Bags are like parachutes –
When they fail you, they really fail you.
On the bus…
On a flight…
Even if you avoid loose handles or torn pockets,
ruining a bag can mean wasted money.
A LOT of wasted money.
Being that leather bags and luggage are prime targets for cheap imitators that price their wares as if they were top quality, how do you avoid these pitfalls and choose a briefcase, carryall, or weekend bag that will serve you well for years to come?
These five key indicators will help you spot the true best buy.
When you're looking for a new briefcase, suitcase, carryall, weekend bag, or any leather bag at all, here's what to look at first:
#1. Leather Briefcase Hardware
The hardware on a leather briefcase or bag can tell you a lot about the overall quality of the product in a single glance.
If the clasps, the hinges where the handles attach, or other metal accouterments appearflimsy that's a red flag that warns the manufacturer may have skimped elsewhere as well.
Bags from established manufacturers that don't rush their process will often have hardware fittings that are unique in some way – they may be engraved or have a distinctive shape. By contrast cheap bags will have clasps and buckles that look like they were picked up at the local craft shop. Good hardware will also generally feel heavier and more substantial.
Another major tell for hardware quality is the zipper if the bag has one. Unlike other hardware pieces, even luxury manufacturers usually order their zippers in from one of two manufacturers. The majority of zippers used by the fashion industry are made by YKK. Most of these are perfectly acceptable, although they can break as they get older.
The best zippers are made by Raccagni or Riri. These will – again – feel heavier and glide much more smoothly. Raccagni zippers are the fruit of 30 years of research. The Raccagni family individually inspect and polish every tooth of their zippers – and they're picky about the brands they work with (Tom Ford loves them) so a Raccagni zipper is a real badge of quality.
#2. Best Types Of Leather
Ideally you want a bag made of 100% full-grain leather or Vachetta leather. Vachetta is an untreated high-quality leather that has a buttery feel and was made popular by Louis Vuitton. People love Vachetta because it's designed so that each piece develops its own unique patina with age.
Do NOT waste your money on accessories labeled “genuine leather.” This is a material made up of leather scraps turned into a pulp and then spread over a sheet of fabric. Often the genuine leather label means you'll pay just under real-leather prices for strength and durability akin to a much cheaper material.
When choosing a bag style, take into account how the material will fit into your lifestyle. Textured leather is seen as less formal (the rougher the texture, the more casual the bag) but it will hide scratches more easily, making it a good option for commuters.
#3. Stitching (Outside)
A fine leather briefcase that's truly good quality will almost always have saddle stitching. This is a technique that can only be done by hand, by pushing two separate needles through each hole and looping a single thread over itself.
Machine stitching is done with a single needle and two threads which are twisted together on the underside of the fabric beneath each stitch. A single-thread saddle stitch is much stronger and will never unravel – if one stitch is broken it doesn't affect the others.
To tell whether a bag was stitched with care look at the handles first. Well-sewn handles will feel tightly wrapped around their frames and have no puckering or gathering. Looking closer, on a low-quality bag the needle holes will stretch over time under the weight of the leather. The leather should be tight around the thread on every seam.
#4. Internal Construction
Decades ago, almost all men's bags were “cases” (think brief- or suit-) with a board or wire frame that the inner lining attached to directly.
In a modern leather briefcase, which is likely to have a softer shape, the lining won't always be flush with the outer leather but it should still lay flat when the bag is held up by the handles so there are no folds. The stitching should line up with one of the edges or the bottom seam of the bag when you push the lining taut.
Keep an eye out for crooked seams or puckers in the fabric – both are warning signs of shoddy overall construction.
#5. Printing (Letters And Words)
Even well-done painting or printing wears off leather over time. A piece that's really built to last will have any logos pressed into the surface of the leather.
Leather briefcases are better than a backpack because they elevate the necessity of carrying your things to an intentional statement. A good one can become a complement for dozens of outfits – the one accessory that's literally always by your side. Just be sure to shop smart and keep an eye out for potential rip-offs. Every dollar you spend on your wardrobe is an investment in your image for years to come.
Now you know what to look for – take a look at Carl Friedrik's bags and you'll SEE the quality (and feel it too.) They make some of the best leather briefcases, bags and wallets with some of the finest materials out there – like soft Italian Vachetta leather and heavy-duty Raccagni zippers.