Those in the academic community are in a unique place among other professions in that they don’t have many “tools of the trade.” Unlike carpenters, professional athletes, or other trade workers, our set of tools is typically limited to several different items: computer (Mac vs. Windows), backup software (DropBox vs. SugarSync), word processors (Word vs. well, unfortunately there aren’t many other options), Bible software (Logos vs. Accordance), and writing utensils (fountain vs. ballpoint)—the obvious choices, of course, are Mac, SugarSync, Accordance, and fountain pens.
With the exception of other productivity management tools and techniques, those in the academy don’t give much thought to their other tools. However, some of you may have, like me, wanted to find a briefcase/bag that was conducive to academic work. The academy is an odd environment somewhere between casual and professional. A sleek leather briefcase may be appropriate for a professional office or the courtroom, but it can look odd in the classroom. Similarly, a cloth laptop bag or backpack may be appropriate for the college student, but it can look juvenile when carried by a professor.
So whether it be teaching in front of a class, presenting a paper at a professional conference, interviewing for a faculty position, or simply spending a day researching at the library, one’s choice of a bag or briefcase is quite important. A bag is one of those things that we often forget about until it becomes a problem: a ripped seam, a broken zipper, not enough space, etc.
Today I’d like to direct your attention to a company that makes leather briefcases that are nearly perfect for those in academia: Saddleback Leather.
Saddleback’s Medium Classic Briefcase is perhaps the most popular of the company’s product line, whose goal is “To love people around the world by making excessively high quality, tough and functional leather designs.” They offer numerous leather products from bags and briefcases to luggage and iPad cases in four different colors. And for those of you who may have a difficult time deciding between colors, they even provide a “What color should I get?” section on their FAQ page, in which they psychoanalyze different personalities and recommend a suitable color. With a 100-year warranty on almost all of their products, Saddleback’s slogan is “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead,” and I have no doubt that this is an accurate assessment.
Let me offer what I take to be the four most attractive features of Saddleback’s briefcase for the academic.
1. It’s Beautiful
My initial impression when opening the package in which the briefcase came—that is, after being overwhelmed by the intoxicating scent of the leather!—was that it looks even better in person than it does online. In just over one week of using the briefcase I have received numerous complements and questions about the bag from random people I run into. I think one would be hard pressed to find a bag that blends sophistication and ruggedness as well as Saddleback’s. This bag just looks like it belongs in an ornate library or on the beautiful campus of the University of Chicago. For whatever reason, Saddleback bags just look “scholarly”—like they belong in the hands of Indiana Jones. All of the seams are stitched with the highest quality leather and thread, and the bag is virtually indestructible.
2. It’s Functional
In the end, bags and briefcases are intended to carry stuff, and a product would be judged as a failure if it didn’t do this one thing well no matter how good it looks.
The Saddleback Classic Briefcase can easily carry everything a PhD student could need for his or her day’s work. I am able comfortably to fit my 13” MacBook Pro, an iPhone charger, a computer charger, a small umbrella, several writing utensils, headphones, keys, earplugs, an iPhone, a notepad, an iPad, several manila folders, and 2-3 textbooks in the bag without any difficulty. The plush leather shoulder strap comfortably spreads the weight of the bag out over your shoulder so that you don’t feel like you’re carrying around your entire library.
3. It’s Rugged
One of Saddleback’s trademarks is the rugged nature of their bags. In fact, after being featured on an episode of “Mythbusters,” Saddleback held a “Destroy Your Bag” contest to illustrate just how tough and durable their products actually are. There are some pictures floating around the Internet of some Saddleback products that look like they’ve been through battle; however, the great thing is that those products that have been heavily broken in actually look better with age! While a 100-year warranty may seem like a marketing ploy, once you actually see and feel the quality of the bag, you will likely think that 100 years may not be sufficient to describe how long the bag will actually last. This is truly a piece that one would pass down to his or her children. In fact, Saddleback is so confident in their products that they provide a page of links to their competitors’ websites.
As I’ve walked around for the past week with my briefcase, I’ve bumped into things and even dropped the bag on one occasion. Not only was I not worried about the bag itself snagging on a corner or ripping, but I was also not concerned about the things inside of the bag. They were well-protected.
4. It’s Big and Heavy
Some may view a bag being “big and heavy” as a negative, which would certainly be a fair critique. However, while carrying around this bag at SBL or AAR for an entire day filled with as many books as you can stuff in it would undoubtedly be heavy, I take its heaviness to be an indication of its quality and durability.
All in all Saddleback’s classic briefcase is the perfect tool for those in academia. Its quality is unsurpassed, and its looks easily match its quality. With graduation right around the corner for many, a Saddleback bag or briefcase would be the perfect gift or splurge. A Saddleback briefcase is definitely an investment—certainly not cheap at $568 + tax/S&H—but it will almost assuredly be the last bag you will ever have to purchase. Let’s just put it this way: if Karl Barth would have bought a Saddleback Briefcase when he began his teaching career at Göttingen in 1921, it would still be sitting on his desk at Princeton today with eight years left on the warranty.
Now for the part you’ve been waiting for: To whet your appetite for their products, the folks at Saddleback have been kind enough to give us several of their products to give away in a contest.
To be eligible to enter the contest, all you have to do is the following:
- Leave a comment on this post saying that you’d like to win one of the Saddleback products, and tell us what “tools of the trade” are valuable to you in your professional life.
- Tweet the following: The @WheatonBlog is giving away some beautiful @SaddlebackBags products. Visit here to enter the contest: http://goo.gl/yJY3U
While you’re at it, follow @WheatonBlog and @SaddlebackBags on Twitter, “Like” For Christ and His Kingdom and Saddleback Leather on Facebook, and visit Saddleback Leather’s website to check out the other great products they offer.
Contest ends Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 4:59 PM (CST). One winner will be randomly chosen from Twitter, and two will be randomly chosen from the comment section on this post.
*Full disclosure: this bag was graciously provided by Saddleback Leather, but the opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.