B.R.’s Waxed Canvas Bags / Accessories – $29.70 – $95.40* ($49.50 – $159)
About the Author: Graham B. is apparently a powertrain engineer with a questionable devotion to Italian cars. When not building an engine for his personal or customer projects, he enjoys reading fiction, training for 5k races, and chicken pickin’ on his Telecaster guitar.
With their new waxed canvas lineup, Banana Republic introduces a hefty, workwear feel to their baggage offerings. Will most customers be dragging these things through the desert, or toting them to the assembly line day after day? Certainly not. But, I can’t fault Banana Republic for leaning hard on the drab, utilitarian aesthetic of brown waxed canvas; these are attractive bags.
By offering a variety of bags, Banana Republic presents buyers with the opportunity to, presumably, assemble a coordinating set of bags. Too fussy for some, sure, but I’m all for it. Better still, those who already own brown waxed canvas offerings from, say, J. Crew or Gustin, can add to their existing baggage arrays with selections from BR’s waxed canvas collection. Here’s quick, in person reviews, from three out of the five new waxed canvas offerings from BR:
Waxed Canvas Large Tote – $83.40 ($139.00)
A tough sell for some, the tote bag. You know, the go-to vessel for schlepping Chihuahuas. But boy, are they great for quick packing. When I take my car to a track day, I end up removing all of my loose personal items in order to meet the track regulations – and where do I stash them? In a tote bag, master of consolidation. Maybe your friends hold regular game nights – the tote bag readily transports a bottle of wine, a board game, and, I don’t know, a gaming console to your friends’ place. And, pet owners? Weekend trips with the dogs are as simple as tossing a couple of dog bowls, harnesses, and leashes into the main pouch.
The waxed canvas large tote is essentially BR’s already existing polyester large tote bag constructed from – you guessed it – waxed canvas. A small zipper pouch inside the large confines aides in quick location of essentials, while a zipper on the main pouch section prevents spills, should the bag tip over, as well as protection from the elements, should the skies open up. An open pocket stitched between the handle straps on one side of the bag provides quick access to smaller items. Unlined inside, the tote bag nonetheless maintains a rigid structure, standing on its own without much protest.
The plastic zipper, no doubt a cost reduction, doesn’t impress. And, where you would expect leather handles, you’ll find cotton webbing, albeit in an appealing olive color.
At 13.75″ x 16″ x 7.9″ it could stand in for a small duffle as a personal item on a flight, and fits neatly behind a car seat. The base is wide enough to permit packing of clothing or a set of shoes. Overall, considering its strong functionality and handsome design, I am pleased to conclude that yes, it’s totes a solid tote.
Waxed Canvas Briefcase – $95.40 ($159.00)
Raise your hand if you’re still going strong with the black nylon laptop bag that your IT department provided with your work laptop. While I can’t save you from your cubicle farm – and honestly, open-concept workspace alternatives might introduce more complaints than they address – I can suggest a minor upgrade to your daily laptop lugging in the form of a waxed canvas briefcase.
Inside, you’ll find a thinly padded laptop compartment for up to a 15″ laptop, as well as a zippered pocket and two organizers for chargers and smaller electronics. A large flap pocket with snap enclosure spans the backside of the briefcase, while twin hooded zipper pouches sit on the front. A subtle black camo pattern adorns the polyester lining. An odd choice, but it works.
The shoulder strap – olive webbed cotton, like the grab handles – is removable like in most similar briefcases. Neither the handles nor the shoulder strap offer any form of padding, so those not driving to the office might find them somewhat lacking in the comfort department. Stitching is neat, with reinforcement to prevent the straps from separating from the bag.
Does it stack up to the now seemingly discontinued J. Crew Waxed Canvas Abingdon Briefcase? Not quite – the Abingdon’s brass hardware and leather handles outshine the more basic hardware and handles on the Banana Republic unit. And, the wax coating on the BR briefcase is seriously light. But given the general lack of availability of the J. Crew option, the Banana Republic represents a very serviceable option south of a c-note (when on sale, which is often, like… now).
Waxed Canvas Dopp Kit – $41.70 ($69.50)
This is a respectable entry-level dopp kit offering from Banana Republic. Does it make sense that there exist multiple tiers for what, essentially, amounts to a toothbrush and razor bag? I’ll just leave this here,
Outside, a flap pocket with a snap closure handles quick-access storage. The canvas is oddly lacking for wax – present, but just barely. For some reason, the grab handle is cut from a black material, whereas the rest of the collection makes use of a more interesting olive – not unattractive, but the lack of uniformity throughout the collection seemed odd to me.
The black carries into the nylon interior of the bag, where two open compartments and a zippered mesh compartment take care of organization. For anyone who has ever accidentally grabbed the business end of razor, the zippered compartment is a welcome feature. With much more appealing options available from the likes of Gustin, the BR dopp kit only makes a case for itself when on sale.
*Note: Prices above reflect a pretty standard (but not perpetual) 40% off discount. BR runs a lot of sales. Sometimes these are excluded, and sometimes they get the discount. Their promotion which is running through today (9/30/19) DOES include these. But that promotion is set to expire tonight. If you’re a GAP inc. cardmember? You can take an additional 20% off with the code 20BRCARD. So that works out to $67 for the tote, $76 for the briefcase, and $33 for the dopp.