The messenger bag today is often a statement of fashion but the history began with function. About 50 years ago telephone linesmen were given bags of heavy canvas and numerous pockets to carry their necessary tools up the pole while still maintaining a critical agility. Far from fancy these bags were made entirely for maximum function. Later, businesses and designers adapted the styles to their preferences.
When hanging from a telephone post up where the birds fly, the men wanted bags that could hold their specialty tools and still allow them some agility.The efficiency and durability were appreciated by the men who worked long and sometimes difficult hours. The small pockets were not for cell phones or mp3 players. The message was on the phone line, not in the name of canvas sack slung over their shoulders.
When traffic began to clog up the streets in New York, companies hired young men and women to deliver messages across the downtown business community. A certain amount of competitiveness sprung up between the carriers and they saw the advantages of a large messenger bag to allow them to transport more messages, and of course earn a better income. Hence came the name.
Still made primarily with heavy and sometimes oiled canvas, the files and packets were delivered dry and intact. The other system of bicycle baskets was not always as effective. Employers soon saw the advantages and began to supply their carriers with specific color or logo labeled totes for the messengers.
A similar design was used by government postal carriers. The strap was made wide, and was sometimes padded or adjustable. For maximum durability the strap was frequently riveted to the bag.
Most individuals, and even today, wore the strap in a cross-way position on the chest. Worn in this manner the weight of the contents is more evenly distributed and carried safer with less slippage. Carriers needed both hands free. Cyclists rode crazily through pedestrians, cars and buses, leaping off their bikes at the destination point.
When fashion houses learned of the demand for this type of bag they quickly responded with a more fashion focused imitation. No one doubted the success of this practical combination for people of all lifestyles.
Of course the earliest models were similar to the cyclists and the linesmen function. But fabrics now create different looks, and the interior features vary from no inside pockets at to a three sectioned multiple pocketed version with zippers and snaps. Some have padded areas for a laptop, others have a hidden stash pockets, or places for magazines.
Today’s fabrics include upholstery blends, various leathers, standard and heavy denims, with pockets like the backs of jeans. Heavy corduroy, and multi-colored canvases are useful materials.Quilted cottons and hemp will be on the list too. Lighter types of outdoor fabrics are also used. The defining feature is that these creations are always wider than tall. Some styles, especially for males are plain, perhaps only double stitches on the flap. Others are glowing with embellishments.
It’s use has now crossed into all walks of life. Diapers, lap-tops, textbooks, groceries and personal miscellaneous “stuff” are all found in this useful tote. Airlines allow them as carry-ons, tourists use them for camera equipment and beach wear.
Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, the linesmen found a solution to their needs. But the invention became a fashion necessity that is enjoyed by everyone. In the five decades since its inception the Messenger Bag has proven worthy in many environments.
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