Tuesday, June 11, 2013

J.Crew Abingdon Messenger Bag Overview

A while ago, I picked up the J.Crew Abingdon laptop bag and had some good things to say about it. If I had to condense the entire review into a sentence, I'd say that the laptop bag is a very fine looking accessory with a vintage feel, good size, and a relatively low price. It carries my 14" laptop in a Brenthaven sleeve quite comfortably too. I mostly use it as a briefcase with the shoulder strap tucked into the rear exterior pocket.
J.Crew Abingdon Laptop Bag with 14" Laptop Inside
As this post is being written, the J.Crew website shows that there is an entire line of Abingdon bags available. Included are the laptop bag I have, a weekender (duffel style) bag, backpack, roller duffel, travel kit, and messenger bag. Having not really used a duffel much or liked the style, I don't want to comment on it -- believe me, it's a style now with the popularity of gymin'. Backpacks are still only used when necessary by yours truly. The travel kit's cute, but I don't have much interest in it, so that leaves one thing.

My messenger bags have been my loves, my purses, my buddies for most of the past decade. It wasn't until fairly recently that I started carrying a backpack again, and even now, I probably do a 15/85 split in favor of the messenger. To be forward, let me say that I haven't touched or played with the messenger bag at all. Everything I discuss I get from the product descriptions and pretty pictures on J.Crew's website. I hope to use my extensive purse carrying experience to make a few comments.

J.Crew Abingdon Messenger Bag
Overall Design
This appears to utilize a very standard messenger bag design style: rectangular (i.e. long), folding flap cover, and a double-strap closure. The dimensions stated on the website are 10.5" x 16" x 5" -- the last dimension is depth, which is probably more an FYI for when you need to jam it full of things. It is made from a waxed cotton canvas material, and available in solid khaki, deep olive, and slate grey.
In contrast, my current shoulder bag is a very square cotton canvas design with two velcro tabs that I rarely close intentionally. It came from a bookstore for $15, so I don't know what brand it's from. The material holds up surprisingly well in rain -- okay, it gets soaked, but the inside usually stays dry even in moderate rain.

There appear to be two exterior pockets outside the main, closeable and lined main compartment of the Abingdon. I see another leather strap and buckle that should serve as an additional seal for the main storage space inside the main flap. Some more pockets appear to be inside the main lined space and one has a zipper. The shoulder strap looks like cotton canvas with some leather accents. It is also possible to find a leather handle on top of the main flap's exterior.

How's it look?
The bag looks great in all three colors. My preference is for the solid khaki version just for the vintage feel of a cotton canvas messenger bag. At 10.5" wide and 16" long, it should fit fairly long items including 8.5" x 14" legal pages, if ever necessary. Having a depth of 5" would probably allow for a lot of stuff to be crammed in there.

On many occasions, I need or want to hold my current messenger bag in my hand and the only available option is to grab a fist full of material. These occurrences arise when I'm just picking my bag off the floor, in a hurry on the move, or need to guide the thing through a busy area. The Abingdon messenger has a leather handle at the top of the flap, so this would allow for some more comfort during times when the bag has to be treated like a briefcase.

As for the material, I only had my laptop bag outside in a drizzle once and the waxed cotton canvas material appeared to be resistant to the rain. Since the messenger bag supposedly uses a similar material, it may react to rain in a similar fashion. However, I must put emphasis on the word "drizzle". I have no idea how it'll hold up in heavy rain, so good luck.

Pet Peeves and Concerns
My only real concerns with the laptop version are that there are open and uncovered exterior pockets that can let rain pool in (front and back), and the leather buckle is not as easy to close as a snap-shut design. The first issue may not be a problem here because the front two exterior pockets appear to be covered by the main flap. I don't see any pockets on the back of the messenger bag, but I may be wrong because the description says that the "exterior pockets have hidden magnetic snaps".

Can't say I'm a big fan of the closure design, which appears to be the same type of leather buckle used in the laptop version. I want to call it a design/fashion decision, but as you can see in the Old School Roots leather bag, it is possible to have the traditional loop-through buckle appearance with a metal snap-shut buckle below. Maybe it's for the genuine vintage look and feel. To be fair, this is just a pet peeve of mine. I've had a loop-through, traditional buckle messenger bag before and I just ended up closing one of two buckles, which allowed ease of access and some security.

The Abingdon messenger bag looks great and should perform well. It's not perfect, but I still like it. Would I actually go and buy it? Can't say I would because I have enough bags already. If I were in the market for one, I'd give it some serious consideration due to its relatively low price point -- compared to leather bags and more upscale offerings from brands such as Belstaff.

Briefcase Alert: Roots New City Briefcase-Box
JanSport Superbreak Backpack Review
J.Crew Fleece Zip Hoodie Review
New backpack ideas: The Herschel Supply Co.
Sunscreen: Beating the sun, burning eyes, I hate you.