what is a satchel

What is a Satchel? Your Ultimate Guide to This Timeless Accessory

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Ever found yourself standing in front of a wall of bags at a store, feeling utterly overwhelmed by the choices? You're not alone. The quest to find the perfect bag that marries elegence, functionality, and comfort is a common struggle. But what if we told you there's a bag that checks all these boxes and more? Enter the satchel.

In this comprehensive guide, we're going to delve into everything you need to know about satchels. From their rich history and cultural significance to the various types and how to accessorize them, we've got you covered. We'll even compare satchels with other popular types of bags, so you can make an informed decision.

Why should you care? Well, a satchel isn't just a bag; it's a fashion statement, a practical accessory, and a companion that carries your world with you. Choosing the right satchel can elevate your style, make your life easier, and even save you from the back pain that comes from carrying a poorly designed bag.

So, are you ready to embark on this journey and discover why the satchel could be your new favorite accessory? As the famous fashion designer Marc Jacobs once said, "To me, clothing is a form of self-expression - there are hints about who you are in what you wear." So, what does your bag say about you?

Let's dive in and find out!

Leather Courier Bag
Leather Courier Bag
Leather Shoulder Bag
Leather Shoulder Bag
Leather Messenger Bag
Leather Messenger Bag
Small Messenger Bag
Small Messenger Bag

I. Where Do Satchels Come From?

Before we dive into the world of satchels, let's take a moment to appreciate their rich history. These bags have been around for centuries, and they've evolved right alongside human civilization. So, buckle up, because we're about to embark on a journey through time!

1. Origin and Evolution

Let's start at the very beginning. Picture this: you're in the ancient Roman Empire, and you see a legionary, a Roman soldier, carrying a loculus. Now, you might be wondering, "What's a loculus?" Well, my friend, that's the granddaddy of the modern satchel. Yes, you heard it right! The satchel has a history that's as rich and varied as the designs you see today.

Over the centuries, the humble satchel has undergone quite a transformation. From the rugged, utilitarian bags carried by Roman soldiers, to the sophisticated, stylish accessories we know and love today, satchels have truly stood the test of time. They've adapted to the changing needs and tastes of society, evolving from simple carryalls to fashion statements.

The word "satchel" is believed to have originated from the Latin word "saccellus," which translates to a small bag. However, it was during the 17th and 18th centuries that satchels gained prominence as a fashionable accessory among scholars and students.

Now that we've covered the origins and evolution of satchels, let's delve a bit deeper into their cultural significance.

2. Cultural Significance

You see, satchels aren't just bags; they're symbols. They tell stories about the people who use them and the societies they come from.

Take, for instance, the iconic British school satchel. If you grew up in the UK, chances are you carried one of these sturdy leather bags to school. These satchels, with their distinctive shape and buckle closures, were more than just a means to lug around textbooks. They were a rite of passage, a symbol of the seriousness of education.

And who can forget the famous Indiana Jones satchel? This rugged, practical bag became synonymous with adventure and exploration, thanks to its prominent role in the popular film series. It's a testament to the power of pop culture in shaping our perceptions and associations.

So, whether it's a symbol of scholarly pursuits or a companion on thrilling adventures, the satchel has carved out a unique place in our cultural landscape. It's more than just a bag; it's a piece of history that we carry with us.

Isn't it fascinating how a simple accessory can hold so much meaning? I think so, and I hope you do too. Now, the next time you sling a satchel over your shoulder, you'll appreciate it not just for its style and functionality, but also for the rich history it represents.

brown leather satchel

II. What is a Satchel?

Now that we've journeyed through the history of satchels, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. What exactly is a satchel? What sets it apart from other types of bags? Let's unravel these mysteries together!

