My father-in-law was a no nonsense bloke born in London just after WWII. He worked his entire career for one of the last British tanneries, traveling the world selling leather to luxury brands. He preferred unstuffy people and durable things. He could have had any bag he wanted, but he carried a bag like this. I saw it in an old photograph, strapped across him at a train station. He couldn’t tell me what happened to his, but unboxing this bag gave me a stirring sense of reclaiming my past.
The Linden Leather Company produced this bag. They are an Edinburgh based leather goods company established in 2014. They started on Etsy and still maintain a store there as well as their website. This is not to be confused with www.lindenleather.com. If you add the last “m” it takes you to a completely different company based in Prague.
Linden offers a wide array of classic bags: weekender duffle bags, slim briefcases, totes, and the messenger bag in full grain vegetable tanned cow leather. All are classic and designed to appeal to anyone.
That includes this bag; the rather unimaginatively named “Leather Messenger Bag 15” in Cognac.” I mean, couldn’t they have come up with a more romantic name? “The Barrister’s Bag” maybe? “The Princeton Messenger?” Wait, that’s right: no nonsense, unstuffy. Traits to be admired.
This bag would be equally at home carrying a copy of “The Secret Histories” across Mass Ave on your way to Harvard Station as shielding your MacBook commuting to Cupertino. It has been holding mine, a journal, and a pen or two on my commute; long enough to get a sense of its toughness, proportions, and how it works, but not quite long enough for the oils from my hand to discolor and burnish the handle or to get enough scratches that blend in with a firm rubbing and the oils on my hand. No matter. I have had it long enough to know that it will be housing the ephemera of my life for decades to come.
Let’s get to the review and spoiler: I like it. Is it perfect? No. I’ll point out what I think is great and what is a little off, and whether I think you should invest in one.
So these are the topics we will be addressing:
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Who Should Buy the Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag?
- This bag is meant for anyone who likes a tough classically styled bag that doesn’t scream out its brand affiliation. This is a bag that Atticus Fitch would carry into court. A bag made from thick leather designed to look better as it scratches and ages, and smells so good you want to squeeze it and make cologne out it.
- This is a bag for students, businessmen, and academics; more interested in durability than impressing anyone. A bag that can be tossed on the grass, on the subway seat beside you, in the back of your Jeep.
- This is a bag you could build an aesthetic around. Are you into Dark Academia? Then this is your bag. Or are you a contractor and you want to put your stuff into something as tough as your F150; then add it to your cart. Are you a small business person that wants a bag for life; this has you covered. It looks as good with jeans as a suit or blazer. It is remarkably versatile.
- Do you want to wear a leather messenger like a backpack? This is your bag too, with straps sold separately. I personally don’t understand this, at least since I graduated Uni, but it’s good to have options. I should also mention that it carries well as a brief. It has nice balance and a very large comfortable handle at the top.
- Does this bag compliment a wardrobe of heritage wear? Why yes it does, brilliantly. Do my Red Wing Heritage Moc toes look good with it? Yes, they do, thanks for asking.
- This bag is also unisex and looks equally amazing with a white flowing blouse, a pleated wool dress, and riding boots. It is perfect for carrying a journal, a set of watercolors, and your book on how to read Hieroglyphics.
Who Shouldn’t Buy the Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag?
- If you are more interested in prestige and want a coated canvas bag from a French or Italian designer that may inspire a bit of envy, this would be its antithesis.
- If you are into technical bags with phone chargers and pockets for each little thing, then a traditional bag like this may bore you.
- If you are looking for your everyday bag to double as a weekender or gym bag, this won’t work for you. It’s roomy enough for a daily carry but beyond a laptop, book, pens, a bottle of water, and maybe a Snickers Bar, you are full up.
- If you are looking for a very light bag, this isn’t the bag for you. It’s solid and with that, it’s heavy, even on its own. Add things to it and you are starting to understand why some people would want to wear it like a backpack.
The Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag Leather
- Vegetable tanned
- Origin unknown
Like many companies, it’s next to impossible to get precise information on where these bags are made or from where they source their hides. Despite two requests from the company, I am left with nothing more than “full-grain vegetable tanned leather” of 2.8mm to 3.2mm thickness, and the bag that is in my hands. So if that sort of thing is important to you, I am afraid that I may disappoint you.
For those of you new to leather, “full-grain” is the outer most layer and it reveals the history of the animal. If it snagged itself on a barbed wire fence, the evidence is there, a hint of a scar remains. This what makes it interesting; the variation, the patina, the wrinkles, and the gorgeous smell. Each one is different, and has its own marks and characteristics. It is also incredibly durable since these interlocking fibers are some of the strongest parts of the skin.
