As I’ve mentioned before, men’s clothing enthusiasts often tout the importance of buying high-quality products, an ideal that I generally agree with. Of course, few of us have the funds to buy the best of the best of everything, so the process of finding and purchasing clothing and accessories becomes more of a decision of when to save and when to splurge. Even then, cost does not inherently imply quality, so determining where money is well spent can be difficult. I’ve decided to start a series of posts that show some of my purchases (both expensive and affordable) after a year or more of hard wear in order to display how they have held up over time. Only you can decide what is worth spending on and what isn’t, but the more information you have the better-informed your decision will be.
I began using this bag when I completed Graduate school and started my career in San Francisco. I was excited to begin working full time and wanted a bag that would help distance myself from the grown men that wear backpacks over their blazer on the way to work. I learned about Ernest Alexander through Bonobos (who stocked their products at the time) and was immediately intrigued by the company and its designs. This messenger bag is the centerpiece of the companies small product line, and is made of high quality materials in the garment district of New York City. I searched high and low for a bag that was as attractive and well-built at a lower cost, but could fine none. I eventually caved and purchased this one during a seasonal sale.
The bag doesn’t appear on my blog often but it something that I have with me almost every day, and for that reason it has taken quite a beating over the past year. The bag is made of a durable waxed cotton with nickel-plated brass hardware and thick chocolate brown leather trim. All of the materials have held up exceedingly well; they don’t hide all signs of wear, but instead display them subtly through color variegation, creasing, and other attractive signs of use. The waxed cotton has been through rainstorms without any issues, the hardware remains sturdy and effective, and all the stitching is still intact. No parts of the bag show any signs of weakening at this point.
The materials are wonderful to touch and look at, but they are really brought to life by the subtle and simplistic detailing. Many men are uncomfortable using anything beyond backpacks because they are afraid of the feminine implications; although I disagree with this way of looking at the world, I feel that finding the right bag makes this a non-issue. Ernest Alexander’s products are designed with rugged materials, subtle detailing, and no obvious branding. These qualities (along with the size and shape) make the bag masculine, while still refined and attractive. My favorite detail is the functional nickel-plated buckles; most bags use magnets under fake clasps these days. Some might see buckles as a nuisance but I find it to be a lovely detail that adds to the experience of owning something attractive and functional.
The interior is a soft cotton twill that is divided neatly into compartments and it has also held up well to abuse. This bag often doubles as my overnight bag on the weekends, and my chronic over-stuffing has not caused any trouble on its interior seams. It is worth noting that the bag is not particularly structured, so the sides and top will bow and buckle if not filled to capacity. This may be a surprise to those who are used to rigid briefcases and bags that hold their shape regardless of the contents.
Although I walk to work these days, there was a time when I needed to take the subway for my commute. On one such day I ran in to an elderly gentleman with the same bag (in the same color) slung over his shoulder. We immediately noticed the similarity and began to discuss the difficulties of finding something that is well-made, functional, and simply designed. Although there are few products that do all these things well, finding one that does is a wonderful pleasure. This bag has become an integral part of my morning and evening routine and I look forward to using it for years to come.