The History of The Leather Satchel

It’s a question we get asked by our quizzical customers every time we do an event or a market – and although we always associate leather satchels with 1950s school children, we have no idea how, where, and why satchels became so popular across the world. So we thought we’d do some swatting up on the history of the fashionable leather satchel!

What did the Romans ever do for us? They gave us the rather trendy loculus – a latin word meaning ‘little place’. Like a leather envelope with a long strap, the loculus was the beginning of the leather satchel as we know it today. Perfectly sized for carrying their lunches in, all Roman Legionaries were kitted out with these useful little hard-wearing bags, and would carry them across miles and miles of terrain.

roman satchel

It wasn’t long before the UK cottoned onto the usefulness of the Roman satchel, and evidence has it that Scottish monks as early as AD300 were using leather satchels to carry the word of God across the country. An indispensible tool for converting the masses, the satchels the monks used were specifically designed to carry their bibles through all weathers, and they began to form into the classic satchel shape we know and love today.

monk satchel

Despite hundreds of years of practical use, the leather satchel never actually caught on as a fashionable item until the 17th century where it became associated with school children. Never one to miss a trick, Shakespeare helped the popularisation of the school satchel with a line from As You Like It;

“Then, the whining school boy with his satchel and a bright young face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school”

school boy satchel

In the 1950s it was impossible to spot a school child without one – the leather satchel had become a staple for carrying books and homework to school. It’s hard wearing nature, classic style, and ideal size means it has stayed that way ever since!

Some of our favourite satchel wearers from popular culture include:

flynn satchel
The hapless Flynn Rider from Disney’s Tangled uses his leather satchel to carry Rapunzel’s stolen crown.

hangover satchel
Who could forget Alan from The Hangover?! “It’s not a purse, it’s a man satchel… Indiana Jones wears one!”

indiana satchel
…. Yes he does, Alan. Yes he does.

So there you have it, a potted history of the leather satchel! Just think about all the knowledge, wisdom, and iconic stories the leather satchel has carried across the world throughout history! As well as your lipstick, your purse, your keys…..

To get hold of one of your own satchels, check out our stylish range of traditional Scottish (not just for monks!) Rowallan leather bags at http://www.youniqueuk.co.uk.

Younique x

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