Vintage Style Bookbags

Image of a vintage-style leather bookbag
The classic book bag never goes out of style.

When you think of a vintage style bookbag, you probably think of a leather bag with two straps and brass buckle fastenings. That is a classic image, but there can be a few variations on the theme. There are also other options, should you not be interested in owning a leather bag.

The Ultimate Vintage Style Bookbags

The vintage style bookbags that have such immediate recognition in both eye and mind are the messenger bags and school satchels seen in Norman Rockwell paintings, Currier & Ives prints and other such enduring images. Any picture seen of schoolchildren from the 19th century up through the 1950s or 1960s will more than likely feature this bag in some variation or other. In many British private schools, children carried a standard bag and had them monogrammed so as to tell them apart. But the basic satchel, either carried by hand, over the shoulder or as a backpack, was the bookbag used by everyone.

When this bag was leather, which was most of the time, it was a brown or burgundy leather. As with messenger bags today, the bag usually had a flap that covered the main compartment and fastened with two brass buckles.

Many old book bags were box-shaped. This was the bag carried by younger children - who of course were carrying smaller books. It was a convenient shape for carrying a lunch as well, but not something that most people would want to carry today, as it would be uncomfortable.

Buying Classic Bags

Although the idea of the old-fashioned book bag is something leather, you can replicate the look with canvas just as well. Many students and teachers carried canvas bags, with or without leather trim, as they were cheaper and lighter but also durable. A good canvas bag will last just as long as a leather bag and is much easier to take care of.

Whether you want leather or canvas, both can be had at a range of prices and styles. When buying a leather bag, it's important to think of it as an investment and thus buy a high-quality leather. This will last the longest and, as it wears, will only look better.

Good bags in both leather and canvas can be found at Fossil. Some of what they have to offer right now includes:

  • Montana Messenger. Exactly what you think of when you imagine a vintage-style bookbag, the Montana is made of a smooth brown, full-grain leather with brushed brass buckles and an adjustable shoulder strap, as well as a magnetic closure for extra security. It features an interior zip pocket, two slip pockets and an ID window.
  • Cory E/W Messenger. An olive-canvas bag with washed leather trim that claims to be vegetarian, it's a zipper bag with an interior zip pocket and pockets for cell phones and/or a PDA. Has a true vintage look.

At Leather Briefcases, you can get a distressed leather bag with a flap covering a zippered pocket and two snap pouches. This is a bag designed for convenience, with pen loops, business card slots, phone and glasses pockets. It's even padded so you can carry a laptop. There is an open pocket at the back and the flap seals with a magnet. The webbed strap is covered in leather appliqué. You can opt to have the bag monogrammed for a nice vintage touch. They have similar bags in two different sizes.

Handmade Vintage Bags

One way to capture more of a vintage feel is to buy something handmade, which you can do for less money than you might imagine. At the UK site Scaramanga, they have a beautiful bag in antique leather that can carry pretty much everything. They are also engaged in fair trade practices and members of Ethical Junction, so that when you purchase with them, you are supporting craftspeople and small businesspeople who are trying to make the world a little bit better.

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Vintage Style Bookbags