I’ve been a fan of Frank Clegg for a long time. Along with most of the makers I’ve covered, it’s not solely the end product which I’m interested in, but those whose philosophy of manufacturing and creation I also admire and feel a connection with.
In real terms, what that means is writing about people who create something they’re passionate about, because of a genuine love of the process, raw materials and finished work, rather than someone who makes something or does their work just to make money (as most people do and have done since economies began).
Frank Clegg and his Leatherworks, based in Massachusetts fit hand in glove with my aesthetic, practical and philosophical views on what a good product is and why it should be made in the first place.
For me, to sum up Frank Clegg products in a word, is honesty. There’s no unnecessary fanfare around the products. Practicality takes precedence and then quality and robust manufacturing processes take over. If there’s a rivet on a bag, it’s there for a reason, not only because it looks good. If a seam or stress point is double stitched, it’s because they don’t want it coming undone for the next 100 years and they’re not willing to take the chance that a single stitch might not hold. Zips are from Riri and have that charming initial stiffness which eases over time as the leather and brass soften up.
It’s hard not to say the following without sounding trite, but they’re products for a more classic man. By that I mean they’re made for those of us who value things which last, are made well and become like old friends over time. A travel bag which joins you for every trip and adventure for 50 years becomes a part of you and your story. Products like that and the people who care enough to make them are vanishingly rare in modern culture.
A briefcase which I could keep for life and eventually hand down had been on my list for a long time and I recently had the chance to order Frank Clegg’s Lock briefcase last month.
One of the nice things about our change to mobile technology in the last 20 years is that a quality briefcase remains every bit as relevant as it was 50 and 100 years ago, albeit slightly re-purposed. Laptops are still roughly around the size of a writing portfolio, give or take, and they still need to be transported as we move around during the day, making a briefcase the ideal means of carrying our daily work around and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
I chose the Lock briefcase for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Aesthetic, because the size and design details feel in proportion and well balanced. And practical, because it’s a good size to fit everything I need when I’m out, with some extra room for anything else I might need to bring or pick up on a given day.
The range from Frank Clegg is extensive, so narrowing down which is most fit for purpose really comes down to understanding how you’ll use it, what internal space you’ll need and then choosing accordingly.
In the end it came down to a decision between the Port brief and the Lock brief, with the Port being smaller again, with no carry strap. I’d have loved the Port brief (and will probably get one as well, later on) if I just needed a laptop and one or two other items, but I work with a separate keyboard and mouse (try it if you haven’t already), as well as carrying my Scuola del Cuoio leather folio and I needed a bit more room than the Port brief could likely offer.
I’ve spread out what I normal days’ work looks like, to give readers an idea of what the briefcase can comfortably hold (with plenty of extra room).
The locking mechanism from Swiss makers Amiet is pleasingly solid and ties in nicely with the brass hardware on the handle and strap. I’ve not photographed the strap here as I don’t use it and prefer how much cleaner the case looks without it.
If I could make one change, I would have had the case made one shade darker. Mine is in Cognac, but in hindsight, chestnut would have been a better choice. I’ll factor that in for future acquisitions.
Internally, the finish is Spartan and simple. Higher end luxury makers would typically line the internals with either leather or fabric, but here it’s just the smoothed rear of the hide on display on the inner sides and front. This comes back to my appreciation for the honest, simple, but flawless construction. Internal leather lining doesn’t improve the cases performance and would only add weight, but with this more raw way of finishing, everything is on display and if the construction wasn’t clean and well executed, there would be no way to hide it.
The end result, then, is a briefcase driven firstly to be fit for purpose, which is then complimented by careful aesthetic design and then finished with a significant focus on attention to detail. It’s exactly the kind of briefcase I want, knowing it will be with me regularly and serving its purpose for decades from now.
Later this year I’ll also be making a custom travel bag with Frank Clegg, designed specifically to be handed down to my son, Noah, in the future. I’ll aim to have that finished before the year is out.