The needs of a city-dwelling trendsetter on the go can be surmised in a precise balance of both utility and style. Very few bag designs cater to both in equal measures as easily as saddle bags do.
As their name would suggest, the saddle bag can trace its origins back to the racetrack, where it was often used as an equestrian staple. Meant to be strapped up behind a rider’s saddle, it provided them with the capacity to carry an assortment of items with them on their trips, which often included essentials such as first-aid kits.
With mankind moving from horseback to brake horsepower, the saddle bag’s role in transportation evolved to follow suit, trading equestrian elegance for the art of engineered speed on steely mounts. But of course, the purpose of a saddle bag remains unchanged and has been used to add further utility to motorbikes in the way that they have done so for horses. Across the board, they are usually made out of leather and feature a buckle closure to help keep their flaps securely shut during travel.
In the fashion world, saddle bags earned a steady amount of popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, going hand-in-hand with the rise of Bohemian fashion which was defined by an essence of free-spirited fun, comfort, and practicality. It was claimed that American leatherware company Coach was the first label to introduce the shape that we now associate with the saddle bag: a crossbody bag featuring a curved bottom, a flat-edged top, and a flap opening held shut with buckle closures. Dior has an equally prominent saddle bag, a unique kidney-shaped handbag that propelled to iconic status after Beyoncé and Paris Hilton both sported it after its runway debut in John Galliano’s Spring/Summer 2000 collection. Then there’s Hermès, whose history in equestrian sport has enriched its luxuriously soft saddle bags with plenty of mileage in terms of form and function.
Over the years, the saddle bag’s appeal has not waned much, if at all. Adding a slight hint of vintage appeal to every outfit, their ability to deftly keep your belongings stowed away and leave your hands free has made them a popular choice for men and women.
If you’re thinking of picking up one for yourself, you’ll be glad to know that a plethora of choices are available to fit every budget and wardrobe.
(Hero and featured image credits: Edward Berthelot / Contributor/Getty Images)
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Hermès’ legacy when it comes to the equestrian world is unparalleled, and so it comes as no surprise that one of the best saddle bags to invest in happens to be the Della Cavalleria bag. Inspired this time by the elegance and sophistication of a horse riding manual, the saddle bag sports timeless curves that are reminiscent of a horse’s saddle, with an eye-catching clasp that too is inspired by the iconic Verdun half-bit. It’s not just a simple buckle though; look closely and you’ll realise that the metal is rounded to fit the curves of the bag with precision, so it looks like the two very different materials were meant to be together all along.
Inside, accordion gussets, two spacious compartments, and a central pocket ensures all your belongings are kept organised.
Price: Available on request
Image credit: Hermès
As the originator of the saddle bag design, we have to start our list by featuring Coach’s latest take on the style. Dubbed the Harley bag, it stays well within the lines of what one would come to expect from a typical saddle bag, with a half-moon-shaped bottom and a flat-edge top, complete with a front flap embellished with a decorative buckle with the brand’s horse carriage logo.
The Harley bag’s exterior is crafted entirely out of Coach’s signature glove-tanned leather on the outside. Inside, expect a generous and well-considered interior with one slip pocket in the front and a zippered pocket in the back.
(Image credit: Coach)
Louis Vuitton Saumur BB Saddle Bag
For a more luxurious take on the saddle bag style, French maison Louis Vuitton offers the Saumur BB up for consideration. Crafted out of either Epi leather or the brand’s signature monogram coated canvas trimmed with Vachetta leather, the Saumur is decorated with a leather strip that bisects its front, leading to a decorative buckle that hides a magnet closure. While diminutive, its interior offers enough room for a few essentials including a phone, cardholder, and keys. The bag comes with a crossbody strap as well as a short top-handle for versatile styling options.
(Image credit: Louis Vuitton)
A newly introduced design from Fendi, the C’mon line of bags is inarguably one of the best modern takes on the saddle bag style. The half-moon satchel shape is immediately recognisable at first glance and comes complete with a raised character line on its front flap that is punctuated by a distinctive piece of Fendi ‘FF’ hardware.
The slightly concave top edge section of the C’mon bag features two loops through which an adjustable leather strap can be threaded through, turning it into either a shoulder or crossbody bag with ease. In the Medium guise, the C’mon bag boasts a respectable capacity at 25cm in length, and comes with one slit pocket in the back for cards.
(Image credit: Fendi)
Owing to the simplicity of its design, designer labels have been known to spruce up their saddle bag offerings with logos or monograms, which may put off those who have a penchant for pared-back, unassuming elegance. By that measure, the Bottega Veneta Small Desiree saddle bag makes for a sensible choice.
Aligning with the Italian brand’s longstanding commitment to understated luxury, the Desiree is handcrafted out of supple lambskin, accented by a polished piece of gold hardware and a decorative knot detail on the strap. Opening the flap closure yields an interior lined in the same supple lambskin, but without any other additional pockets.
(Image credit: Bottega Veneta)
French label Chloé is most often linked with the Bohemian/folk aesthetic, especially from around the point of the early 2000s. And much of their success can be attributed to their collection of accessory designs, with bags such as the Paddingon, the Nile, and of course, the Marcie, being stalwart favourites for those who prefer a more rustic whimsy to their day-to-day apparel.
