Our latest test drive featured a material we love in nearly every part of our lives: leather. Apply that to a bag you use every day, and that’s something you certainly want to get right. Gentlemen considering investing in a good work bag, or messenger in this case, must be vigilant in picking the right combination of form and function. The bag makes a statement, it should certainly do what it was meant to do, and it should last. To put that mindset to the test, our new friends at Brothers Leather Supply Co sent us their newest addition to the Grand Rapids based line-up of bags and accessories, the versatile Benjamin Messenger.
In summary, it is a compelling bag worth the price – in fact, more than worth it.
The Benjamin Messenger is 16″x12″x5″ and easily fit my 13″ Macbook air – though most bags will. That said, it fit a lot of other things as well. I was able to easily fill the space and make use of all the nooks and crannies (even the short exterior end pockets) with anything I’d want to pack for a day at the office or a visit to a client across the country, including my umbrella. For me personally, it’s borderline too large as I believe anyone will fill a space given to them, and for that reason I had already purposefully bought a smaller Brothers Leather product: the Executive (literally the last one made, sorry). Nonetheless, it’s within messenger range.
This is the highlight of this wonderful bag. The full-grain leather is outstanding. The thick hide, the rich saddle coloring, and the structural integrity of its form and stitching makes it a high caliber product that I would buy for this reason alone. Plus much of the exterior leather is doubled so that it’s about a full 3mm thick. The interior is a cream canvas that compliments the tan color in a very pleasant, English colonial sort of way (then again that wasn’t pleasant for everyone). All of that considered – it’s heavy. But alas, it’s a real man’s kind of leather.
Worth noting, there are smaller details you’ll appreciate. The canvas lines every pocket and likewise, each pocket is leather lined at the edges. That will help for long term durability. The rear exterior section, rather hidden and closed with a snap, is furthermore an artistic flair that no one sees but you. It has a navy and white striped cloth lining that, again, adds subtle character to the bag.
The features of the Benjamin Messenger are what bring out both more pros as well as the cons.
- Pockets: There are 3 interior pockets, 5 exterior, and one pen loop. None zip, which is sometimes nice to have in the event your bag falls over and small things scatter, so that was slightly missed. The two forward exterior pockets are the perfect size for a small power cord and other accessories – though again, neither zip. The two end pockets were most interesting. They are very thoughtful in that you need a pocket every now and then that gives you quick access without having to open your bag, and they’re the exact size of a can or thin water bottle. Yet for some reason, they’re so short that a water bottle would very easily fall out. That could be bothersome to many, but as fate would have it, I used it for my REI travel espresso cup… there’s a stocking stuffer for you, by the way.
- Hidden snaps behind the buckles: these surprised me. I loaded the bag as heavy as it might ever be (unless you’re hauling actual lead) and the snaps never released. That was my primary concern, so the outcome was great. Furthermore, they’re much quicker to open and close than the actual buckles of my Executive bag. Thus, they performed well as an innovation on Brothers’ behalf.
- Handles: This was another odd characteristic. While most of the leather is refreshingly tough, the handles are even moreso but without the supple texture of the bag. They may look cool; however, two straight-cut utility straps aren’t exactly what you want your hands to grip every day when they could have easily been pinched, wrapped, etc. It’s a design feature, so some will like it and some won’t. I was slightly unimpressed with this component.
- What’s Missing: the luggage handle sleeve. Any professional gentleman that needs to travel on a regular basis in order to meet his clients knows the great value of a rear sleeve on the brief case (or messenger) to slide over and attach to his roller bag. In the case of the Benjamin with a $395 price tag, it’s also likely that our gentleman user does in fact travel at least on occasion. And lastly, due to the larger size and weight of this messenger, I would personally want to roll it.
In summary, it is safe to say that the Benjamin Messenger is an outstanding product that shines in form a bit more than function, but the quality is beyond reproach either way. It certainly made me deliberate between it and my daily driver on a 50/50 split. The quality of the leather is such a great balance of strength and finish, it makes a great – even if subtle – statement while at the same time probably tough enough to defy my Buck knife sinking into it.
I finished my test of this wonderful messenger bag with a cup of coffee at the Barista Parlor in Nashville, TN where compliments abounded. I will say something about marketing and targeting: the BP customers and buyers of this bag are a 100% match. Here’s to you, trendy East Nashville.
Note: there were no finances involved in this review. We just love looking out for you.