There are a few fashion accessories that every man needs in order to create the perfect outfit: an elegant watch, classy shoes and, of course, a stylish leather bag. The days of stuffing one’s pockets with hundreds of things are finally gone. ‘The Hangover’ movie may have led us to believe that men bags are an unwelcome accessory, but this negative stigma has become a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that luxury bags sales have increased a whopping 47% percent in 2014.
It is also suggested that sales will continue to increase, as more and more celebrities, including David Beckham or Kanye West, are adopting this signature item and major fashion houses like Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs are taking new interest in them. The variety of leather bags designed exclusively for men is simply overwhelming - leather messenger bags, leather tote bags, leather duffle bags, leather briefcases, and the list could go on forever. When faced with so many options men can become easily confused. If you’re thinking of buying a leather bag for yourself you’re probably asking yourself many questions:
- What type of bag would fit my style best?
- Why is leather so highly regarded in the creation of bags?
- What is the difference between different types of leather?
- How are high-quality leather bags made?
- Which designers and brands make the best leather bags?
I will try to answer all these questions, and more, in the Gentleman’s fashion guide to leather bags.
If you’ve ever purchased a low-quality leather bag before, you probably already know why spending a few extra bucks for a bag that lasts is worth it. Right now, the market is saturated with fake, low-quality craftsmanship and cheap products that break after a few seasons. Lower-quality bags are made with chemicals, have imperfect seams and lack the durability of premium products. To ensure that you buy the ‘real deal’ there are a few things you need to take into account. The first, and most important, is leather quality.
Leather Basics: Types of Leather & Their Properties
Let’s take a closer look at the most common types of leather used for bags, as well as their most important characteristics. Cowhide leather has long been regarded as one of the best types of leather due to its exceptional quality, availability, unique texture and durability. Most bags and purses made from cowhide leather will, literally, last through the ages.
Another popular type of leather is faux leather, which basically means artificial leather. I would recommend this type of leather to those who prefer to not use animal skin for personal reasons, or to those looking for a perfect & durable product.
Next up we have lambskin leather, which comes from sheep. The biggest disadvantage of lambskin leather is the fact that it cannot be used for larger items. In addition to this, despite the fact that it is softer, lambskin leather is susceptible to tearing and scratching. Lastly, we have patch leather, which refers to smaller pieces of left-over leather (either cowhide or lambskin). Granted, some patch leather bags are beguiling in their unique way, but they will never look as classy as a high-quality cowhide leather bag.
Here are a few other types of leather that you might be interested in:
- * Saffiano leather is the hottest trend right now. Not only is it extremely durable, but it is also incredibly low maintenance. It will protect the contents of your bag even through the heaviest downpour and it will never lose its shape. Because Saffiano leather is finished with wax treatments and cross-hatches, it is usually characterized by a diagonal texture and soft feel.
- * Italian Leather has long been considered one of the best, if not the best, type of leather. That’s because Italians are extremely strict when it comes to the tanning process, thus creating materials that are far superior to other countries. The good news is that the tanning process practice in Italy has now been adopted by major providers – similar to what happened with Cuban cigars.
- * Pebbled Leather represents the perfect combination between subtle pliability and durable material. The more you use pebbled leather, the softer it becomes. Like Saffiano leather, it is also treated and stamped off with a smooth texture, which means that it will wear better and obtain a beautiful patina.
Needless to say, exotic leather from pythons, lizards, stingrays, crocodiles, elephants, ostriches and other animals can also be used.
Real Leather vs. Fake Leather
Some men insist that their bags be made of genuine leather, but most cannot tell the difference between real and fake. Just to make things clear, fake leather doesn’t necessarily imply low-quality. As a matter of fact, artificial leather has proven, on several occasions to be more durable than genuine in one.
Nevertheless, if you want to make sure that your leather is the real deal, you have to take a good look at its grain – imperfections that are embossed into the surface of leather with dyes and stain. Look for the ‘full grain’ stamp instead of the ‘genuine leather’ one.