Updated February 12th, 2018: A favorite of Daniel Craig’s for travel, the original Belstaff 554 Colonial Messenger Bag was made in Italy and retailed for approximately $395.00.
The original is no longer available, although it does show up on ebay from time to time. If you’d like more information, Martyn, the Administrator at the British Blades forum, gave an in-depth review of the bag back in 2009.
Belstaff does have a new version of the bag available. But they’ve made some small changes to the style, the most obvious being the handle they’ve added to the top. The new bag (simply called the “Colonial Messenger Bag”) is available on the Belstaff website for €495.00.
Features Wanted for the Belstaff 554
- Vintage style satchel or dispatch bag (not really a briefcase shape)
- Canvas body with leather straps, side pocket flaps, bottom corner reinforcements and accents
- Main body flap cover with magnetic closures (buckles are mostly there for show)
- Two front pockets with double snap closures and two side pockets with strap closures
- Canvas and leather shoulder strap
- Light tan/khaki color (the featured image shows the bag in brown; basically I couldn’t find a large enough image of the bag in the Panama color to use).
Some quick background …
Quick (and very non-Bond) story: Now that my kid’s growing up, I actually find myself missing the “baby days” when I had a diaper bag where I could also stash some of my own stuff: cell phone, sunglasses, car keys, checkbook, etc. Today, I’m still hauling around kid supplies during our day trips to the zoo or wherever, but if I want to leave my hands free, I end up having to stuff my pockets with the cookies, water bottles and the odd toy. So I’ve recently been looking for a bag to carry the kid’s stuff PLUS my own stuff. And – me being me – Daniel Craig and his Belstaff 554 bag were obvious sources of inspiration.
Point of the story: I’ve done my research, ladies and gentlemen, and I’ve discovered a couple of interesting things.
What I learned …
- Because the 554 is such an iconic Belstaff design, very few “quality ” manufacturers (e.g. Frost River or Filson) want to copy it exactly. If you’re looking for a solid bag from a reputable brand that’s similar to the 554, definitely check them out (the $260 Frost River Pilot Brief is nice). But if you’re looking for a Belstaff 554 replica, you’ll need to search elsewhere.
- Searching elsewhere basically means cheaper bags from ebay, Amazon, etc. And almost all the bags I researched in the $25.00 to $80.00 price range seem to be virtually identical. As in they all came from the same one or two Asian manufacturers and the only way to tell them apart is by the logo stuck on the fabric.
For example, aside from some slight color variations, if someone knows the difference between this Kattee Canvas and Leather Shoulder Bag on Amazon for $39.99 …
and this $29.98 model from ebay, I would really love to know what they are.
If you want to search for yourself, check out these options from Sanwood (£33.00), Walmart ($24.99), Life Boost ($35.16), Berchirly ($42.99), Modern Man Bags ($49.99), or Ser Bags ($69.99). Below are pictures of the Sanwood (on the left) and Ser Bags’ version (on the right).
In the end, I went with the HDE Vintage Canvas Messenger Field Bag from Amazon for $34.99. Not because it’s radically different than the other options, but basically because it had the 4.3 stars after 129 reviews and the order was fulfilled by Amazon, instead of being shipped from Asia. I’m going to be taking it with me for a 3 day family trip soon, and I’ll let everyone know how it holds up.
Mini Review of the HDE Vintage Canvas Messenger Field Bag
As promised, here is my feedback on the HDE Vintage Canvas Messenger Field Bag after using it for a couple of weeks.
First, overall I’m very happy with the purchase. The size and design are almost exactly what I wanted. The bag I received looks almost exactly like the one on the Amazon product page, so no surprises in terms of fabric or leather color. The canvas is definitely more olive in color than the beige of Craig’s Belstaff 554 and the leather is a lighter brown, but I can live with that (the pictures below make the color look a little more washed out than it is in real life). The general construction quality is good; there were a few loose threads and spots of rough stitching, but nothing that looked like it would threaten the integrity of the bag. In other words, I’m not expecting this thing to fall apart anytime soon.
- Fabric is heavier and tougher feeling than I expected. During the vacation, the bag was handled with hands covered in sunscreen, splashed with chlorinated water from the pool, left out in the sun, and jammed with stuff. It didn’t get a mark on it inside or out.
- Hardware is decent quality, especially the magnetic button closures for the top straps: these are much stronger than I thought they’d be and hold the top flap securely closed. Top zipper closes smoothly and has a long leather zipper pull. But honestly, I left the zipper undone 90% of the time for ease of access. Zipper for the interior pocket also opens and closes smoothly.
- Granted I didn’t have a ton of weight in the bag, but I was surprised at how comfortable the shoulder strap was. I usually wore the shoulder strap while wearing a light t-shirt, and didn’t feel any chaffing or rubbing. The bag stayed in place when I was walking, chasing after my kid, etc.
- The interior is completely lined with a poly/cotton material. The side and front pockets are partially lined with the same material. I don’t think this makes much difference from a functionality perspective, but it does make the bag look more finished.
- Leather quality is good, not great. Top side of the leather straps and flaps is finished, but the back side is rough and untreated (same as the Belstaff). Thick enough to do the job, but for $35.00 you’re not getting the heavy duty bridle leather of the original.
- The side pockets are useless. First, they’re too small to hold a 600 ML/20 Fl Oz water bottle. Second, they use a real buckle and strap, which is a pain to open and close. I tried leaving the strap undone, with the top flap and strap tucked inside the pocket. But then the buckle pin would stick out, stabbing me in the arm when I was walking. So I just closed them up and forgot they were there.
- Not really a problem, but the snap buttons for the front pockets are a little difficult to close. It would have been nice if they had used the same magnetic buttons for these pockets that they used to close the top straps. I’m going to look into getting the snap buttons replaced.
So in summary, except for the side pockets, the bag gets a thumbs up and I’m looking forward to using it more.
Similar to the Belstaff 554 and better quality
If you’re not married to Belstaff 554’s looks, then there are some nice options from higher end brands. The Daniel Craig approved brand J.Crew has their Abingdon Messenger Bag for $118.00. This one definitely has more of “briefcase” look than the Belstaff 554.
Another Craig approved brand, Manhattan Portage offers their Waxed Canvas Messenger Bag for $144.99 on ebags.com. Just a suggestion: click around on this site A LOT; popups offering discounts will keep appearing.
I really like the style of the Kadunce Messenger Bag from the Craig-approved company Frost River. But I’m not sure how long it would be before those D-ring strap cinches would drive me a little crazy. It’s going for $155.00 to $170.00, depending on the size.
Jumping waaayyy up in price is the Filson Medium Field Bag for $295.00.
The Buffalo Jackson Dakota Vintage Military Messenger Bag looks like a work of art (as it should for $279.99).
And last, but not least: if you’re looking for a little more luxury, the WP+Standard Large Messenger Bag for $310.00 should do the trick. It’s made from full grain vegetable tanned leather and you can have it monogrammed.
Have some options you’d like to share? The comments are open below! And remember to check us out our Facebook page, Instagram account and Pinterest Boards for more James Bond style advice, inspiration and info on where to find the latest deals!