too thin and floppy yet again.
I also half-heartedly looked at leather bags. Most of the leather ones just didn't do it for me... most were of a thin leather that wasn't as rugged-looking as I would like (and again, many looked more like a purse than a manly-man's bag).
Then I found it.
I was flipping though the Filson catalog one day. Filson is an outdoor clothing outfitter, kinda like L.L. Bean on steroids. My one brother-in-law favors their clothes so I've seen them up close... their "tin cloth" material seems durable enough to damn near stop a bullet. But, unbeknownst to me, they also manufacturer other stuff besides clothing, including footwear, luggage, hats... and leather goods. Including this:
The Filson Leather Field Satchel.
I feel in love with this thing as soon as I saw it. It was everything I was looking for in a bag: sturdy, cool-looking, professional in appearance... it had it all.
It also had an impressive price tag: $795. Seven HUNDRED and ninety-five dollars.
I know to a lot of people that price might seem a little steep, but not outrageous. Well, I'm here to tell you, it IS outrageous.
Because here's the thing: I have done some leathercraft over the years, and I know that even the finest leather materials don't come close to justifying that kind of cost. And I didn't believe that there was an unreasonable amount of labor in it, either.
I suppose, like anything else, if you don't know what goes into making something, then you can only assume that the given price is a fair one. Looking at this bag you might assume that $795 (plus shipping) is the going price and that's all there is to it. But I knew better and there was no way in hell that I was going to pay that much money.
Then I really stopped and studied it. And I came to a realization:
I could MAKE this bag myself.
To be continued.