Leather’s naturally rugged, weatherproof finish is perfect for the accessories we use daily to carry and protect our items – bags. In particular, styles used primarily by professionals with long commutes, like messenger bags, are made even more versatile and protective when made with leather.
Leather messenger bags are a style of leather bag dating back to the 1950s. These bags were originally designed in canvas for line workers and adopted by bicycle couriers before making their way into mainstream fashion and made in leather rather than canvas.
Let’s explore more about the options and styles that can look and work the best.
What is a Leather Messenger Bag?
Leather messenger bags are messenger bags made in leather. Messenger-like bags originated before the 1950s in the form of military map bags and Pony Express carryalls. After 1950, the messenger bag we know today was created for line workers who needed to easily access the many tools they needed to work with.
Later, the canvas bags were adopted by bicycle couriers and other types of private messenger companies. In the mid-1980s, messenger bags found their way into the world of fashion. The bags were made from synthetic materials like nylon and featured added security like zippers and buckles. Messenger bags were made in leather for maximum durability and style, and the rest is history.
The leather messenger bags we know today are one of the most popular leather bag styles in the world, and the most popular leather bag style for men. Messenger bags have always had an inherently cool,
What to Look for In Leather Messenger Bag
Like most leather goods, leather messenger bags are available in a variety of colors and finishes. Genuine leather bags are most often available in classic shades like black, deep browns, tans, and sometimes grey or natural shades. In faux leather, messenger bags can be found in many colors, including brights and variegated or marbled finishes.
Messenger bags are often vintage-inspired or ultra-modern because of their inherently structured shape. Still, it’s easy to find very casual, slouchy messenger bags, especially from fast-fashion retailers or direct from leather artisans.
By default, messenger bags tend to have many roomy pockets. Usually, there are 1-4 exterior pockets and one large interior compartment; some modern, sleek messenger bags may only have an interior compartment.
The straps of leather messenger bags are often woven for maximum comfort and flexibility. Many also have a shoulder pad for extra comfort. It’s standard for messenger bags to also have a hand strap on top for easy movability, but some more modern styles do without this handle.
Types of Leather Messenger Bag
Womens Black Leather Messenger Bag
Women’s leather messenger bags are often smaller and simpler than men’s varieties. Black is a classic choice for a messenger bag – it fits with any style or outfit, looks sleek and neat, and is easy to use for a variety of different purposes or occasions.
Mens Leather Messenger Bag
Men’s messenger bags are often heavily inspired by the bag style’s roots – utilitarian, rugged, and masculine. Men’s bags typically have a few large pockets on the outside, along with secure buckle closure.
Mens Brown Leather Messenger Bag
Men’s brown leather messenger bags lean into the vintage-inspired silhouette they’re usually made with. Often, brown leather messenger bags are pre-aged for a truly worn-in, effortlessly cool look. Brown leather is a traditional choice for men’s bags.
Mens Vintage Leather Messenger Bag
While many of today’s leather messenger bags are vintage-inspired, well-constructed vintage bags can still be purchased and used today. Purchasing vintage helps lessen the environmental impact that leather curing creates while simultaneously allowing consumers to find a beautiful bag for a more affordable price. Shopping vintage is a great way to find authentic styles rather than modern imitations, too! For men, a vintage messenger bag is a great way to showcase classic style with a curated, carefully selected bag.
Mens Black Leather Messenger Bag
Though brown is a more typical leather choice for men, black is a classic color that looks great with any style. Black leather is sophisticated and bold, perfect for a high-level professional or a man who wants to be taken seriously! For those with edgier style who still need to appear professional, an edgy, modern black leather messenger bag is the perfect way to showcase that personal style.
Small Leather Messenger Bag
Smaller leather messenger bags are often sold as satchels or carryalls. These bags are typically marketed as women’s purses or laptop bags, meant to be used by professionals with long commutes who need a bag to hold their essentials, but not an entire office’s worth of materials.
Full Grain Leather Messenger Bag
Full grain leather is one of the highest-quality types of leather available. Leather messenger bags made with full-grain leather are durable and heavy, meant to be used for a lifetime with minimal wear.
Handmade Leather Messenger Bag
For the most personalized bag possible, you may want to purchase a handmade leather messenger from a leather artisan. These bags are made by a single artisan or group of artisans, often from start to finish (including leather dyeing and finishing), ensuring a one-of-a-kind accessory to be cherished for years.
Distressed Leather Messenger Bag
Often, vintage-inspired messenger bags are pre-distressed. Distressed leather is treated to appear worn-in, which is a desirable trait for leather because of the patina (varied tone and texture) that it develops. Distressed leather is a great choice for those who want a vintage-looking, casual leather messenger bag.
Red Leather Messenger Bag
Red leather is a bold choice! If you’re looking for an edgy leather messenger bag, look no further than red leather. Whether bright red or deep burgundy, red leather is confident and stylish. Red leather is a bit harder to find in leather messenger bags – for an easier to find alternative, try oxblood (a deep red-brown).
Leather Messenger Bags Made In the USA
Items made in the USA guarantee that quality materials were used – in addition, the price of the item is usually lower to reflect the lack of international shipping and other costs that can add up. To ensure that your leather messenger bag is made in the USA, you can shop exclusively with retailers whose production is US-based. Another option is purchasing from US-based artisans and craftsmen.
DIY Leather Messenger Bags
Leather messenger bags are complicated, highly structured garments, and thus should not be attempted by those inexperienced with leatherworking. However, for those who do have the experience, taking on a DIY leather messenger bag project is an excellent way to create a 100% handmade, locally crafted bag.
