The relatively successful development of man is not just down to intelligence and an ability to solve problems well, but also the way in which he has used this intelligence to create and use specialised tools to help with all kinds of tasks. For example, as a hunter gatherer man has always needed something to contain the things that he’s gathered. Bags of one sort or another have therefore been in existence for an incredibly long time.
For example, Peter Breugel’s 16th century painting “Hunter’s in the Snow” depicts hunters returning to their village with what appear to be leather bags over their shoulders. Before the widespread development of man made fabrics, leather would have been one of the few durable, strong, and widely available materials that could be easily shaped, fashioned and used for a variety of different purposes e.g. for clothing and bags.
The ancient practice and sport of falconry, popular in medieval times involved the use of leather bags e.g. for meat, a knife, and to put the falcon’s kills in. In fact it is still common in falconry today to use a leather hawking bag.
Apart from its abundance, and its ability to be shaped and fashioned, what has made leather such an important material to make bags from?
Although due to different animal hides and different preserving and tanning processes there are different types of leather, as a material per se it has great strength. Full grain leather for example is thick and very difficult to damage or tear, even with relatively sharp objects.
Leather is often as flexible as it is strong. Although there is s good degree of give, it is still difficult to bend or stretch leather goods e.g. leather bags out of shape or to tear the leather under normal circumstances.
Although leather like skin allows a degree of ‘breathing’, under normal circumstances it is generally resistant to water, and to most normal knocks, scuffs and scrapes.
The previous qualities mentioned mean that leather items, if they have undergone proper processing and tanning, tend to last a very long time.
Modern Leather Bags
Leather bags have never gone out of fashion. Very often it’s more a case of there being a smaller number of high quality leather bag retailers left in modern high streets. This coupled with a perception of high prices for high quality leather goods, and an abundance of widely available disposable bags for shopping, sports / leisure bags, and lower priced fashion / every day bags made from man made materials has presented a challenge to those high quality leather bag retailers who are left. Although high quality leather bags are likely to be more expensive than many of their counterparts constructed from man made materials, because leather bags last much longer and more classic styles of e.g. leather travel bags tend not to go out of fashion, they are in fact a much more cost effective and better investment.
Modern leather bags are available in wide variety of colours and styles and are more relevant and useful than ever before. For example, today’s leather travel bags do a particularly good job of adding extra protection to their contents e.g. at airports, and have pockets and compartments which are specially designed to house and protect our modern day ‘tools’ such laptop computers and mobile phones.