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J Crew Montague Satchel

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    J Crew Montague Satchel

    I am grateful for many of the reviews found here on the threads, so I figured I'd post some thoughts on a recent purchase to return the favor. There isn't much out there on this satchel, so perhaps some might find this helpful.

    I was recently hired as a professor, and so finally decided to update my wardrobe and try to look the part of an adult, which was what led me to Dappered. I needed to ditch the backpack and get a briefcase or satchel that could carry my laptop, binders, folders and books, and also look fairly professional -- and I wanted to get something that would last, which is why I looked at leather bags. I travel a lot for work, so this thing will take a beating.

    At first I was scoping out Saddleback, Copper River, Rustic and Diaz Bags, which all look great, but in the end I decided to look for a slightly more refined aesthetic because of my particular job and my wardrobe. I wear a coat and tie all the time, and quite often am wearing a suit. I had some credit and a discount a J Crew, so I ended up taking a gamble on the Montague leather satchel.

    A disclaimer: I don't know much about leather goods, so if you have specific questions about the bag that I don't address, feel free to ask and I'll try to answer them.

    First off: the bag looks nice and feels sturdy. It's only three pounds, so it isn't nearly as thick and heavy as the Saddleback bag. I don't notice it on my shoulder when it's empty. The leather is fairly pliable, and not at all stiff. The bag keeps a sort of shape because two of the the three straps wind around the entire bag and buckle into themselves, and they weave through the bag's top flap near the briefcase handle. The comfortable shoulder strap is also full grain leather, and is detachable. The handle is fairly comfortable to hold, and feels sturdy. It doesn't strain when picking up a fully loaded bag. The belt buckles are brass finish (not sure what that means about what's under the brass?) and are well designed, including a rolling section of the buckle where the prong hits. There are three buckles, which is perhaps overkill, but if you want the thing closed it will stay closed. The straps aren't hard to buckle, and I feel like I'll mainly use the middle one and then close all three when I'm traveling. When using as a briefcase, it's possible that a fully loaded bag would put undue strain on the middle buckle if it's the only one closed, but I tried that and it felt fine. When in use for long periods of time as a briefcase instead of a satchel, it might be smarter to close all three buckles (those extra ten seconds probably won't be so annoying, but perhaps so).

    The internal compartment is unlined, and the leather is tanned all the way through. There is one internal patch pocket and a divider, so there is one main internal compartment and then a smaller one in front. There are no other pockets on the bag. The dimensions are 11"H x 15 1/4"W x 5 7/8"D, so it easily fits my 15'' laptop and several big books and folders. The pictures below include an 8x11 sheet of paper for scale.

    The bag feels durable. It's no Saddleback, but from what I can tell from the videos, looks more like the Copper River in terms of it's thickness and strength. The buckles, rivets, and straps all seem sturdy and the stitching is thick and flawless. I'll be sure to update this post if things begin to fall off -- so if I haven't, it's fair to assume that the bag is holding up well.

    The bag does look more polished than the more rustic sorts of bags out there, and I think part of that is the brass hardware, precise stitching and the textured leather. It's made with pebbled leather, which apparently scratches less than untextured leather and is a bit easier to take care of. It might mean that it will take longer to achieve "character," but this bag has a head start because of the textured look, anyway.

    It's made in China, which is a lot less romantic that the "imported" (from where, you might ask? Maybe Italy?) on the J Crew website.

    I don't really have any criticisms so far, but if I do I'll post them to this review when I come across them. Perhaps the price -- without a discount it's a bit much, but I got it for about the same price as the Copper River with the leather strap, so it was a wash for me. Some might not dig the pebbled texture. Others might feel it's too thin or too polished, or that there aren't enough pockets. But it's a solid bag overall.

    Any questions about it?


    Great Review! Thanks!



      I forgot to mention that the middle strap has a button-hole that fits on to a little brass knob (not a snap button) so one can quickly open and close the bag. It's a nice option bit one concern is that, over the years, the hole in the leather strap might wear away and not hold the bag shut. It works fine now, though.



        Thanks for the review! Not much information on this bag online at all. How long have you had it and does it feel like it will last? Also, are there any organizational pocket? I have been searching high and low for a bag that fits my needs. Your pics of the bag full have almost convinced me on buying it. I just have to wait for a sale...



          It's only been a couple of weeks, so it hasn't been through the wringer yet, but I've used it everyday since and I'm really happy with it. Everything is holding up well, and it came feeling broken in, and it looks great, so no complaints here. I'll take it on an international trip in a few weeks, which will put a lot more stress on it -- I can check in again then. About the pockets: there is only one little patch pocket in the back of the main compartment (that I haven't used). I suppose you could put pens or your phone in there, or something, but I've always just put everything in the main compartment of my messenger bags anyway. The internal compartment is separated into two spaces, one smaller than the other, by a leather divider (you can see this in the picture with the open bag).



            Thanks for taking the time answer my questions. For the price point and style i couldn't find anything better and I couldn't justify to myself the cost of a saddleback. I actually ordered the satchel today with a discount and free shipping! Hopefully i'll like it as much as you do. After i've received it and used it a little i'll report back.



              Oh, I didn't see this! I recently got a leather Fossil bag on eBay for about $75, and as such am not really in the market for a leather bag anymore, but this is actually pretty useful regardless; I didn't even know J Crew made this kind of bag, and I could see their options being perhaps somewhat more expensive (though not by much)/nicer than Fossil while not necessarily being on the level with Saddleback et al. It actually looks as though it holds a lot more from your photos than what I would've expected from the website photo, which makes it look more like a brief in how narrow it seems compared to messenger bags.

