The Story Behind the Briefcase | Jackson Wayne Leather - Jackson Wayne Leather Goods

The Story Behind the Briefcase

Our classic Briefcase may look minimal in design aesthetic, but each detail was carefully thought out and planned. Every feature and material used is intentional. We wanted to build the perfect briefcase, one that balances minimal design aesthetic with modern functionality, using materials second to none. 

The overall design of the Briefcase was inspired by briefcases used by lawyers in the 1920’s to 1940’s. We incorporated many of the design queues and structures from that era but built our Briefcase to be a slightly modern interpretation. So it’s not a replica, but it is heavily inspired by that era. We didn’t want to do a replica piece because it would not be practical in today’s world. For example, our Briefcase is specifically designed to accommodate your laptop computer, iPhone, boarding passes, etc. It also comes with a shoulder strap to free up your hands, which was not common back then, but is crucial in today’s world. 

The Specific Type of Leather Used 

Weight & Thickness

For general details and lot’s of good information about our leather, click here. But the purpose of this page is to be a little more granular. 

For the Briefcase, we use an 8 oz. version of our leather. This refers to the weight of the leather. An 8 ounce piece of leather is usually about 3.2 mm thick. The nature of any leather hide is that the thickness will vary slightly across the hide, so it could be closer to 7 or 9 ounces in some places, but we shoot for 8 oz.

Our selection of 8 oz. leather was very intentional. We experimented with different thicknesses and determined that 8 oz. was the perfect choice for this bag. We needed it to hold its structure and stand up when set on the ground. But we didn’t want the bag to be unnecessarily heavy - 8 oz. leather solved both of these issues.

When you pick up this bag, you’ll instantly know you’re holding something unique. It doesn’t feel flimsy like most mass-market bags because our leather is 2-3 times thicker. Yet, it’s not as heavy as its solid construction would suggest. It feels substantial, like something that will last a long time – because it will.

Finish

The finish of our leather for this bag has three elements.

First, the front side of the leather is our pure full grain harness leather. When the tannery makes this leather, it is “stuffed” with oils that help give it its color and richness. This oil also provides a certain level of water resistance and protection from the elements. But it’s not “oily” to the touch. And it won’t ruin your clothes when it touches them, like many leathers used in the mass-market bags.

Second, the backside of our leather is refinished. This is a very important step and one of the things that makes our bag so unique. Refinishing refers to the art of staining and texturizing the backside of a leather hide after it has been split or cut to the desired thickness.

(Note, we do NOT split from the top side, only from the bottom side. So the leather is not weakened at all; it is just a sizing adjustment. In fact, nearly all leather is split this way at some point because an un-split hide can be 13 oz. or more, making it way too thick for any normal uses.)

The reason our refinishing process is so important is because it allows us to have a premium quality unlined bag. If you don’t refinish the backside, you’ll end up with a flaky suede that will leave little particles everywhere. Or, you’ll have to line the bag with some sort of fabric. But fabric will eventually stain, rip and fall apart. Our bags are built to last a lifetime, so using a cheap fabric lining was not an option. 

The refinished backside of the leather can be a little stiff or even slightly coarse at first but it will become softer and smoother, breaking in nicely. It provides excellent long-term durability and a clean aesthetic.

Third, the edges of our bag are dye finished. There are several options in dealing with edges. Some companies hide them with thin wrap-around pieces of leather. Often, this is done to hide inferior leather. A view of the cross section of leather will often disclose whether it is cheap or improperly tanned. It’s also a way to make thin leather look thicker. So if you are using a cheap leather, hiding the edges is one solution. Of course, you could hide the edges even if you are using premium leather, but I’m not sure why you would.

Another option is to leave the edges exposed and unfinished. Vegetable tanned leather is not dyed all the way through, so this means the middle layer of the hide will usually be lighter in color than the outside of the hide. It creates a stripe look along the edges. Depending on your design aesthetic this may or may not be a good thing. 

There are also a variety of other options such as edge painting, burnishing, staining or dying the edges. 

