Monday, August 22, 2016

J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase Impressions: Not the Laptop Bag?

For the past while, I thought the Abingdon line of bags at J.Crew was being replaced with the Harwick bags. This assumption came about as I saw the Abingdon Laptop Bag disappear from the American or Canadian J.Crew website. If I remember correctly, the Messenger Bag remained available and there may have even been a duffel bag. It was the Abingdon Laptop Bag that I paid attention to because I liked it enough to purchase one and use it for a while -- I have since Craiglisted it at a substantial discount.
J.Crew Abingdon Laptop Bag: Front
During a recent "trip" to the American J.Crew website, something familiar turned up: an Abingdon bag that looked like my old Laptop Bag. This one, however, was called the Abingdon Briefcase. That's funny because I purchased my Abingdon Laptop Bag with the sole intent of using it as a briefcase. And if you're wondering, I noticed the Abingdon Duffel Bag, Weekender Bag, Messenger Bag, and Travel Kit on the site as well.

Disclaimer: I had not had any firsthand experience with any J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase products when I wrote this piece. Details were quoted from the J.Crew United States website or Canada website in late August 2016. Details on this page are NOT guaranteed for accuracy.

First Impressions: The J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase Bag
They're reissuing the older Abingdon Laptop Bag and renaming it the Briefcase? That really was the first thing that I thought. It looked, initially, like the only major differences were the exterior pockets and the name. Then I took a closer look and what I found was very impressive.
J.Crew Abingdon Laptop Bag: Rear
The listed price for the J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase was US$ 118.00 (CA$ 155.00) when I checked. And it only came in "solid khaki." I got my Laptop Bag on sale, think it was a 25%-ish discount, for around CA$ 75.00 back around 2012 or 2013. A lot has happened since then like the USD-CAD exchange rate deviating very far from parity.

Upon closer inspection of the Briefcase on the J.Crew website, I started to notice some major design differences between it and my old bag. The first, as mentioned, involved the exterior pockets. My biggest concern with the Laptop Bag was that the large pocket on the front and the other on the back could not be sealed shut -- no flaps to cover them either. There was a magnetic button on the rear and the front was held down by the front strap. It seemed like rain and snow could get in pretty easily. On the Abingdon Briefcase, zippers appeared to seal a large front pocket and a large rear pocket, and the front pocket even looked like it had a small flap to cover the zipper. The description of the Briefcase mentioned a "pocket with magnetic snap closure." I could only see one zippered exterior pocket on the front and one on the back. Not sure where the other(s) was located.
J.Crew Abingdon Laptop Bag: Rear Exterior Pocket
Second difference: the top flap covering the main compartment and latch on front to close the flap had been removed on the Briefcase. Photos on the site suggested that the top of the bag was just zippered shut. My older Laptop Bag had the aforementioned flap with latch and a zipper on the interior. The flap provided for a slightly cleaner look when closed, but I found it somewhat cumbersome to get into the bag. I had to undo the latch on front, flip the top open, then do the zipper and fight the flap as I went into the bag. Pretty sure I left the latch unbuckled after a while or may have even tucked it into the front exterior pocket after a while.

And another difference I noticed was the location of the loops where the shoulder strap was attached to the bag. On the Abingdon Briefcase, it looked like the shoulder strap was mounted onto the sides of the bag. You can see in the photo of the Laptop Bag above that they were mounted on the rear -- I tucked the strap into the rear pocket to carry the bag by the handles often. Holding the Laptop Bag by the handles was nice, but it often became necessary to break out the shoulder strap because I needed to use my hands.

Under the description of the Abingdon Briefcase, "waxed cotton canvas" was noted. I believe the description for the Laptop Bag, when it was still listed on the website, also noted waxed cotton -- that would make sense considering they're both from the Abingdon line. The exterior materials looked similar from the photos as well. I can't say that I loved it. The material felt stiff, cold, and dare I say, strangely lifeless despite supposedly being cotton. In contrast, I really like my Jansport Superbreak bag that I believe is synthetic polyester. I've also handled the J.Crew Harwick Messenger Bag and loved the material that was also supposedly synthetic. Actually, after I bothered to look, the J.Crew Harwick Briefcase and J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase looked very similar in terms of design and layout -- not investigated in great detail.

Final Thoughts
So, the J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase was not just a reissue of the J.Crew Laptop Bag that I had years ago that they may have stopped selling. It looked more like the J.Crew Abingdon Briefcase was the J.Crew Harwick Briefcase in a different material and color scheme, but I didn't investigate these two bags in detail. No, my focus was on my older Laptop Bag and the Abingdon Briefcase. I noticed quite a few differences, most of which I thought were for the better. However, my preference appeared to be for the Harwick bags or others made of synthetics.

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