Sleevehead has a great roundup of responsibly-produced tote bags, from $25 on up.
Put This On is on record as against backpacks with suits (a position I stand by—it usually looks silly and can ruin a suit’s shoulders), but I don’t wear a tailored jacket most days, so I do carry a backpack. I’d love to go to work with nothing but a wallet, keys, and a smile but most of the time I’m lugging more: lunch, a camera, a laptop or tablet, and gym clothes. A backpack is the easiest and most comfortable way to move that stuff. A recent Wall Street Journal piece pointed out that packs have become the luggage of choice for runway designers, although these design-first bags are often short on usability. Modern technical packs from outdoor stores/brands have pockets to spare and good technical performance, but I find the best balance of utility and design in between the technical and design worlds. I’ve handled a lot of the packs on the market and can recommend a few in different price ranges.
Herschel Supply: Herschel Supply cracks the list because they make a basic update of the 1980s/90s day packs that became schoolbook staples and because they’re inexpensive. Herschel Supply gets important, basic things like water resistance and internal laptop sleeves right, and offers a variety of relatively subdued styles plus some wilder fabric patterns. Despite a healthy dose of heritage-y branding, Herschel is a young brand and the bags are imported and frankly a little flimsy compared to other options.
Vintage: Buying a pack vintage is risky—you don’t know what leaked on that pack’s last hike. But there are some sturdy, good looking packs on the vintage market. Yucca packs are basic canvas packs often used by Boy Scouts in the pre-Jansport era (and stamped accordingly with BSA insignia). They’re large, floppy canvas bags, and sell pretty cheap. In my opinion, fine for a trip to the farmer’s market, but I wouldn’t trust one with my laptop. Swiss packs in “salt and pepper” fabric are quite roomy and look great with some patina on the leather straps, but some are frankly past the point of realistic usability, and the market has become more competitive in recent years, driving some prices north of $100.
Archival Clothing’s daypack is your basic modern heritage backpack—one big compartment that zips closed, smaller open side pockets, and unpadded webbing straps. AC’s cotton duck fabric is not waterproof, but it’s lighter (and less costly) than the waxed fabric AC uses in some of its other bags. AC’s build quality is universally top notch and I really like their unfussy designs, which reference older styles without requiring a full hikerdelic wardrobe.
The Kelty Mockingbird is the long-standing gear company’s modern interpretation of one of its 1960s mountaineering models. Made of Cordura nylon, it has a cinch-top main compartment, padded straps, and removable lash-on side compartments. (Cordura is the brand name for the woven nylon fabric used in much, if not most, modern soft luggage. Most bags, including the Mockingbird, are 500 denier—a measurement of density—but some use 1000 denier, which is more durable but stiffer and heavier.) Kelty made vintage-style bags for the Japanese market for several years before bringing the designs stateside. I’ve carried this pack most days for over two years with few complaints. One potential drawback of this era of design is the number of straps, pulls, and lash tabs—not the place to look for a minimal appearance.
$200 and up
In the heritage-styled arena, I like California’s Altadena Works, which makes a daypack-styled bag that checks every box on my personal pack list. Cordura fabric, Horween leather-reinforcement on the bottom, seatbelt nylon webbing straps with wool felt padding, and thoughtfully laid out pockets, all made in California. Like a better, more worldly version of the Jansport I carried in high school.
Cote et Ciel provides an alternative for those not as interested as I am in looking like a 1970s Patagonia catalog. The Isar rucksack has two significant compartments: a zipped, padded laptop/tech compartment that sits against your back, and a larger gear compartment that zips vertically down the center then folds over to give the bag its asymmetrical appearance. Padded straps attach in the middle of the pack rather than at the edge toward the body (it’s complicated; Carryology has a good review that explains with photos) and hug the tech compartment to you. Cote et Ciel uses a number of cotton blend fabrics, all of which claim to be water resistant.
It’s On Sale: Briggs & Riley at Sierra Trading Post
If you’re looking for basic nylon luggage, you don’t need to look any further than Briggs & Riley. Their offering is pretty simple: a solid bag and an unbeatable warranty. Basically: if your bag is ever damaged for any reason, they will fix it free. Locally, even. They even cover damage done by baggage handlers, which is actually pretty uncommon among luggage companies. I’ve heard from many readers who are B&R customers who’ve seen that in action and can’t say enough.
Briggs & Riley aren’t as expensive as some of their competitors, like Tumi, but they are more expensive than then generics in the luggage aisle at Marshall’s. Luckily, they come up from time to time on Sierra Trading Post, where after coupon (sign up for their DealFlier for the best discounts) the standard carry-ons come to about $200.
Byrd & Belle Tech Sleeves
A reader just emailed us, looking for a recommendation - he wanted to buy a sleeve for his iPad, but wasn’t sure where to turn.
I bought my first-ever Fancy Laptop a year or so ago, a Lenovo ultrabook, and I didn’t want to throw it unprotected into my unpadded shoulder bag. I spent hours combing the web and Etsy, looking for something simple and reasonably priced. I ended up at Byrd & Belle, a Minneapolis-based Etsy storefront. I emailed a question to the owner, Angie, and she replied with a question of her own: was I the guy from Put This On?