What I can tell you is that this leather is thick, very thick. I wanted to pull out my calipers because the divider inside is so thick. It is an heirloom piece, designed to take a beating and destined to be rediscovered in a closet somewhere 100 years from now, as long as you maintain the leather through your preferred method. Or, if you would like, you could use the included 50 ml tin of “Beeswax Leather Balm,” a mix of natural oils and beeswax that they recommend applying every 3 to 6 months or whenever the bag is exposed to water. It reminds me of the old ketchup packet of Sno-Seal they used to give you with your LL Bean boots back in the 80s.
Now, we know that there are natural variations in leather and sometimes one piece of leather is much more supple than another. One of the things that bothers me is when a brand puts two different pieces of leather together that have vastly different properties. That is the case here: the bottom of my bag features a center seam (problematic on its own, however each piece of leather that forms the bottom is very different, with one being quite stiff and the other one being quite wrinkled with suppleness. I would have liked to have seen them match the bottom pieces together with similar pieces of leather or I would’ve preferred if the bottom of the bag had been one piece overall.
Let’s talk about color. I chose the Cognac because I appreciate how it will wear and patina overtime. The Cognac is a wonderful rich brown with some red highlights. It has some lovely variations in reds and browns with the wrinkles tending toward dark chestnut. I would have purchased the Chestnut bag but I thought it would be a lot more fun to watch this one age through the years toward a deeper chestnut hue. From the pictures on the website, the Black looks glossy and interesting. I quite like it, but not many of my shoes or jackets are black. I bet it would look great against buffalo plaid.
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The Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag Features
- 16.5” (42 cm) long by 13” (33 cm) by 4” (10 cm) deep.
- Weights just over 5 pounds (2.27 kilos)
- Accommodates large laptops
Now let’s get into the features. Linden says it takes 15 hours to sew one of these bags together. From looking at it I believe it.
Now where precisely these bags are sewn is not disclosed, but I would say it really doesn’t matter. These bags are saddle stitched by hand with broad beautiful stitches with thick waxed thread. Saddle stitching means that two threads were sewn simultaneously from each opposing side of the panel, basically double stitched. This is to prevent them from ever unraveling. Where ever it is done, it is done well. I marvel at how some stitches seem to pass through three thick pieces of leather.
I should add that the downside of hand stitching is that some of the stitches aren’t straight. A perfectionist might see this as a downside, but I think this is one of its strengths. Like an unbuttoned sleeve on a bespoke suit, these slightly uneven stitches and slight variations in them prove to an expert eye that a person and not a machine stitched it together. For instance, the stitching underneath the buckle on the top flap does not make a perfect square. This is one of the things I love about this bag. I think these variations are what make it special and unique to you. This is truly an heirloom-bag-idea and brought to you at an affordable price, so quibbling about a stitch here or there seems pedantic.
These bags come in two different sizes: for 13” or 15” inch laptops. Handy. There is a laptop sleeve inside to keep your MacBook from rubbing against your other items and scratching it. It is unlined and the nappy side of the leather faces your computer. That’s fine until you feel the suede inside the front zipper pocket also forming the front inside layer. It would have been nice had they lined it with that, it is thin and buttery smooth. In fact, so smooth, that I would hesitate putting keys in there lest they poke through. It is a great compartment for chapstick, chargers, and maybe some pens. This because the three pen loops inside are so tight that they are completely useless, unless you want a designated spaces for a Bic Pen. A Montblanc, TWSBI, or Lamy would never squeeze through.
Beside these are two tight pockets that you could slide something into. I’m unsure what. Maybe some credit cards. My iPhone 11 wouldn’t fit. Now my phone did fit on the slip pocket in front, just under the buckles so that is handy.
The bag comes with a rather nice adjustable shoulder strap with a bit of leather for a shoulder pad that slides easily for comfort. It is removable with some nice aged brass swivel clips that seem robust enough. It hits that balance between light as to not add extra weight to the bag and strong enough to do the job. All of the hardware is aged brass except for the bright shiny gold zipper on the one pocket.
All skepticism aside on my part, the fact that there are straps available to turn this into a backpack is very handy for university or if you need to cross town on a Citi Bike, really anytime that you need your hands free.
The design is a very traditional messenger brief. There is a wide well-stitched handle at the top that feels very satisfying in your hand. The smooth flap secures with aged brass buckles that luckily are just for adjustment since the flap secures the bag with two tuck locks beneath. The buckles are handy since you can loosen the straps and stuff more into your bag.