Since this is a briefcase that needed to be usable in casual and business settings, we wanted a slightly more finished look. So we have finished the edges with a dye that eliminates the striping but leaves a somewhat rugged edge to the bag.

Colors

Personally, I love our Saddle Tan and Vintage Brown colors. They look very rich and have tremendous character. There is some color variation throughout the hide on these colors, which makes it very interesting. It’s almost a slight marbling and is even more beautiful in person. I have had groups of people come up to me in public simply because they were in awe of this leather. They want to know where I got it and how they can get some. Men, women, people of all stripes can appreciate this leather.

The Saddle Tan is a dark tan color. From some angles it can look almost caramel colored. It can also look like the light brown color of an old horse saddle.

The Vintage Brown color is a darker shade of brown but it’s not “super dark” brown. It’s got a more vintage look to it. If you’ve ever seen a 75 year old leather bag, you’ll know what I mean. Our Vintage Brown color also has a slight hint of burgundy to it. To be clear, it is not burgundy and it is not red in any way. But there’s just enough of a hint of burgundy to the brown to give it a unique and rich color that looks really amazing in person.

Originally, we weren’t going to have a black leather option. But we decided to offer the Briefcase in black for two reasons.

First, when I saw our black leather for the first time, I knew this was no ordinary black leather. Most black leathers have almost no character or depth to the color. They are simply black and look essentially painted. Not so with our black. You can still see the character of the leather through the dark black color and it has a richness that nearly all other black leathers lack. Second, it’s a briefcase – so black seemed necessary. There are customers who will use this bag exclusively in formal settings and it’s hard to beat black for that. So for those of you that love black leather, you will really love this black leather.

Hardware

Our hardware is antique brass, which is more of a matte finish and consistent with the look of a vintage bag. Most of the mass-market bags today use extremely shiny hardware, which just looks cheap and gaudy – because it is.

Our hardware is solid, but specially formulated not to be too heavy. We use matching antique brass hardware throughout the briefcase. The front straps are easy, functional buckles. There are no cheap or fake closures that will break. Our shoulder strap uses a buckle just like a belt. I prefer this to the sliders that are common in the mass-market bags. It seems like the sliders always slide when they’re not supposed to. With our buckle, you can set it and forget it.

Thread

We use heavy gauge bonded Nylon thread. This thread is so strong, they used to use similar threads in parachutes during WWII. The thread we use is stronger than the cotton and polyester thread used in most other bags. And we went with a heavier gauge than necessary for added durability and aesthetic. Our master leather crafters who make our bags also use the best stitching and finishing techniques to ensure that the thread won’t fray and unravel like so many other bags.

Features

Despite its fairly minimal design, this Briefcase is actually packed with some very useful features. Here’s a list of some of the key features: 

  • The top grab handle is ergonomically designed for comfort; it’s rounded to fit your clenched hand comfortably and double layered for extra padding and durability.
  • The vertical securing straps are cut from the strongest part of the hide to reduce stretching over time and provide extra strength for one of the most used parts of the bag.
  • We chose buckles that are slightly raised at either end to make it quicker and easier to open and close them.
  • The backside features a convenient pocket for your iPhone, boarding pass or other items you may want quick access to without opening/closing the bag.
  • The shoulder strap pad is double layered with padding inside for extra comfort.
  • Inside features a secure-fitting divider panel for your laptop. But we intentionally didn’t include a securing strap. It would have been completely unnecessary and just another obstacle to getting your laptop. The panel has a stitched-on header running the full length of it to help prevent stretching over time.
  • The divider panel is stitched to the back panel of the bag; this leaves a nice large main compartment available instead of bifurcating the bag like so many mass-market bags do.
  • The phone, pen and business card pockets are all conveniently located near the top of the bag for easy access.

There was a lot of attention to detail that went into developing this Briefcase. And while it has the look of a classic Briefcase, its features are versatile enough to use it as a messenger bag, laptop bag, or satchel.