1. Definition and Characteristics

A satchel is a bag with a strap, usually worn across the body so the bag sits comfortably on the hip. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's a whole lot more that goes into making a bag a satchel. Let's break it down:

  1. Crossbody Strap: This is the defining feature of a satchel. The strap is long enough to be worn across the body, allowing the bag to rest on the hip. This design frees up your hands and distributes the weight of the bag across your body, making it comfortable to carry, even when it's packed to the brim.

  2. Flap Closure: Most satchels have a flap that folds over the top of the bag and fastens on the front. This not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of the bag but also provides an extra layer of security for your belongings.

  3. Rectangular Shape: While there are exceptions, most satchels have a distinctive rectangular shape. This shape maximizes space, making satchels practical for carrying everything from laptops to books to everyday essentials.

  4. Pockets and Compartments: Satchels are all about organization. They often feature multiple pockets and compartments, both inside and out, to help you keep your belongings organized and easy to find.

  5. Versatility: Satchels are the chameleons of the bag world. They're versatile enough to be used for a variety of purposes, from work to school to travel, and they can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion.

versatile functional leather satchel bag pockets and compartments

2. Unique Features

Now, let's talk about the unique features that set satchels apart from other bags:

  • Versatility: One of the standout features of satchels is their versatility. They can be dressed up or down, used for work or play, and adapted to suit a variety of needs.
  • Durability: Thanks to their sturdy materials and robust construction, satchels are built to last. They can withstand daily use and often age beautifully, especially if they're made of leather.
  • Timeless Charm: Satchels have a timeless appeal that transcends trends. They're a classic accessory that never goes out of style.

3. Materials Used in Satchel Production

Alright, let's shift gears a bit and talk about the materials used in satchel production. The material of a satchel plays a huge role in its look, feel, and durability. So, let's take a closer look at what goes into making these stylish and practical bags.

Common Materials

When it comes to satchel production, a few materials stand out for their popularity. Let's explore them:

  1. Leather: Leather is a classic choice for satchels. It's durable, ages well, and has a high-end look and feel. However, it can be pricey and requires regular maintenance to keep it looking its best.
  2. Canvas: Canvas is a sturdy, lightweight material that's often used in casual or rugged satchel styles. It's typically more affordable than leather and is easy to clean, but it may not be as long-lasting.
  3. Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic material that's lightweight, durable, and water-resistant. It's a great choice for travel or outdoor use, but it doesn't have the same luxurious feel as leather.

Sustainable and Ethical Materials

In today's world, more and more people are seeking out sustainable and ethically sourced products, and satchels are no exception. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Vegan Leather: Vegan leather offers the look and feel of leather without the use of animal products. It's a great option for those who want a cruelty-free bag, but it's worth noting that not all vegan leathers are created equal. Some are more environmentally friendly than others, so it's important to do your research.
  2. Recycled Materials: Some satchels are made from recycled materials, like plastic bottles or reclaimed fabrics. These satchels help reduce waste and lower the environmental impact of production.
  3. Ethically Sourced Materials: This refers to materials that are sourced in a way that's respectful to the environment and fair to workers. This can include everything from organic cotton to sustainably harvested leather.

Whether you're drawn to the practicality of the design or the unique features, there's no denying that satchels have a lot to offer. They're a testament to the idea that great design is not just about looks, but also about how well something works. And that's something I think we can all appreciate!

small crossbody satchel bag

III. What are the Different Types of Satchels?

Now that we've got a handle on what a satchel is, let's explore the different types of satchels that you might come across. From classic satchels to messenger satchels to saddlebag satchels, there's a world of variety out there. Let's dive in!

1. Classic Satchels

First up, we have the classic vintage satchel. This is the satchel in its most traditional form, reminiscent of the school bags that were popular in the UK in the 20th century. Here's what you can expect from a classic satchel:

  • Design: Classic satchels typically have a rectangular shape, a flap closure, and a long strap for wearing across the body. They often feature buckle fastenings for a vintage touch.
  • Material: They're usually made of leather or faux leather, giving them a sturdy and durable feel.
  • Ideal Uses: These satchels are perfect for everyday use. They're versatile enough to take to work, school, or even on a day out.
  • Ideal Users: If you're a fan of vintage touch and love a bag with a bit of history, a classic satchel could be just the ticket.

