Last month, we sat down with Chapman Bags CEO Daniel Chamier to discuss the top five important things to consider when buying a man bag. This month, we discuss the final six steps to the perfect man bag.
1. We ended the last feature discussing how high quality real leather is important in the production of a Chapman Bag. However, the canvas utilised is also equally important.
In the past, canvas was often a rough material created from jute or hemp, and was regularly used for making sails. Far from these outdated methods, today, canvas is generally made from cotton. When taking into consideration cotton’s quality and fitness for purpose, a number of factors are taken into consideration. These include, but are not limited to, the thickness, water proofing, lightfastness and abrasion resistance.
Speaking about the use of high quality materials involved in man bags, Daniel cites, “My view is that man bags should be made from canvas of around 18oz weight or more, or they will tend to wear through relatively quickly. We do see quite a few thinner canvas bags these days with interliners to thicken the panels, but I don’t think this is great in a man bag and can be a sign of using cheap materials.”
Like all things, the colours of natural materials often fades and wears over time, which can often give Chapman Bags a weathered, well-travelled, flavoursome aesthetic. However, if this is a concern to the customer, they are welcome to ask the manufacturer if materials are tested for lightfastness and abrasion. To protect against rainfall, canvas should be proofed or laminated with a waterproof membrane to ensure your belongings stay dry whatever the weather. Water repellent chemicals can also coat canvas, which can be easily tested with a small amount of water, before one sets out into the unpredictability of the wilderness.
2. Equally as important as the canvas utilised in a man bag is the hardware and zips ensuring your belongings remain secure, safe and dry. The functionality and longevity of a bag ultimately depends on the quality of the fastenings, closures and general hardware. More often than not, zips should be made of high quality metal to ensure smoothness and security when running up and down the canvas, unless it’s a gun cover, in which case nylon should be utilised. The most skilled craftsmen of zips are manufacturers YKK and RiRi, however the latter often comes at a substantial premium.
The finest hardware is often made of brass, or nickel, gold or copper plating with a brass coating. However, steel hardware often falls victim to rust, so this should be avoided. A number of specialist coatings have recently emerged on the market, such as pewter, antique etc. These are often fine, but often disguise cheap alloys underneath. If it feels unnaturally lightweight, it should be avoided at all costs. Low quality brass can often be identified by pitting on the surface of the metal.
3. For the outdoor adventurer on the go, a high quality strap is essential – Daniel stresses that shoulder straps should be assessed for both material and fastening. With regular movement and weight pulling it down, shoulder straps are often susceptible to two types of degradation. Primarily, damage or degradation to the strap material itself. The second is the fastenings – these can often fail, leaving your bag hanging or dropping in the dirt, neither of which are ideal. A number of different shoulder strap materials are often utilised in the production of man bags. These often include cotton or synthetic needle or shuttle loom webbing, safety belt type synthetics and full leather.
Daniel recommends shuttle loom for a high-quality strap material, this is often utilised in parachute webbing. However, on the other end of the spectrum, Daniel believes that the lowest quality material is the loose needle loom webbing, possibly with a filler inside. However, this sort of detail may not be immediately obvious – it’s best to find a strap with thick webbing with a tight weave with considerable stiffness. Safety belt webbing should be indestructible, however it’s not the most pleasing to the eye.
The quality of the leather will depend on both the leather and its fastening. The fastenings should be chunky and solid, with a large amount of stitching on the anchor points for absolute security. It’s important to bear in mind that rivets are much less reliable than stitches. Rivets can often be holes waiting to happen when featured in the wrong material. Smaller anchor points should often feature reinforced back panels to prevent the material from ripping.
4. As previously mentioned, all bags have points which receive more stress than others, for example the straps, which wear at the shoulder anchor points. Luggage also often features stress points, often around the base corners. Shoulder bags often wear away against the body in a handful of places, and corners may wear away from time spent on the ground. The back panels and rucksack straps often wear away faster than other areas. Buckles, straps and zips are often vulnerable on a number of bags, however higher quality bags often prevent such wear and tear by utilising expensive materials, fittings and incorporating added protection. This can often include metal feet, leather panels and corners on points which could wear away.
To avoid this, Daniel advises, “A good tip is to stick to bags with simple fastenings and closures like buckles, straps and Sam Browne studs. Magnetic closures can work fine but are less secure and vulnerable to degradation, so best avoided on important man bag fastenings.“
5. It’s a sad fact of life that nothing lasts forever. In this context, it’s referring to the colour of your bag. “Everybody has their favourite colours”, Daniel cites. “But you need to remember that they will fade and wear in time.”
This sad weathering process is particularly noticeable in darker colours – black and navy will sadly show their wear in cotton canvas before lighter shades of olive and khaki. Synthetic materials such as nylon often wear their colour a little longer, but may deteriorate less gracefully over time. Exposure to sunlight can often wash colours out, as seen in shops when products in the window’s colour fades – the same applies with man bags. This may sound worrying, however, unless your bag receives a large amount of direct sunlight on a daily basis when walking/cycling to work, in which case something a little more prosaic for the journey may be beneficial. Nicer items can be saved for the workplace.
6. There are three simple rules for a manbag.
• DON’T put it in a washing machine.
• DON’T send it to be dry cleaned.
• DON’T leave it on a radiator if it gets wet.
These may sound ridiculous, but all 3 have happened in the past with unfortunate man bags. To clean your man bag, it’s best to use soapy water and being left to dry. Leather should be cleaned by hand – a slightly dampened cloth is acceptable. After this, the leather should be left to dry and then finished off with a leather cream or restorer. Brass tarnishes naturally, however hardware can be kept glittering like new with a simple metal cleaner – if you’re lucky, brands may offer a ‘lifetime’ guarantee. Although, this may be more of a marketing scheme, as the longevity of a bag may depend on its use. If possible, it’s best to buy a bag from a brand who offer a repair and maintenance service.
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