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What Are Messenger Bags?

BY Buffalo Jackson Insight
BY Alex Via

Also known as courier bags, messenger bags are a type of satchel originally used by all types of messengers throughout history. Bike couriers, mail carriers, and even riders for the Pony Express wore messenger bags to get the job done. Further influence on today’s messenger bags comes from those carried in the 1950s by utility linemen. They needed easily accessible tool bags they could wear while climbing utility poles, and the messenger bag style fit the bill.

While there are endless styles of satchels and similar bags, true messenger bags include three key features:

1. Long, Cross-Body Strap

Unlike backpack straps, the long cross-body strap of messenger bags allows them to be worn against the lower back, then pulled around to the side or front to access the contents -- without having to remove the bag. This makes messenger bags ideal for wearing while walking through an airport or cycling to work (a nod to bike couriers of old).

2. Accessible, Secure Closure

Since messenger bags originated with couriers and messengers delivering important documents, a true messenger bag will have a reliable means of securing its contents. Buckles, clasps, and zippers are commonly used and add as much style to a messenger bag as function. As mentioned above, these secure closures should be easily accessible while still wearing the bag.

3. Functional Formality

Messenger bags tend to be associated with briefcases and are therefore seen as a bit more formal (than a backpack, for example). A messenger bag can also, of course, be used casually, but if you plan to use the bag in a more formal setting like a business meeting, it will get the job done. Traditionally, a messenger bag will have a weather-proof exterior such as waxed canvas (which would’ve been crucial for a bike courier or utility lineman back in the day), but messenger bags can now also be found in leather, which adds to the professional briefcase bag style.

So, what are messenger bags? They’re practical and stylish, and most have a story to tell -- much like the men who wear them.

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