In the Marcie’s case, it was designed with the familiar lines of a saddle bag, down to the equestrian-inspired details such as saddle stitching on the front flap. An adjustable shoulder strap meant that you could sling it crossbody, while the bag’s inner compartments yield a large main section for your daily bits-and-bobs, in addition to a slip pocket in the front.
Price: US$ 1,252 (approx. S$1,715)
Image credit: Chloé
Equally distinctive in that same Bohemian vibe is the Mulberry Amberley bag, which injects a more English sense of casual countryside elegance into its design. Constructed out of pebbled grain calf leather, its supple shape is especially elegant when worn with some amount of items in it, which will cause the leather to slouch ever so slightly.
And where that is concerned, you are more likely than not to find yourself carrying everything you need in a day and more in it, owing to its spacious interior that comes with one slip pocket in the back. Naturally, the bag’s strap is adjustable, making it a perfect fit on almost all heights and statures.
Price: US$1,015 (approx. S$1,390)
Image credit: Mulberry
Ah, the Saddle Bag to end all saddle bags. Designed in 1999 and released on the Spring/Summer 2000 under John Galliano’s reign, the universally loved Saddle Bag has caught the eye of some of fashion’s most worshipped, from Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw, to Beyoncé and Paris Hilton. Today, the kidney-shaped icon with its stirrup-like ‘D’ charm continues to be one of the best investments you can make for your fashion wardrobe.
Choose the regular sized Dior Saddle Bag and you’ll have a decent amount of room for your smartphone, a (slim) wallet, and some makeup for touch-ups.
Image credit: Dior
As for those who enjoy the rocker-boy cool of Hedi Slimane, French label Celine offers the Clea bag, which embodies all of the new house codes inherent to the storied brand since he assumed the role of Creative Director back in 2018. This bag’s beauty lies in its simplicity, with the only embellishment being the Celine Triomphe metallic closure and its beautifully subdued saddle shape. Crafted from soft shiny calfskin and surprisingly spacious with three inner compartments, this go-everywhere accessory is one of the best invesments you can make if you were seeking a classic saddle bag.
Image credit: Celine
As for the modern minimalist, there’s always the Loewe Gate saddle bag, designed by British fashion wunderkind J.W. Anderson. Sporting unconventional design motifs that include a knotted detail in the front, alongside unique gold hardware accents on the gusset, this saddle bag is one of the most unique options out there.
But in essence, it retains all of the key aspects of a typical saddle shape, including a front flap, curved bottom, and of course, an adjustable strap that allows for both crossbody and shoulder carry styles. The inside of this bag is also bisected to offer two sections for neater storage.
Image credit: Loewe
Another saddle bag that isn’t marketed as such, is Saint Laurent’s Kaia bag. While the French brand may have seen considerable success in some of its bag designs such as the Sac De Jour, the Niki, and the Envelope, there exist a plethora of underdogs from within their range worthy of a second look.
Given its dimensions, the Kaia bag is one of the smaller saddle bag offerings on our list. Made out of grained calfskin, you can expect durability and resilience against scratches if you’re using this as an everyday bag. And while it may be small, it’s still able to handle most of your essentials for hands-free day-to-night style, staying true to the expectations of saddle bags.
Image credit: Saint Laurent
For those who want an added touch of glitz, you can always rely on Versace. The Greca Goddess bag joins the Italian brand’s growing range of covetable bags with its half-moon base and a front flap, which is adorned with a luxurious gold Greca chain hardware motif. Wear yours with a leather strap for casual brunches or shopping trips, or swap it out for the glitzier metal chain strap for hot dates or evenings out with the girls.
Image credit: Versace
With a storied heritage of inspiration from the equestrian world, many of Gucci’s core house codes feature motifs from horseback riding, including the bag’s namesake horsebit hardware, which was designed after the metal piece horses bite on so its rider could control the movement of its head.
From their signature Horsebit 1955 range, the Mini Rounded Saddle Bag is as traditional of a saddle bag shape as one can expect to find. Covered in the brand’s GG Supreme monogrammed coated canvas, this crossbody design is adorned with a horsebit detail on the front.
Image credit: Gucci
Given the connection between saddle bags and equestrianism, it should raise no eyebrows that American label Ralph Lauren – which has a storied polo heritage – would have its own saddle bag. The Polo ID Saddle Bag is mae of sturdy, grained calfskin leather, embellished only by a piece of gold hardware with a cutout of the Ralph Lauren logo. Inside, you’ll find three compartments: one main section, a smaller slip pocket in the front, and a zippered one at the back for all your organisation needs.
Image credit: Ralph Lauren
Lastly, for those who want a well-made, robust saddle bag that won’t break the bank, upcoming French bag maker Polène has an equally chic option in the form of the Tonca. Crafted by leather goods artisans in Ubrique, Spain, the bag is formed by Italian calf leather that’s been carefully modelled on over a dozen wooden moulds to achieve its unique shape. Expect plenty of mileage with this one, as it can be worn crossbody, with its long strap, or like a “baguette bag” with its shorter option.
Price: US$450 (approx. S$615)
Image credit: Polène
Stella McCartney proves that vegan can too be chic with her sustainable take on the classic bag style. Using vegan leather – which she has perfected, by the way – the bag takes on all the classic features of a saddle bag, only this time upgraded with her signature, chunky metal chain and logo charm. Carry the bag via its cute top handle, or strap it across your body for a hands-free day out.
Image credit: Stella McCartney
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