From legionnaires to luggage, a history of the messenger bag

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The messenger bag has been used by men throughout the ages, from Roman legionnaires to the modern day man-on-the-go.

In its simplest form, with one strap over the shoulder, the style has evolved from functional work accessory to fashion accessory.

Now called a satchel, courier bag, sling bag, day bag, or a number of other names, it was mailmen who first coined the name ‘messenger bag’. Their large bags were crafted from sturdy leather and designed to fit over a horse’s saddle, then slung over the shoulder of the rider on dismount.

Moving from saddle to shoulder, a smaller messenger bag was later adopted by servicemen and utility men, enabling easy carrying and two-handed work to be undertaken on the move. In fact, the messenger bag proved its versatility and practicality during the WWII, used by couriers, engineers and medics. Now made of canvas due to material shortages, essential supplies and communication were transported in this more lightweight version.

Credited with bringing the style to the mass-market, De Martini Globe Canvas Company later specifically designed and produced a satchel in the 1950s for telephone linemen, to enable access to tools while high on a telephone pole. Again crafted from cotton canvas, the bag now featured a waterproof lining, two closure straps, and a small internal pocket.

A number of utility men embraced this style in the years to come and, following a proliferation of bicycle messengers in the 1980s, the style was later adapted for cycling, including the addition of reflective strips.

Now also a firm fixture in business, student and everyday fashion, there are countless forms of the modern messenger bag with various iterations of pockets and material. But whether you’re carrying books, tools or laptops, leather provides a timeless quality and luxury style. Robust enough to last for years, a leather messenger bag is an investment that will last you through the years.

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