a year with “The American”
A little over a year ago I purchased myself a leather messenger bag. I’d been looking for a high-quality bag for quite a while and though there were plenty of options out there, stumbled across a Michigan-based company called Bros. Leather.
Bros. Leather has quite a large variety of bags that they sell, there’s something that will fit just about every style. After some deliberation, I’d settled on a classic design called “The American”.
The American comes in two sizes, 14 inches and 16 inches. The bag has a large main compartment with a single canvas divider, one zippered pocket, and two smaller pockets inside. The entire interior of the bag is lined with canvas. There are also four straps to hold pens, pencils, or other accessories that you can fit in there. On the outside, it has a flap cover with two buckled closures and a small exterior pocket with it’s own buckled closure. The shoulder strap is adjustable with a brass buckle. With my bag, I ordered the optional shoulder pad, which makes it slightly more comfortable, especially with heavier loads.
I went with the 14 inch version to help keep myself from carrying too many things – something I’ve had trouble with in the past. It’s large enough to fit my 13 inch MacBook Pro and charger along with a notebook and a few other small items in the main compartment. It could probably hold a 15 inch, but that would be pushing it. On a normal day, though, I generally just carry a notebook or two, a book, an iPad, and a variety of pens, pencils, headphones, phone charger, deck of cards, and sometimes a smaller camera. It all fits pretty well, but I do have to be conscious of how much I’m carrying and how heavy it all ends up.
Over the past year, The American has travelled with me almost everyday to work, on vacation, and it’s been with me just wandering around town. After living with this bag for over a year, its the right time to give it a review.
The leather that makes up the bag is quite soft. It’s not “buttery”, but it’s nice and flexible, allowing it to contour itself around my body when I’m wearing. It’s still rigid enough, though, to hold its shape when its sitting on the ground.
The strap is adjustable to a variety of lengths set by a buckle, just like a belt would be. One of the notches in the strap fits me “just right”, so that was an added bonus – no settling for a strap thats a little bit too long or short. It happens that the “just right” setting on this strap coincides with a “softer” spot on the leather of the strap, which lets the strap seem to stretch a little bit. Because leather is a natural material, you can’t really account for all of the variability in the final product. It doesn’t seem to affect the structural integrity of the strap, so it’s more of an interesting quirk of the bag than anything else.
The entire inside of the bag is lined with canvas. As with all of Bros. Leather’s bags, it’s and olive drab or OD green color. I rather like this color (which generally shows in my love of army surplus shirts and jackets), so it was a perfect combination of colors between the deep brown and the green of the lining.
The lining, I found, is glued into the interior of the bag. I discovered this after I’d owned the bag for a while when the glue started to work its way through the canvas. This didn’t do much aside from leave a bit of residue on my notebooks and making the corners of the bag a bit sticky. I emailed Bros. Leather’s online support and I received an answer from James. He was quite helpful, he explained that this was the glue that adhered the canvas to the leather and that this was a somewhat common occurrence. He went on to explain that I could take rubbing alcohol on a clean rag to scrub the glue off of the canvas. I tried this out and it worked pretty well, it just takes quite a bit of elbow grease.
The American from Bros. Leather has held up quite well over the course of the last year, and I haven’t exactly been gentle with it. I have no doubt that The American will hold up to anything I can throw at it for years to come. It’s solid.