A bag like this is probably the most useful of all the items we have covered in the “How great things age” series. It is made from canvas, leather, and brass. All three materials age differently.
If brass is not coated, it will tarnish around the edges and show sharp highlights. This could be at the zipper edge or the top of a screw. Leather that has been veg-tanned with oils such as this bridle will darken but also crack on the surface. This exposes the lighter layer beneath. It molds too – the handle of the bag is covered in a leather strip that has been my shape for years. This makes fastening them feel like something the bag actually wants to do. Last but not least, canvas. Canvas can get dirty, but it is easy to scrub clean. Then, over time, it slowly begins to wear down and fray, and eventually, it will be gone. It can, however, be repaired and sometimes looks even better.
This Filson briefcase has been my bag for seven years. I didn’t purchase it new. I love all the signs of ageing but I wouldn’t allow a bag like this to show this much wear.
It has worn more than I have used it. As mentioned, the handles have become swollen and need to be cleaned. Although it may not have been mine at all, I feel that I gave it a good home and kept it going even when it was no longer needed.
Some people saw elitism within the English Country House Look, which I discussed recently on PS. Most people understood the main lesson: that great things can be ruined and that it is possible to have dignity by mixing them with newer, more luxurious items.
This is why I love carrying a bag such as this with a fine suede jacket. Although the latter bag is more luxurious and has not been designed to age in a similar way, it still feels authentic thanks to its companion who is heavily aged. It brings fine suede down to Earth.
You could also combine vintage jeans with a cashmere coat or frayed tennis shoes and drapey linen trousers. This is a form of high/low dressing but it’s not obvious or clearly deliberate. This makes it less risky.
While you should still be careful about formality, I would not carry this bag with either a navy or double-breasted coat. However, it is easy to see the difference between what looks good and what doesn’t.
Okay, let’s go back to the bag. It’s been with me for seven years and I have taken it everywhere. It has a lot of compartments. You can put a laptop in its back slot, while you can store overnight gear like a T-shirt and a washbag.
It also features a back compartment that can be used as an external storage. It’s frustrating to have to open a bag flap every time you need to use your phone, headphones, or other devices. Totes bags are a popular choice because of this. A discreet flap at the back lets you drop your phone or wallet and grab it quickly at the turnstile to catch a train or when it rings with another message.
I am actually using a Barenia briefcase that Peter Nitz, a Swiss craftsman, made for me. It’s beautiful and something I should have requested. This is especially useful for a formal briefcase such as this, which requires two hands to open.
This bag is still available from Filson, or very close to it. The Padded Computer Bag is now known as the Padded Computer Bag. It also has a foam-padded section.
It doesn’t appear to be available in the European webshop, but only the US. This may reflect the fact that Filson uses WP Lavori as a licensee to manage the European side. Even more important, this site does not offer a repair service. However, I was told that bags can still be shipped to the US for repair.
This is important because Filson’s marketing emphasis was on longevity and repairs back in the day when I purchased the bag. In 2015, when I met then President Gray Madden at Pitti, there was a stand full of both old and new bags – they not only put their history but also their repair front and center.
One shop in London’s Newburgh Street sold bags, both new and second-hand. Since then, both shops have closed. There have been reports that various US production facilities have shut down or cut staff.
This is a very important part of the business. It’s unlikely that there will be any repairs if the production is moved outside of the US. It’s not possible to think of any major brand that offers it from Asia. However, several brands, including Mulberry and Barbour, offer it in the UK.
The best way to ensure that this kind of service continues to exist is to make it a regular customer. These articles – which show how attractive ageing is, and publicize the brands that enable it — will hopefully help a bit.
This type of canvas bag is a great choice for guys who don’t want to wear a suit all day. Although it can work with a suit, in the same way that a battered Barbour does, it is most comfortable with a man who wears chinos and a shirt to the office. If necessary, a sweater or coat is added. That is the majority of professional I know.
It has a nice bulk which I believe is something that many men overlook when choosing a work bag. Filson’s Original Briefcase is a smaller bag that can be a bit bulky, especially when it’s being carried by a bigger man.
A canvas bag has a downside. It can get dirty but it is easy to clean with warm soapy water once in a while. It’s more like polishing shoes. I believe it makes you appreciate your bag and gives you a sense of accomplishment that is similar to buying new.