Lotuff and Clegg contacted me about reviewing one of their products, so I agreed to have them send me their English briefcase. I received the bag some time ago and find it to be absolutely incredible. The vegetable-tanned leather is exceptionally handsome, with a lot depth and richness to its color, as well as a bit of texture to its skin. It’s also very soft and pliable, but still resilient. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t scuff or scratch as easily as many high end bridle leathers. To secure its construction, there are pure brass buckles, rivets, and clips, which together not only make the bag more sturdy and reliable, but also more beautiful.
Styling wise, the briefcase is modeled after old-school, English schoolboy, book bags. Instead of the centered, buckle flap closure you would find on most briefcases, this one has two straps that wrap fully around the bag, and then buckle down at the front. Inside is a typical organization system: two leather separators that create four large compartments for your books, laptop, and notebooks; a zippered pocket for your miscellaneous items; and some small pockets for your pens, calculators, and business cards. On the outside, there is a large pouch so that you can have easy access to things while your bag is closed. All in all, it doesn’t carry an extraordinary amount, but I can fit a laptop, two books, some papers, and a notepad. I would liken it to a Filson 256’s carrying load.
The only downside is the price. At $950, it’s a pretty pricey, to say the least. Whether this is a smart buy for you is largely dependent on your budget, but I can tell you about some other options around this price point, so that you can have comparisons. North of this is Swaine Adeney Brigg’s Wrap-Around document case, which costs roughly $1,500-$2,000. Having handled this bag, I can tell you that it’s indeed superior to anything else on the market. The problem is that it’s so spectacularly romantic in its workmanship that unless you’re carefully dressed to match its class, you will look like the bag’s accessory. South of Lotuff and Clegg’s price point is Filson’s satchel, which costs between $600 to $800. The quality of this bag is a bit less opulent, so it’s easier to carry for everyday use, but its thicker bridle leather tends to wrinkle more. This is especially evident in the folds of the accordion, where Filson has glued and stitched two slabs of leather together (compared to SAB’s one slab of leather). The result is a kind of wrinkly, clump near the base of the bag, instead of the nice folds you would find on a SAB. Lotuff and Clegg’s bag has the same problem, but since the leather is a bit textured, it’s less noticeable. Filson’s also feels like a rugged version of the SAB, whereas Lotuff has a more refined, but casual, sensibility.
In the end, I’ve found the Lotuff and Clegg bag to be just easier to pull off than other similarly high-end messenger/ satchel styled briefcases. I bring my bag into classrooms, libraries, and cafes, and something like this is much more suitable. It’s superbly handsome, and will age better than a Filson and keep things much more casual than a Brigg. I liked it so much, in fact, that I bought the sample they sent me (which they kindly sold to me at a discount). It’s quite an expensive purchase, but if you’re on the market for a high-end bag, and considering things like the SAB or Filson, I think Lotuff’s model is well worth your consideration.
(By the way, Bruce Boyer recommended me the book shown in the picture above – The Craftsman by Richard Sennett. I’m nearly halfway through the book and am really enjoying it. You can read a review of it here to see if you’d like to also pick it up).
Addendum: Jesse and two readers (Michael and Joe) reminded me that there some other really great companies that make this style of bag – Saddleback Leather, Narragansett Leathers, and Custom Leathers. They’re much more affordable than the ones discussed above, so be sure to check them out as well.