2. Messenger Satchels

Next, let's talk about messenger satchels. These bags take their inspiration from the bags used by postal workers and couriers, hence the name. Here's what sets messenger satchels apart:

  • Design: Messenger satchels are typically larger and more spacious than classic satchels. They have a flap closure and a long, adjustable strap.
  • Material: They can be made from a variety of materials, including leather, canvas, and nylon.
  • Ideal Uses: These satchels are great for carrying larger items like laptops and documents, making them ideal for work or study.
  • Ideal Users: If you need a bag that's practical, spacious, and stylish, a messenger satchel might be the one for you.

3. Saddlebag Satchels

Last but not least, we have saddlebag satchels. These bags get their name from their resemblance to the bags used on horse saddles. Here's the lowdown on saddlebag satchels:

  • Design: Saddlebag satchels have a rounded shape and a flap closure. They're usually smaller and more compact than classic or messenger satchels.
  • Material: They're often made of leather or faux leather, but you can also find them in materials like suede and canvas.
  • Ideal Uses: These satchels are perfect for when you're on the go and only need to carry the essentials. They're great for casual outings, shopping trips, or nights out.
  • Ideal Users: If you're all about that boho chic vibe and love a bag with a bit of character, a saddlebag satchel could be your perfect match.

Whether you're a classic satchel devotee, a messenger satchel enthusiast, or a saddlebag satchel fan, there's a satchel out there for you.

Waxed Messenger Bag
Waxed Messenger Bag
Small Shoulder Bag
Small Shoulder Bag
Laptop Messenger Bag
Laptop Messenger Bag
Cross Shoulder Bag
Cross Shoulder Bag

IV. How to Choose the Right Satchel Bag?

Now that we've covered what a satchel is, its history, design, and the materials used in its production, let's get to the fun part - choosing the right satchel for you! There's a lot to consider, from size and capacity to material, sophistication, and functionalities. Let's break it down:

1. Size and Capacity

First things first, you'll want to consider the size and capacity of the satchel. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Your Needs: Think about what you'll be carrying in your satchel. Do you need space for a laptop, books, or other large items? Or do you just need room for your everyday essentials? This will help you determine the right size.
  • Comfort and Usability: Remember, a larger satchel will have more space, but it will also be heavier to carry. Make sure to choose a size that's comfortable for you to carry and easy to manage.

2. Material and Durability

Next up, let's talk about material and durability:

  • Material: As we discussed earlier, satchels can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own pros and cons. Consider your lifestyle and preferences when choosing a material. Do you need something durable and easy to clean, like nylon? Or do you prefer the look and feel of leather?
  • Durability: Consider how often you'll be using the satchel and what you'll be using it for. If you're planning to use it daily or for heavy-duty tasks, you'll want to choose a satchel made from a durable material and with sturdy construction.

3. Style and Design

Now, let's move on to look and design:

  • Your Style: The best satchel for you is one that matches your personal look. Do you prefer a classic, vintage look? Or are you more into modern, minimalist designs? There's a satchel out there for every outfit!
  • Design and Functionality: Remember, a good design is not just about looks. Consider the design features of the satchel, like the type of closure, the number and placement of pockets, and the length and adjustability of the strap. These can all impact how functional and convenient the satchel is to use.

4. Functionalities

Last but not least, let's talk about functionalities:

  • Your Needs: Think about what functionalities are important to you. Do you need a satchel with a padded laptop compartment? Or one with lots of pockets for organization? Make sure to choose a satchel that meets your specific needs.
  • Assessing Functionalities: When assessing the functionalities of a satchel, consider both the quantity and quality of features. More features aren't always better if they're not well-designed or useful to you.

