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Military Messenger Bags for Men

Updated on March 14, 2012

Did you know that the term 'handbag' was first used in the early 20th century to describe a man's bag or satchel? A little ironic when you consider the strong cultural association between women and their handbags.

One of my mother's regular sayings was "never look in a ladies handbag" and before I had one of my own, I used to wonder what intriguing secrets lay in the innermost suede folds of her red leather handbag.

Now that the man bag is firmly established as an acceptable men's fashion accessory, there are a wide variety of styles to choose from and they are such a wonderfully handy item I marvel at how men did without them for so long. Just look at all the things you can store in them - wallets, pharmaceuticals, diaries, keys, address books, pens, tissues, phones, ebooks, laptop etc etc. In a high-tech wold, the messenger bag has become a necessity.

cotton canvas military style  messenger bag
cotton canvas military style messenger bag

Macho Military

The military messenger bag has utilitarian appeal and is a great look for men. it has a clean, unpretentious look and strong masculine associations. If they're made out of heavyweight canvas they are also very practical and durable and much less expensive than leather.

Colours range from in camouflage, olive desert or plain khaki and although the military look is fashion-hot for men on the runways right now, as far as bags go, it's really not a style that dates. A trend standard since the 1970s, fashion-military has just become a little more stylish and sophisticated.

Contemporary fashion pundits suggest the new military look is more about quality and tasteful design, rather than showy emblems, buckles and badges.

Vintage medic bag
Vintage medic bag

Military Madness

There is such a vast array of military bag styles to select from one could go crazy trying to choose.

The vintage medic bag at right oozes a cool cachet and makes a change from the standard military greens and khakis. made from stonewashed canvas it has leather straps and one big compartment rather than organised sections.

However, if a plethora of pockets have more appeal, the Rothko Engineers Field journey bag below has more compartments than the Orient Express. Well, not really but it is the ideal bag for organisation - features include "large Laptop Size Main Compartment. Large Black Document Compartment With 3/4" Zipper Opening. Dozens Of Pouches, Compartments and Pen Holders. Large Size Plastic Covered Document Sleeve. Storm Flap. Cell Phone Pouch". There'll be no scrambling around in your bag trying to find something with this one.

Field Jouney bag - lots of compartments
Field Jouney bag - lots of compartments

Military Medic Bag

For variety, there are also military medics bags, emblazoned with the international symbol of the medical cross, though if you do go for one of these it's to be hoped you don't get stopped in the street and asked to treat a collapsed pedestrian or some such thing.

The muted colours of the military style have the advantage of blending in with most outfits. It also has a more casual, less corporate look that traditional leather or the ubiquitous black nylon weave.

Canvas is a hardy material, made to withstand the knocks and bumps of everyday use, however the lighter colours may eventually pick up a few stains. Follow the cleaning instructions on the bag if there are any but if not , here's a few cleaning tips to keep your military bag looking good.

How to Clean Canvas Bags

  • It's always best to spot clean canvas. Don't immerse in water as the bag will never be quite the same. Instead dab with a sponge dipped in hot water and soap or mild detergent.
  • It's important to dab and not rub as rubbing may spread the dirt and you'll be left with a bigger mark.
  • For stubborn stains moisten a bristle brush with water, dip in a little white vinegar and rub on the stain. (If you don't have a bristle brush you can substitute with a toothbrush).
  • If none of the above quite get the dirt out, try a commercial canvas cleaner. These usually come in a spray bottle
  • For grease stains rather than dirt, dab with a soft cloth dipped in denatured alcohol (methylated spirits). Sprinkle with cornmeal to absorb grease and leave for half and hour and remove with a dry brush.


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