Earlier this month, my promotion came through and it was my birthday. So I bought a bag.
This is becoming a bit of a tradition, the celebrating of professional milestones with leather goods. When I got my first “real job,” I bought the cashmere-lined Coach gloves I had been lusting after for three years. Actually, Sam bought them for me (with our newly combined finances), and I let him, even though I wanted to symbolically buy them for myself. It took me three years to wrap my mind around the idea of spending that much on gloves, but I haven’t regretted it for a single moment. They are my favorite part of winter. And they’ve survived three of them now, which is more than I can say for any other gloves I’ve ever owned. Take care of your gloves and they will take care of you, I say.
Anyway, this time it was a bag, a nice one. It is an investment piece, by which I mean, it is the second most expensive wearable thing I’ve ever bought myself (the first being my wedding dress). But it’s really not obscenely decadent, as large leather bags go.
I’m in love. I kind of want to sleep with it, and I would, but I would probably stay up all night looking at it and stroking it.
Besides its inherent beauty and softness, there are many reasons why this bag is head and shoulders above the one I’ve been using. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s have a side by side comparison of key features!
New Bag has flexible, elegant, unobtrusive handle and strap options, while Old Bag is giving me scoliosis and ruining all my clothes. One nice thing about the Old Bag is the width of the straps–they don’t dig in to your shoulder.
New Bag: 1
Old Bag: 0
Gorgeous teal (or jade, as Hobo calls it) vs. sunny coral-y orange. These are basically my two favorite colors, and in fact while I was shopping around, I was looking for something in the orange family, until I found this one. So we’ll call it a tie.
New Bag: 2
Old Bag: 1
OK, well, just look at the swatches above again. Soft, buttery, weathered leather, or canvas? Both have similar brass hardware. The winner seems clear, though I suppose it’s worth thinking carefully here. New Bag is obviously more elegant and luxurious. It speaks to the soul in certain unquantifiable ways (unquantifiable=5 points). But the first time I took it out, it rained and it got water spots all over it and I was terrified. It turned out fine–I wiped it down and they didn’t stain the bag, but resilience and versatility are worth bearing in mind. With heavy-duty Old Bag, I never worried about the weather.
New Bag: 7
Old Bag: 3
Hm, lovely, sturdy brightly patterned cotton, vs. garish, torn orange nylon.
New Bag: 8
Old Bag: 3
Both of these bags can carry my 15″ work laptop, a hefty novel, my lunch and all my day-to-day necessities. Alternatively, dump all the work stuff and throw in a toothbrush and change of clothes for the weekend. New Bag is a bit taller, and can hold a legal sized folio both standing up and resting on its side. Both bags have a sturdy bottom panel about 6″ wide, ensuring that you can set them down and they’ll sort of stay, and that you can cram a whole bunch of crap in there. I like big bags, and I cannot lie.
New Bag: 10
Old Bag: 4
New Bag has excellent pocket layout on the inside, but not much on the outside–just the end pocket, which can hold a water bottle or compact umbrella (as long as neither of them is wet! Shudder!). When I picked out the bag, I thought this gave it clean, minimal lines, and flexibility: the bag would have neither a front or a back, and I could pick it up however I wanted (because who wants to waste milliseconds every day thinking about which way their bag is facing?).
Well, things didn’t turn out quite as I imagined. Old Bag has a front flap pocket, which is perfect for sunglasses and other things you want to keep from being crushed, and also reach quickly, as well as a back zipper pocket, which I liked for keeping my wallet easily accessible but close to my body. I miss these features on New Bag.
Also, even if New Bag looks mostly the same on both sides, you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think it has a front and a back. It needs to be oriented so when you’re carrying it, you can see and reach the zipper. Also, when it’s loaded up with stuff, you’re going to have the hard, flat stuff (like laptop or folio) that you want in back, closer to your body, and your sunglasses and sandwich and stuff on the outside where they won’t get smushed. New Bag does still have elegant, clean lines, but it’s not saving me any time or effort, and my sunglasses are harder to reach.
New Bag: 10
Old Bag: 5
Here, New Bag wins again on aesthetics. The round handles and the striking contrast stitching. The only advantage Old Bag has is in the nice, sturdy, firmly attached zipper pull. New Bag just has a little leather strip knotted onto the zipper. They both have that rubber crap that every bag maker seems to use to finish the edges of leather. It always self-destructs, looks terrible, and gets all over your skin and clothes. Old Bag is already there; New Bag no doubt will be in a year or so. I hate this stuff. There has to be a better way to do this.
New Bag: 12
Old Bag: 6
OK, so in terms of points, New Bag is clearly the winner. As I have gotten accustomed to it over the last couple of weeks, I’ve certainly come to appreciate and miss some Old Bag’s advantageous features and functions. But New Bag is beautiful and lovely and gets the job done, and makes me feel like a rock star, or at least a grown up.
Maybe it’s just a question of specialization. I tend to look for one bag to rule them all, but maybe that’s not fair to me or the bags. Old Bag is still perfect for the beach (which is what I bought it for in the first place). I’ll continue to use it in that environment. But for a professional, feminine, elegant briefcase/handbag hybrid, it’s New Bag all the way.
Luckily I can just hoard and use both. That means, though, that I’m switching between bags frequently for different activities and events. This usually spells disaster, as I wind up without my money, ID, or phone in some place where I need them. I have a strategy in mind for dealing with this challenge…..but that, my friends, is another post.