The best satchel for you is one that meets your needs, matches your personnality, and makes you feel great

V. How to Care and Maintain Satchel Bags?

So, you've got your perfect satchel. Now, how do you keep it looking fresh and lasting long? From cleaning and maintenance to storage and repair, let's delve into the best practices to keep your satchel in top-notch condition.

1. Cleaning

Keeping your satchel clean is the first step to maintaining its longevity and aesthetics. Here's a more detailed look at how to do it:

  • Routine Cleaning: Regularly dust off your satchel with a soft, dry cloth to prevent dust and dirt buildup. For minor stains or spots, use a slightly damp cloth to gently clean the area. Always remember to dry off any moisture with a dry cloth afterward.
  • Deep Cleaning: Depending on how frequently you use your satchel, a deep clean every few months can help maintain its freshness. However, the cleaning method will vary based on the material. For instance, leather satchels should never be soaked or washed with water. Instead, use a specially designed leather cleaner. Canvas or nylon satchels, on the other hand, can be cleaned with mild soap and warm water. Always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area first.
  • Stain Removal: Accidents happen, and sometimes your satchel might get stained. For leather satchels, a mild leather cleaner should do the trick. For canvas or nylon, try a fabric stain remover. Remember to follow the instructions on the product and test on a small area first.

2. Maintenance

Routine maintenance can help prevent damage and keep your satchel functioning well. Here's a more detailed look at what to do:

  • Regular Checks: Regularly inspect your satchel for signs of wear and tear, such as fraying stitches, loose hardware, or peeling material. Addressing these issues early can prevent further damage.
  • Material-Specific Maintenance: Different materials require different maintenance. For example, leather satchels may benefit from regular conditioning to keep the material supple and prevent cracking. Canvas satchels may need to be re-waxed periodically to maintain their water resistance.

3. Storage

Proper storage is key to preserving your satchel's shape and condition. Here's a more detailed look at how to do it:

  • Proper Storage: When not in use, store your satchel in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. If possible, stuff it with acid-free tissue paper or bubble wrap to help maintain its shape. Avoid hanging your satchel by its straps for long periods as this can strain and stretch the straps.
  • Material-Specific Storage: Different materials have different storage needs. For example, leather satchels should be stored in a breathable dust bag to prevent mold and mildew. Canvas satchels should be stored away from heat sources to prevent the wax coating from melting.

4. Repair and Restoration

Despite your best efforts, your satchel might need some repair or restoration. Here's a more detailed look at what to do:

  • DIY Repairs: For minor issues, like a loose stitch or a stuck zipper, you might be able to do the repair yourself. There are plenty of tutorials online to guide you.
  • Professional Restoration: For more serious issues, or if your satchel is particularly valuable, consider professional restoration. A skilled professional can restore your satchel to its former glory, extending its lifespan and preserving its value. They can handle tasks like replacing hardware, restitching seams, re-waxing canvas, or reconditioning leather.

So, there you have it - a comprehensive guide to caring for your satchel. With a little care and maintenance, your satchel can serve you well for years to come. Leather Satchel

Leather Satchel
Travel Messenger Bag
Travel Messenger Bag
Leather Laptop Pouch
Leather Laptop Pouch
Leather Tote Bag
Leather Tote Bag

VI. How to Style with a Satchel?

Satchels, with their timeless appeal and practical design, can be a versatile addition to any wardrobe. But how do you style a satchel to suit different occasions? And how can you accessorize your satchel to make it truly your own? Let's delve deeper into the world of satchel styling!

1. Styling Satchels for Different Occasions

A satchel can be your go-to bag for a variety of occasions, from work to casual outings to formal events. Here's how to style it:

  • For Work: A satchel can be a stylish and professional choice for the workplace. Opt for a medium to large satchel in a neutral color like black, brown, or navy to ensure it matches with most of your work outfits. Pair it with a tailored suit or a pencil skirt and blouse for a polished look. A leather satchel, with its sophisticated appeal, can add a touch of elegance. Consider a satchel with multiple compartments or pockets for easy organization of your work essentials.