I ended up trading a few pocket squares for a sleeve, which Angie made to the specifications of my computer (she’s happy to do this, by the way). I’ve been using it for about a year, and I couldn’t be happier. I was a little worried about the light color, but it still looks and works as well as the day I got it in the mail.
Byrd & Belle’s prices range from about $30 for phone wallets to about $75 for computer sleeves. I think that if you’re looking for a sleeve, they’re a great choice.
We Got It For Free: Hudson Sutler St. Simons Duffel
I love the canvas duffel bag. Headed out of town for the weekend? Going to a, uhm, friend’s house for a sleepover? Throw some clean clothes and a sweatshirt in your duffel and hit the road. So when Hudson Sutler asked if we’d take a look at their St. Simons Duffel, I readily agreed.
The St. Simons duffel is the basic weekend duffel size - 12” in diameter and 22” long. Like all duffels, it fits a surprising amount of stuff. In addition to the basic hand and shoulder straps, it’s got a “quick grab” strap on one end, which is a neat addition. There’s a convenient interior and an exterior zipper pocket. It’s also got a great look in navy and white, with an orange hunting dog lining by William Lamb & Son. It’s a very charming piece.
As I loaded it with crap at my office that needed to go home, though, I wondered how far that charm would get me. The bag has a big-toothed plastic zipper that seems destined to break. The lining is great-looking, but lightweight, and I was immediately worried about soiling or tearing it. The bag’s made in the USA, but it seems like aesthetics trumped the heavy-duty construction that’s usually the hallmark of this sort of bag. There was nothing to make me wonder if the bag could handle an extra pair of pants and some socks and underwear, but I wouldn’t subject it to more than a load of clothes.
At $120, the bag is reasonably priced. It’s a bit less than the classic competitor, William J. Mills & Co., who charge about $135. It’s a fair bit more than my favorite, Oregon’s Beckel Canvas, whose War Bag is about $85. Still, I love how it looks, and I’ll certainly grab it the next time I’ve got a few extra clothes to tote around. (When I’m on my way to my seaside estate, for example.)
Our director Ben tells me he ordered one of these waxed cotton backpacks from Collective Works. I’m always a bit hesitant to do social marketing for people’s products, but I have to admit it’s a nice-looking bag. At about $400, it’s no bargain, but it’s much larger and more complex than competitors that are less, like the $175 Scoutmaster Daypack from Duluth Pack or Archival Clothing’s $220 rucksack. Filson’s rucksack is $260, and a bit larger, but it isn’t a big duffel with a bunch of pockets like this bad boy.
How epically gorgeous is this new duffel from Archival Clothing? Double waxed twill bottom? Give me a break.
Put This On Season 2, Episode 1: The Melting Pot
Q & Answer: How to Fold and Pack a Suit
In our Q & Answer segment, find out how to pack your suit for travel. We’ll show you a fold to keep it neat inside a rolling carry-on or suitcase, and we’ll show you how to keep your trousers on the hanger inside a garment bag.
Put This On Season Two, Episode 1: The Melting Pot
Put This On, a web series about dressing like a grownup, visits New York City, a place where style is defined and redefined through interpretation and reinterpretation.
Meet the ‘Lo Heads. With roots in 1980s street gangs, these Polo Ralph Lauren enthusiasts have made “aspirational apparel” a lifestyle. They once had to boost their Polo from stores and fight to keep it on the streets. Today, their culture is worldwide, promulgated by hip-hop. Their hero is Ralph Lauren - a working class New Yorker who understood that the fantastical power of style can be transformative. Dallas Penn from The Internets Celebrities, a dedicated Lo Head with a collection of over 1000 pieces of Polo apparel (and former member of the Decepts crew) takes us on a tour of this remarkable fashion subculture.
Visit Worth & Worth hat shop, a New York institution with roots going back to 1922. In recent memory, Orlando Palacios has made the shop a home for rockers as well as traditionalists, turning hundred-year-old machines to the task of reinterpreting hundred-year-old styles.
Meet Jason Marshall, a jazz saxaphonist with a classic style. He plays with bands ranging from traditional bop to hip-hop fusion to Aretha Franklin, but he prefers to wear tailored clothes when he does it, and explains why.
And in our Q & Answer segment, find out how to pack your suit for travel. We’ll show you a fold to keep it neat inside a rolling carry-on or suitcase, and we’ll show you how to keep your trousers on the hanger inside a garment bag.
This is the first episode in our six-episode second season. We’ll visit the three greatest men’s style cities in the world, as chosen by our readers - New York, Milan and London. Stay tuned for our next New York episode, coming soon to putthison.com.
Executive Producers: Jesse Thorn & Adam Lisagor
Director: Benjamin Ahr Harrison
Host / Writer / Producer: Jesse Thorn
Producer: Andrew Yamato
Director of Photography: Ryan Samul
Sound: Andrew J. Reardon
Production Assistance: Zach Linder, Derek Miller