Popular Leather Messenger Bag Brands
Buffalo Jackson is a well-known leather retailer whose items are rugged and high-quality. They’re on the lower end of high-end, with prices around $250-$300 for their leather messenger bags.
Fossil is an ultra-popular leather retailer known for its vintage-inspired-yet-modern styles. Their leather is soft and durable, and their styles are often available in a variety of colors and finishes. Fossil’s prices are often mid-range, with smaller bags starting at around $50.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make your very own Leather Messenger Bag DIY
Mid-range designer Kenneth Cole offers sleek, modern leather messenger bags for men and women at affordable prices. The designer’s offerings are highly accessible, available at retailers like Macy’s, and cost around $100 on average.
Known mostly as a shoe retailer, Aldo’s leather messenger bags are unique and stylish. Aldo’s price point is similar to that of Kenneth Cole, with most bags costing around $100 and synthetic leather bags going for a bit less.
Designer Cole Haan’s leather messenger bags are sleek, professional, and modern. Available mostly in men’s styles, the bags are relatively expensive at around $400. Each style is available in at least black and brown, with the occasional lighter tone available for certain styles.
Frye is known for their rugged, distressed-yet-fashionable leather goods. Their messenger bags are roomy and stylish with a cool distressed finish. They’re available in a variety of styles, from ultra-modern and sleek to vintage-inspired with buckle-and-strap closure. Frye’s bags are sold for around $600.
Leather messenger bags are a style of leather bag dating back to the 1950s.
Berchirly Vintage Leather
Berchirly is a small retailer offering vintage-inspired bags in faux and real leather. The bags are super accessible, sold mostly via Amazon and eBay, and cost anywhere from $40 to over $100. The bags come in a huge variety of styles, making it easy for anyone to find a great Berchirly bag.
Kodiak Leather’s messenger bags are the real deal. From contemporary and avant-garde to traditional and masculine, Kodiak’s selection is all-inclusive and gender-neutral. Their bags are pre-distressed for the optimal vintage finish and are available mostly in black and brown tones. Kodiak’s bags retail for anywhere from $130 to almost $300.
Shinola is a high-end leather retailer, with their messenger bags priced at over $600. The bags are made from the highest-quality leather and are designed to withstand a lifetime of heavy-duty use.
Zappos is an all-inclusive accessories retailer. Originally known for their extensive selection of shoes, Zappos is renowned for its collection of bags. Because of the nature of the site, prices vary quite a bit; most leather messenger bags on the site cost around $150 to start.
Best Leather Messenger Bag
|Cuero Bags – Vintage Visage shoulder bag||This unique messenger from Cuero is modern and sleek. The bag features a low-profile snap closure and a slim, roomy pocket for storing a notepad, pens, wallet, or phone. Its main compartment is spacious, with enough room for a large laptop plus any and all work essentials.||$169|
|Fossil – Defender Leather Portfolio Briefcase||Fossil is known for their high-quality leather products, and this fashionable messenger is no slouch! With a streamlined-yet-vintage look, the bag is made from soft leather and features multiple pockets for the commuting professional.||$278|
|Free People – Bianca Studded Leather Messenger Bag||An edgy, casual alternative to structured and masculine traditional messengers, Free People’s studded messenger features nailhead studs on soft, slouchy leather. Available in three beautiful shades,||$168|
Where to Buy a Leather Messenger Bag
Amazon is a good site to find inexpensive faux leather bags. Unique anti-theft messenger bags can be found for very affordable prices here, usually in a wide variety of colors. Amazon’s leather bags usually cost around $30-$80.
Learn how to care for and condition your leather bag in the tutorial below
Cuero’s leather messenger bags are top-grain genuine leather, one of the most protective, durable types of leather available. The bags are beautiful and rustic, with a slightly aged, vintage appearance. For around $150-$200, Cuero’s bags are an excellent choice for anyone, regardless of gender or style.
Etsy is the best source on the internet for handmade leather goods. Here, shoppers can find leather messenger bags in varying sizes and colors, with as many or as few extra features as desired. Because many of the site’s leather artisans accept commissions, you can even have a leather messenger bag custom-made to your exact needs.
Overstock is, as its name suggests, an overstock sale site. Many designer bags end up here, making it an excellent resource to find that leather messenger bag you had an eye on that was a bit too pricey. Overstock’s selection of leather messenger bags varies, but the average cost is around $100-$150.
Portland Leather Goods
Much like Cuero’s bags, Portland Leather’s messenger bags are rugged and vintage-inspired. Available in two simple styles, the bags are a beautiful, loving testament to the leather messenger’s classic style. Both options cost around $150 for the standard size and $200 for the XL size.
Macy’s is a classic source of high-end and mid-range leather goods. Many more accessible designers’ collections are sold here, with prices usually falling between $30 and a few hundred dollars.
Leather messenger bags are practical, fashionable bags that can be used by anyone. From professionals to students to those who just have a lot to carry around in their daily lives, messenger bags are the perfect choice to take essentials with you wherever you go. Leather messengers are durable, roomy, and always cool! For other leather accessories, click here for my guide to leather wallets, or here for my article on leather pouches.
Who makes the best leather messenger bags?
For the best leather messenger bags, look to a leather retailer. These companies work exclusively with leather to create the most durable, beautiful bags to last a lifetime.
Are leather messenger bags in style?
Leather messenger bags are always in style! They’re practical and roomy, but cool and effortless. In leather, the style is elevated to a sophisticated, sleek accessory that works with any style!