              Congratulations on your appointment, by the way! What field do you work in, if you don't mind my asking?



                Shellhead -- let me know how you like it; I'm still learning how to figure out what good leather is, so let me know if you think otherwise. I'm glad it was helpful for you.

                Pitseleh -- if you can get it with a significan discount, I think it's hard to beat. Not nearly so tough as a Saddleback, but seems like its built to last anyway. Also, thanks! I'm in religious studies. It's tough out there for humanities folks on the job market (maybe for STEM too, but I don't know much about that). I got extraordinarily lucky.



                  BB- Thought i'd give an update after using the bag for a month. First off, it's a really nice bag, though the leather is a little thin since there is no liner. I didn't think the straps would inconvenience me but it really did. It made taking things in and out really difficult at times and I resorted to your technique and just used the center closure strap. However, the bag is pretty darn big and was able to hold my work laptop (and various accessories) , ipad (and case), lots of papers and my writing notebook with plenty room to spare which was really important for me.

                  Unfortunately right around the 1 month mark, the seams for the shoulder strap that attaches to the main body started to come undone. After a visit to the store to explain the problem, i asked for a refund. Which they did without any fuss. They did offer to replace it but i didn't want to go through this again for the amount of money I paid for it, which was a lot. A shame really because overall i liked the bag from the look and the voluminous inside. It was my first real "professional" bag.

                  How's yours holding up?



                    Wow, I'm really sorry to hear about that, but I'm glad for you that the return was easy. What will you get to replace it? I might be in the same boat sooner or later.

                    Mine has been holding up really well. I have been beating it up, and so far no signs of disintegration. Your story is making me nervous, though -- I'm leaving on an international trip tomorrow and am gong to be depending quite a bit on this bag... We will see how it goes. I'll update when I get back.



                      I must recommend the Saddleback here.

                      The only downside to the Saddleback is it's weight. It's one heavy sonofagun! I took it to Costa Rica and my traps went out of whack due to how heavy it was.

                      However, that was one trip. I haven't had the problem since and it's strong as an ox.

                      Give them a try.



                        Jcrew bags = terrible. I was very happy about my laptop bag (the one featured here several times) but now the bag is breaking apart.



                          Hi BB, thank you for taking the time to review this bag. I have been wary of the quality of J. Crew's bags which is a shame since their clothing is generally well-made and servicable.

                          First, congratulations on your professorship! From the looks of your bag, you do need to carry a lot of stuff. If you could get those books onto an iPad that would help alleviate the space/weight concerns, but I do prefer the real thing. Turning pages is a forgotten pleasure.


                          1) I would recommend a Filson computer bag ( if you think your budget would allow it.

                          I have their smaller cousin, the original briefcase (70256), which accommodates my ThinkPad x201 (13 inch ultraportable laptop), 3 2 inch books, and all of my electronic accessories (charging cables, pen case, mouse, etc.). It's the most solid bag I've ever had, and beats out the previous reigning champ (my SpireUSA bag which took me through law school), and my leather Jack Spade bag (whose strap buckles keep coming undone, and stitching on handles is not the most well done).

                          WHERE TO GET IT: It's $275 or so on but there's a member discount if you get it through Crane's Country Store ( Phone number is: (866) 254-3311; just mention you would like the StyleForum discount. I got my bag through them and they shipped really quickly! Solid people.

                          2) Antigua Leather bag from Kickstarter. I got in on this in a big way since I wanted a quality, lightweight, and not exorbitantly expensive leather bag. May not fit all of your stuff, depending on what your daily carry load is.

                          Price tiers (paraphrased from Kickstarter for brevity):

                          $129 - 13 inch Antigua Leather Messenger Bag. Free Shipping! Fits 13 inch laptop with extra room for your other technology and personal items.

                          $149 - (the one I got) 15 inch Antigua Leather Messenger Bag. Fits 15 inch laptop or netbook, with extra room for your other technology and personal items. Free Shipping!

                          $179 - 17 inch Antigua Leather Messenger Bag. Fits 17 inch laptop or netbook, with extra room for your other technology and personal items.

                          There are other bundles available if you want an iPad sleeve etc.

                          3) Pure capacity. Still looks professional (especially if you get the black leather version), but sort of like a larger satchel. Does not look like a duffel bag, but called the Hemingway Duffel from Will Leather Goods ( Normally $350, you can get it for $245 as a special perk from If you need an invite, I can send you one. I got this bag for a overnight/light travel.

                          TLR conclusion:

                          Filson computer bag - function, form, and value

                          Quality leather but smaller compartment: Kickstarter Antigua bag for $129-$179

                          Capacity for books, laptop, and clothing for trips: Hemingway Duffel for $245 (via

                          Articles on Quality Leather (courtesy of

                          How to Examine Quality in Leather Goods Part I:


                          How to Examine Quality in Leather Goods Part II:


                          Bag Ideas and Reviews:

                          I'd take a look at other bag ideas and reviews from Lots of good information there.

                          Sorry for the long post. Hope it was helpful!



                            Wow, thanks for writing all that out. I'll check these out when I'm back in the States (and back in the market for a bag.)



                              Just barely into my travel -- and the bag had begun to do the exact same thing Shellead explained (become unstitched at the flap where the strap buckles in). I'll exchange it when I get back. Looking at options now.

                              This seems to be an overall problem with the bag, because two of us have had the same thing happen at the same time. DO NOT BUY.