How to Select a Leather Bag

1. THE DESIGN. Do you like it or not? This should be your first consideration. No amount of craftsmanship or price considerations will make up for a design you just are not into. I hope you like my classic designs, but if you don't, I won't hold it against you. That said, maybe you know somebody who would like my bags. If so, please pass them a link to this campaign. (Thank you). Actually please share this link even, and especially, if you like and are supporting HYDE—it's in both our best interest that we get funded. (Thank you and thank you.)

2. THE PRICE. You should not buy what you cannot afford. Enough said. I've done my best to keep HYDE bags reasonably priced without compromising quality. 

3. THE LEATHER. We could go on about leather until, well until the cows come home. This really is the most important part of a bag and the part that really dictates the quality and price of a bag. 

There are many ways manufacturers cut corners and misrepresent their products regarding leather. Thin leather won't last, so always look closely at how thick the leather is. Layering, lining and turning the edges are all ways to cheat and make thin leather appear thicker than it really is. "Bonded," "patent" and "genuine leather" are the particle boards of the leather world and often contain more plastic than they do leather. The less real leather manufacturers use, the more money they can save. You might initially pay less for a bag made of cheap or thin leather, but you'll be replacing it sooner, so in the end, are you really saving anything?

At HYDE we don't cut corners on the leather. All HYDE products are made from very thick 5-9oz. (2-3mm) vegetable-tanned full-grain harness leather. It is the best, strongest part of the hide. You could bury this leather in your back yard and it might still outlast you—no kidding. It's the same kind of leather used to make saddles and harnesses, places where cutting corners and using cheap leather could cost you your life. To my knowledge, cheap leather has never caused a bag-related fatality, but I'm not taking any chances and am only using the good stuff—no, I'm using the best stuff.

What is full-grain leather? A cow's skin is about 1/4 inch thick. The tannery can split a hide as many as six times, but all splits are not equal. The "grain" is the top/skin side of the hide and is the best and strongest part of the hide. Full-grain leather is the very top most split that has not been sanded or resurfaced to hide or remove color variation, scars or blemishes. These marks are not imperfections in my opinion and add character to a bag. In fact, I seek out scars and brands and try to incorporate them into HYDE bags where possible. It's harder than you might think to get hides with marks that tell the stories of the cow's life. If you're lucky your bag will have such marks. Don't dismay if your bag comes boringly perfect and devoid of scars, these bags will last so long you will have plenty of opportunity to add your own.

Vegetable leather: What? Aren't cows made of meat? 

There are two common ways leather is tanned: Vegetable, which uses vegetable-derived tannins from sources such as oak bark and takes about 40 days to process; and chrome/oil tanned which uses really nasty carcinogenic and earth-killing chemicals, but only takes one to two days to make. Over 90% of the leather produced in the world is chrome tanned. Chrome tanned leather is softer, weaker and a whole lot cheaper. Aside from wanting to leave an inhabitable planet for my children, I use only vegetable-tanned leather because of the way it looks and ages. 

When a HYDE bag is born it is a light "natural" tan. Within a week it will darken to a rich honey color because of use and exposure to the sun. Over a lifetime of use it will continue to darken and develop a beautiful and unique patina that the cheaper chrome-tanned leather never will. If you are impatient like me and don't want to wait a lifetime to get that patina, you can age your bag about 20 years in 30 minutes by rubbing it down, or rather "stuffing" it, with natural oils and waxes. Almost any natural oil will work. A light rub with an oiled rag will instantly make it the color of honey. Two or three thick applications of olive oil will turn it a dark chestnut color. All bags will come similar to the color shown below as "a few weeks old." What you do with it after that is up to you.

THREAD. The thread is the weakest link in a bag and another one of the ways manufactures cut corners.

In the old days cotton or linen was used. Problem is, leather is acidic and erodes natural fibers over time. Then came Nylon—which is still the most common thread used to stitch leather products. Nylon is very strong but it gets brittle in UV light. HYDE bags are stitched with Polyester. Polyester is as strong as Nylon, but is more durable when exposed to UV. It's more expensive than the other options, but what is a buck or two more in thread when you are using over $100 of leather? It really makes no sense to cut corners here, and yet most bag manufacturers do.

At points that receive extra stress, We place a rivet. The rivets are gunmetal/antique nickel to match the other hardware. The rivets we use are two sided so they look as nice on the inside as they do on the out.

HARDWARE. I hate cheap hardware, I really do. Second only to the leather, nothing makes a bag look cheaper than bad hardware. The hardware we use is made for horse tack. I figure if the hardware can hold a horse back, it's probably strong enough for a HYDE bag. You may also have noticed that HYDE bags do not have fast clips hidden behind the buckles. This is because the clips will most likely fail before the leather fails and let's be honest, they look cheap. Yes, it's going to take you 10 seconds longer to open a HYDE bag with real belt buckles, but you will look very cool doing it—that's 10 more seconds of looking cool at no extra charge. You're welcome.

All the hardware has a nice gunmetal patina down to the snaps and rivets. Not flashy like chrome, but it looks better with the warm tones of the leather in my opinion and adds to the overall impression of age HYDE bags have. And before you ask, yes, those are real 1930s buffalo nickels used as snaps. 

As you can see above, HYDE bags are not lined. Lining is done either to make the leather appear thicker or to hide an ugly back surface. We finish the back surface of the leather so it is beautiful and clean - to hide it would be a shame.

All bags have an interior computer pocket. The small size bags will hold a 13" MacBook, the large holds a 15" MacBook. (Pictured above: all bags are small size except the Postal Bag which is the large bag. The computer used in all photos is 13" MacBook.)