The Story Behind the Duffle Bag (Weekend Carryall Bag) - Jackson Wayne Leather Goods

The Story Behind the Duffle Bag

Our Duffle Bag 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 Duffle, one that balances minimal design aesthetic with modern functionality, using materials second to none. 

The overall design of the Duffle Bag was inspired by duffle and weekender bags from the 1930’s to 1940’s. We incorporated many of the design queues and structures from that era but built our Duffle Bag 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 Duffle is specifically designed to accommodate your iPhone, chargers, 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 Duffle, we use a 5 oz. version of our leather. This refers to the weight of the leather. A 5 ounce piece of leather is usually about 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 4 or 6 ounces in some places, but we shoot for 5 oz.

Our selection of 5 oz. leather was very intentional. We experimented with different thicknesses and determined that 5 oz. was the perfect choice for this bag. Because this is a bag that will get tossed around a lot, we needed the leather to be durable yet pliable. It’s also a larger bag and we didn’t want it to be unnecessarily heavy - 5 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 or mushy like most mass-market duffle bags. 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. 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. The leather is also gently distressed, which makes it more pliable and creates a very rich character.

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 usually 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.

The Duffle Bag is by nature a casual bag but can be used in professional settings if needed. We wanted a bag that was rugged and refined, all while paying homage to the 1930’s & 40’s bags. So we have finished the edges with a dye that eliminates the striping but leaves a somewhat rugged edge to the bag. We’ve also turned in the edges in some places to break up the aesthetic.

Colors 

Personally, I love our Saddle Tan and Vintage Brown colors. They look amazingly 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 Duffle 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, some of our customers may already have other black leather travel/personal items and want consistency. 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 Duffle. We use a custom American made heavy duty zipper. When you zip this bag, it feels solid; it practically zips itself. 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 Duffle is actually packed with some very useful features. Here’s a list of some of the key features: 

  • The top grab handles are rounded to fit your clenched hand comfortably, stitched & riveted for durability.
  • The shoulder strap is double layered and padded for comfort and durability.
  • We included pull tabs on either end of the zipper for easy open/close.
  • 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.
  • Inside features two convenient slip pockets on either end for your personal items, charging cords, etc. But we intentionally didn’t include pocket closures. It would have made access unnecessarily difficult and our bag is designed to sit squarely on the ground; spillage won’t be an issue unless you tip the bag upside down. The pocket panels have stitched-on headers running the full length to prevent stretching over time.
  • The main interior area is quite large and can be filled to capacity, while still easily zipped shut with our heavy duty zipper. 

There was a lot of attention to detail that went into developing this Duffle Bag. And while it has the look of a classic Duffle, it’s versatile enough to use it as a weekend bag or carryall.