This guide has been updated with our selections for Spring/Summer 2017.

Since the early 1900s, messenger bags have been used by postmen, WWII dispatchers, Pony Express couriers, telegraph messengers and telephone linemen. Now, they’re the carry of choice for 21st-century professionals. But the line’s been blurred between briefcases, shoulder bags, satchels and duffel bags. How do you tell the difference?

A messenger bag needs to be carried with a shoulder strap that allows the bag to rest relaxedly at the hip or, when in a rush, flung over the shoulder. A relatively slim profile is also a must. Today, messenger bags come in tempered cottons, ballistic nylons, waxed canvases and full-grain leathers. There’s no shortage of design choices, either. When deciding which one to buy, here’s some advice: get the one that catches your eye, fits your lifestyle and won’t slow you down.

Additional contributions by John Zientek.

Master-Piece Over NC Messenger Bag

This Japanese bag is made from ballistic nylon trimmed with vachetta leather. It includes an adjustable webbed buckle strap.

Sandqvist Erik Messenger Bag

Designed for cycling, this bag is made from Cordura nylon and features a detachable waist strap to secure the bag while you ride. The bag is trimmed with vegetable-tanned leather and has an interior pocket with a padded laptop pocket.

Cambridge Satchel Bridge Closure Messenger

This sleek leather bag has a laser-cut front flap and a roomy unlined interior. Contrast straps on the front add a dash of color to this minimal bag.

Filson Medium Field Bag

Made from rugged navy twill, this bag from Filson will only get better with time. It includes a slim back pocket, two side pockets, two flap front pockets and an unlined interior.

Brooks England Crosby Messenger Bag

Brooks has been making cycling bags since the 1880s, and this bag is a testament to the company’s longevity. This minimal and functional bag is made from water-resistant cotton-canvas and includes a woven shoulder strap and waist belt.

Troubadour F + L Messenger Bag

Simple and sleek, this bag is made from bonded ballistic nylon and features magnetic closures. The interior includes a pen-organizer pocket, a zip compartment and a padded laptop sleeve.

Want Les Essentiels Jackson Messenger Bag

Made from organic cotton-canvas and trimmed with leather, this messenger bag is both handsome and durable. Of note: it has a spongy mesh backing ensuring comfortable daily carry.

Belstaff Colonial Messenger Bag

Designed with travel in mind, this bag has six pockets to keep all your gear organized. It is made in Italy from cotton canvas and is trimmed with leather for that classic rugged look.

Shinola Messenger Bag

This all-leather messenger bag has two roomy exterior pockets and a main compartment lined with organizing pockets. The design is quite refined, inspired by vintage camera styles.

Mulberry Messenger Bag

Made with full-grain leather and silver hardware, this bag from Mulberry is classic that’s worth the investment. Its large suede-lined interior has pockets for a smartphone, documents and a wallet.

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