  • Casual Outings: For a casual day out, a satchel can add a fun element to your outfit. Choose a satchel in a vibrant color or unique print to make a style statement. Pair it with casual staples like jeans and a t-shirt, a summer dress, or a laid-back jumpsuit. A canvas or nylon satchel can be a practical choice, offering durability and ease of cleaning.

  • Formal Events: When it comes to formal events, a satchel can still be your accessory of choice. Opt for a small, sleek satchel in a luxe material like leather or suede. Colors like black, white, metallic silver or gold can add a touch of glamour. Pair it with a cocktail dress or a formal gown. A satchel with minimal hardware and clean lines can exude elegance and sophistication.

2. Accessorizing Your Satchel

Accessorizing your satchel can not only add a personal touch but also enhance your overall look. Here are some tips:

  • Charms and Keychains: Adding a charm or keychain to your satchel can infuse a touch of personality. Choose something that reflects your interests or style – it could be anything from a cute animal charm to a chic tassel keychain. Just remember, less is more – one or two should be enough.

  • Scarves: A small scarf or bandana can be a stylish addition to your satchel. Wrap it around the handle or tie it in a bow for a pop of color and pattern. This can be a great way to coordinate your bag with your outfit or to add interest to a plain satchel.

  • Bag Organizers: While not a visible accessory, a bag organizer can be a game-changer for keeping your satchel tidy. It can create separate compartments for your belongings, making it easier to find what you need. Plus, it can help maintain the shape of your satchel.

  • Interchangeable Straps: Some satchels come with interchangeable straps, allowing you to switch up the look. You could have a leather strap for a classic look, a chain strap for a bit of edge, or a fabric strap for a casual vibe.

Remember, styling your satchel is all about expressing your personal style. Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with it!

VII. How Satchels Compare withOther Types of Bags?

With so many types of bags out there, you might be wondering how satchels stack up against the rest. Let's compare satchels to some other popular types of bags: backpacks, tote bags, messenger bags, and duffle bags.

1. Satchels vs. Backpacks

Both satchels and backpacks offer practicality, but they each have their unique advantages and situations where they shine:

  • Satchels: Satchels are generally more formal and stylish than backpacks, making them a great choice for work or formal events. They offer easy access to your belongings without needing to take the bag off. However, carrying a satchel on one shoulder can lead to uneven weight distribution, which might be uncomfortable if the bag is heavy.
  • Backpacks: Backpacks distribute weight evenly across both shoulders, making them more comfortable for carrying heavy items or for long periods. They're also typically larger than satchels, offering more space. However, they can be bulky and less professional-looking than satchels.
Satchels Backpacks
✅ Pros More formal and stylish, easy access to belongings, suitable for a variety of occasions Comfortable for carrying heavy items, larger capacity, distributes weight evenly
❎ Cons Can lead to uneven weight distribution if heavy Can be bulky, less professional-looking

2. Satchels vs. Tote Bags

Satchels and tote bags are both versatile options, but they serve different needs:

  • Satchels: Satchels come with a flap closure, which offers an extra layer of security. They also usually have more compartments for organization. The crossbody strap allows for hands-free carrying, which can be more comfortable and convenient.
  • Tote Bags: Tote bags are typically larger and more open than satchels, making them great for carrying larger items or for shopping. However, the lack of compartments can make organization more challenging, and carrying a tote bag on one shoulder can be less comfortable if the bag is heavy.
Satchels Tote Bags
✅ Pros Extra layer of security with flap closure, more compartments for organization, allows for hands-free carrying Larger capacity, suitable for carrying larger items or for shopping
❎ Cons May be uncomfortable if heavy Lack of compartments can make organization challenging, can be less comfortable if heavy

3. Satchels vs. Messenger Bags

Satchels and messenger bags are quite similar, but there are some subtle differences:

  • Satchels: Satchels are typically smaller and more structured than messenger bags. They often have a more classic and formal look, making them suitable for a variety of occasions.
  • Messenger Bags: Messenger bags are usually larger and more casual than satchels. They're designed for carrying larger items like laptops, making them a popular choice for work or school. However, they might be too bulky for everyday use.
Satchels Messenger Bags
✅ Pros Smaller and more structured, more classic and formal look, suitable for a variety of occasions Larger capacity, suitable for carrying larger items like laptops, casual look
❎ Cons May be too small for carrying larger items Can be too bulky for everyday use

4. Satchels vs. Duffle Bags

Satchels and duffle bags are designed for different purposes:

  • Satchels: Satchels are smaller and more structured, making them a good choice for daily use. They're designed for carrying essentials and offer a balance of style and functionality.
  • Duffle Bags: Duffle bags are larger and more spacious, designed for carrying clothes and larger items. They're ideal for travel or gym use but might be too large and unstructured for everyday use.
Satchels Duffle Bags
✅ Pros Smaller and more structured, suitable for daily use, balance of style and functionality Larger and more spacious, suitable for carrying clothes and larger items, ideal for travel or gym use
❎ Cons May be too small for carrying larger items Can be too large and unstructured for everyday use


While satchels are a versatile and stylish choice, the best bag for you depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider the pros and cons of each type and choose the one that suits you best!


Satchels, with their timeless appeal and versatile design, are more than just a bag. They're a fashion statement, a practical accessory, and a companion that carries your world with you.

Whether you're off to work, heading out for a casual day out, or dressing up for a formal event, there's a satchel that's just right for you. So go ahead, find your perfect satchel, and step out in style!

Laptop Shoulder Bag
Laptop Shoulder Bag
Canvas Briefcase
Canvas Briefcase
Canvas Shoulder Bag
Canvas Shoulder Bag
Camera Messenger Bag
Camera Messenger Bag


What is the difference between a satchel and a messenger bag?

While both satchels and messenger bags can be worn across the body, satchels are typically smaller, more structured, and have a more classic and formal look. Messenger bags are usually larger and more casual, designed to carry larger items like laptops.

Are satchels suitable for men?

Absolutely! Satchels are unisex and can be a stylish and practical choice for anyone, regardless of gender.

How do I clean a leather satchel?

For general cleaning, wipe your leather satchel with a soft, dry cloth. For deeper cleaning, use a specially designed leather cleaner. Always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area first.

What should I consider when buying a satchel?

Consider factors like size and capacity, material and durability, style and design, and functionalities. Your specific needs and lifestyle should guide your choice.

Can a satchel be used as a school bag?

Yes, a satchel can be a great choice for a school bag. It's stylish, practical, and offers easy access to your belongings.

Are satchels good for travel?

Satchels can be a good choice for travel, especially for carrying essentials like your wallet, passport, and phone. However, for carrying larger items or for longer trips, a larger bag like a backpack or duffle bag might be more suitable.

How do I know if a satchel is of high quality?

Look for signs like sturdy and even stitching, high-quality materials, smooth zippers, and solid hardware. A high-quality satchel should feel sturdy and well-made.

Can I carry a laptop in a satchel?

It depends on the size of the satchel and the laptop. Some larger satchels can accommodate a small laptop or tablet.

Are designer satchels worth the investment?

Designer satchels can be a good investment if you value high-quality materials, craftsmanship, and brand recognition. However, there are also many non-designer satchels that offer great quality and style at a lower price point.

How can I style a satchel for a casual look?

For a casual look, try pairing a satchel in a fun color or print with casual staples like jeans and a t-shirt or a laid-back jumpsuit. You can also add a personal touch with accessories like a charm or keychain.

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Baptiste is an adventurer with a passion for urban and wilderness exploration and adventure, and a lover of vintage objects with timeless charm. As a Founding member of the Eiken team, he tries to share his passion and expertise for travel and vintage fashion through his articles.

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