I have always been a fan of the iconic English satchel with its classic good looks and utilitarian design. In the mid 20th century, no schoolboy or girl would be seen without their indestructible leather uniform school satchel. Their scaled-down size was simply a version of the adult satchels of the day… perhaps designed to prepare students for the workforce. Either way, the nostalgic aspects were not lost on me, especially since most of the historic images and movies featuring satchels showed them in British Tan leather with a well-worn patina that took years to achieve… and you know how we like patina at Billykirk!
It’s because of these indelible memories and a void in our growing bag collection that we set out to design a proper satchel in 2009. We already had the smaller No. 95 Shoulder Satchel in our collection, but the No. 236 Schoolboy Satchel was our first East/West style satchel.
To fit the satchel into our line, we looked to our current pieces for inspiration. The final design pulled elements from our existing No. 95 Shoulder Satchel and several vintage pieces we’ve picked up in our travels.
The No. 95 Shoulder Satchel was the first style to use our gate and tab closure, which was inspired by a WWII Map Case. This custom hardware is set by hand and since our move to the East Coast in 2005, has been made in Rhode Island.
The original No. 236 Schoolboy Satchel was not too big and not too small; it easily handled a 13” laptop and other work essentials. Like the No. 95, it also featured the same gate and tab custom cast bronze hardware.
For the overall shape of our No. 236, we borrowed some simple but effective design elements from a vintage Swiss Army Ammo Case. We really liked how the ammo case had a distinctive squared top line and handle design that could lay flat on when the shoulder strap was being used. These elements, combined with the WWII Map Case gate and tab that we had been using since 2002/2003, really helped complete the look and helped find the balance we were after.
Since our beginning, we have looked towards vintage military items for inspiration, and their incredible quality and utility. Also helpful, these pieces shed light on the techniques leather crafters were employing while charged with making 1000s of units in short periods of time. It really is astounding what the “industrial leather-making complex” of the 1940s was able to accomplish.
The original No. 236 Schoolboy Satchel was launched in 2009 and was a runaway success, quickly being featured in all the fashion rags at the time. In the years that followed, we would make hundreds for J.Crew’s online shop and the J.Crew Liquor Store in NYC.
This helped set into motion a number of new briefcase designs, including the larger No. 486 Schoolboy Satchel currently in our line. A utilitarian design at heart, the Schoolboy Satchel has had to take on several evolutions over the past decade, including becoming large enough to fit modern laptops.