The interior is unlined, except for that incidental super smooth suede acting as a wall for the front compartment. The rest is the roughout underside of the leather. Since the suede is there for the zipper compartment, and only on one side at that, I wonder why it wasn’t utilized more throughout the bag and especially in the laptop sleeve. This area works well for iPad Pros and modern thin laptops. If you’re hauling around an older machine with some thickness, it may not work.
There is no clip for your keys and nothing to clip a carabiner on in the inside of the bag, so keys would go into the zippered compartment or tossed into the main compartment to compete for space with your book, papers, and water bottle.
It has a handy luggage strap of leather on the back to slide it down onto the pull handle of your suitcase. This works very well and keeps it from flopping around.
The bag can also be embossed with up to three characters for your initials or a short first name. Personalization is a nice touch.
The Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag Price
At the time of writing, this bag costs £170.00 or $230.47 USD. It’s stated retail price is £340.00 or $460.72 in USD.
For a classic design in full grain vegetable tanned leather and hand stitched, I would say that the full price would make it still a good purchase, but it would be good to know where it is made. We have all seen some great unbranded leather bags made in Italy for less than that at places like Mercato del Porcellino in Florence. At its current price, it is a bargain. $230 USD for a bag of this style and quality is amazing.
Also, buyers in the UK and United States don’t have to pay import duty taxes as long as they purchase less than $800 and somehow, shipping for both countries is free. Normal shipping from the UK can be very expensive. I’ve paid $50 to other brands for shipping, so this is a huge savings.
- Great leather
- Classic, Instagrammable design
- Laptop area
- Attaches to rolling luggage
- Saddle Stitching done by hand
- Tuck Locks
- Backpack straps
- Comfortable handle
- Incredible price
- The bottom seam
- The mismatched pieces of leather on the bottom
- Pen loops will only fit disposable pens (or pencils)
- No key clip
- Tight internal pockets
- Not the largest bag for capacity
- It’s a heavy bag
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Linden Leather Company’s Leather Messenger Bag: The Takeaway
The Pros: the leather’s great. It’s thick, has amazing color variation and since it is vegetable tanned it will age beautifully. It looks great in all three colors.
The design is classic. This bag would look great on Instagram with a stack of books and a cup of coffee. This bag compliments tweed jackets, thick Aran sweaters, corduroy, and pretty much everything else, to be honest. It can dress up for the boardroom or down for exploring the city. Plus, it isn’t trendy so it will never look outdated. It has that Wes Andersonian timeless quality. You wear this because it expresses something within you that longs for the scattered pieces of a discarded and romanticized past that you are reclaiming as your own.
It is very traditional. You carry a bag like this for effect, not for utility, so you don’t mind the extra weight. You’re wearing it for the aesthetic and are willing to suffer for it. There are lighter and more modern options. I would shun those too, but it needs to be said that this is a choice and judging this bag against a modern technical bag isn’t a fair comparison.
Other upsides: separating your laptop inside is convenient. It might be nice if it was secured; who hasn’t had a laptop or iPad slide out of a bag? The attachment for your luggage is nice, especially considering its weight. The saddle stitching is well done and adds durability. The Tuck Locks make getting in and out of it very easy. Buckles, though traditional, are a terrible method of getting in and out of an everyday bag. This bit of trompe l’oie is a great way to handle it. The backpack straps are great for those that don’t want a bag strapped across them and need their hands free for other tasks.
The Cons: there are some downsides as well. I would prefer if it didn’t have a two piece bottom sewn together in the center. The stitches are hearty and the waxed thread seems thicker as those on a baseball, yet a seam on the underside does bother me. Also, the two pieces of leather on my bag are not the matched as well as they should be. Fortunately, this is in a spot that no one will see. (And at this price, it’s hard to criticize this aspect.)
The bag is designed to carry your laptop, notebook, and a couple of things. If you wanted to carry an extra sweater, you won’t be able to. If you were going to university, it could hold about enough for one class at a time. Off to court, hopefully, you have a single case on the docket. It is also heavy, already 5 lbs without anything in it.
Bottom line is if you are choosing leather over tactical nylon for your everyday bag, you know that it will be heavier. I feel like durability was their top concern here and in that regard, they hit the mark. This is an heirloom bag that will last for generations and at $230 USD, it’s almost worth buying just for the aesthetics. It is certainly worth buying to pass it along to your descendants because barring an asteroid strike, this bag will be around many decades to come.