Things you need to know about man bags

No-one has yet designed a bag that does it all. You can, however, boil your collection down to around 3 styles, budget permitting and leaving aside performance equipment or functional stuff like rolling luggage. The first is a briefcase suitable for work, reasonably slim so you can travel without obstruction and suitable if necessary for wearing with a suit. In the old days this would have been a briefcase; nowadays the choice is much wider and many would include a tote in this category. The second is a piece of luggage suitable for carrying onto a plane or for a weekend away. While small pieces of rolling luggage are very popular, frankly they can look a bit naff trailing behind a bloke. Imagine turning up for a weekend somewhere and the first thing people notice is your plastic trolley: no. The third is more leisure orientated, likely to be carried on the shoulder or the back and could include a touring bag or a rucksack depending on your personal preference and habits.


While labour rates vary enormously around the world, one thing which does not change much is the cost of high quality materials and fittings. The inevitable consequence of this is that if you buy a cheap bag, you will also be buying cheap materials and fittings. This is particularly relevant with bags, because once that zip or fastening has broken, your bag may be virtually useless. Beware especially cheap bags which look expensive. This can only be achieved by using second or third rate materials and the bag may well fail you quite quickly


The most expensive bags are generally full leather, essentially because of the cost of the raw materials and, potentially, the amount of bench work involved in turning them into bags. So if you are paying top dollar for a leather bag, or just want to know how good the leather is on a cheaper bag, or whether it’s actually real leather at all, here are some tips. The first point to make is that there are lots of different types of leather, all used for different purposes: stiff bridle leather for equestrian work, soft chromed leather for car seats and fashion bags, vegetable tanned shoulders for straps and handles. Regardless of the type of leather, its quality will tend to be defined by the original skin and the length of time taken and process used to tan it. The cheapest leather is split leather (the split being the layer underneath the full grain once the skin has been split) where pigment is literally sprayed onto the leather. Split leather is used, for instance, on cheap leather satchels. High quality full grain leather starts at $2 a square foot and can easily run to $5 a square foot or more. Wastage (the leather rejected or unused from a skin) can easily be 25% or more; it’s impossible to make cheap bags from high quality leather.

If you are buying what you think is a leather bag and it’s relatively cheap compared to similar products, you should check whether it is actually made from real leather. Try googling the subject and you will find a wealth of advice on telling the difference between real and fake leather. I would not recommend the flame test (fake leather melts like plastic, real leather doesn’t!) but the tests I like are smell, feel and saliva. Fake leather doesn’t smell of leather. Real leather wrinkles and “gives” when you press it. Moisture is absorbed by real leather, not by fake leather. If your bag says “real leather”, seems surprisingly good value and the leather has a hard, wrinkly look to it, but it fails the smell, feel and saliva tests, that is because it’s actually split leather covered in a leather look plastic coating; for some reason brands can still get away with calling it leather! Look out also for vinyl substitution on binding, piping and fittings. Vinyl is not plastic, it’s a cellulosic material which is much cheaper than leather. You can generally tell vinyl fittings because they have a monotone appearance with little or no colour or grain variation. The absence of natural variation is usually a giveaway on man made materials, although not definitive, as real leather can be plated with artificial patterns (e.g. mock crock), in which case it should still pass the smell, feel and saliva tests.

Full grain leather can be tanned in different ways. Vegetable tanned leather has a natural looking appearance, with muted colours, will tend to mark and can fade in prolonged sunlight, but it ages with great character. Chromed leather can achieve much brighter colourways, will tend to age less visibly but marks may be more difficult to blend in. One way of testing the quality of leather is to find a piece you can bend and see what happens. If it starts to crack, best avoided. If it changes colour, this is not necessarily a sign of bad leather. For instance “pull up” leather visibly creases when bent but contains lots of fat and oil which then seep back into the grain, giving a rich and characterful look over time. If your bag has leather fittings (e.g. straps) check that these are robust, reasonably stiff and at least 2-3mm thick. Beware cheap leather fittings with interior fillers used to reduce cost; they may disintegrate. Avoid leather bags with poor quality edge paint on the side of straps, particularly the type of inflexible edge paint “filler” which cracks when bent. The edges of leather fittings on the finest quality bags will be sealed or turned to prevent the fibres of the leather fraying.


A bag’s functionality and longevity will also depend on the quality of the fastenings, closures and general hardware. Main zips should be made of metal (unless there is a specific reason for using a nylon zip such as on a gun cover) and run smoothly and securely. The best known manufacturers are YKK and RiRi, although the latter come at a substantial premium. Quality hardware is usually made from brass or brass coated with nickel, gold or copper plating. Steel hardware should be avoided as it will tend to rust. We also see a lot of specialist coatings now like “pewter”, “antique” and so forth. These may be fine but can disguise cheap alloy underneath; beware anything which feels unnaturally lightweight. Poor quality brass can often be identified by pitting on the surface of the metal.


Never ever put your bag in a washing machine (yes, people do that). Don’t send it to be dry cleaned. Don’t leave it on a radiator when it’s got wet. Those are the 3 golden rules. Canvas or material bags should be cleaned with soapy water and left to dry naturally. Leather should be cleaned, perhaps with a lightly dampened cloth, left to dry naturally then rubbed with a leather cream or restorer. Although brass tarnishes naturally, hardware can be kept shiny with a metal cleaner. Some brands offer “lifetime” guarantees. This is more of a marketing ploy than anything else as the life of a bag will depend on how it’s used (see above). If you can, buy a bag from a brand who offer a repair and maintenance service.

GlemKore International (opc) pvt ltd

GlemkoreInternational (opc)pvt ltd is a manufacturer of authentically bags and luggage for Men and Women, all made in its factory. You can read more information about the Company here