All about satchels

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Men carrying satchels

A satchel is a bag, often with a strap. The strap is often worn so that it diagonally crosses the body, with the bag hanging on the opposite hip, rather than hanging directly down from the shoulder. They are traditionally used for carrying books. The back of a satchel extends to form a flap that folds over to cover the top and fastens in the front. Unlike a briefcase, a satchel is soft-sided.


Roman legionaries carried a satchel (a loculus).

The satchel became a fashion accessory and was popular during the 17th century.

A carriel is "a small leather satchel from Colombia with a long history dating back 400 years".

A photo from the Bain News Service shows Camille Saint-Saëns carrying a satchel in the United States in 1915.

Letter carriers in many countries (including the United States) carry a mail satchel.


Children carrying leather and cowhide satchels

The traditional Oxford and Cambridge style satchel is a simple design that features a simple pouch with a front flap. Variations include designs with a single or double pocket on the front and sometimes a handle on the top of the bag. The classic school bag satchel often had two straps, so that it could be worn like a backpack, with the design having the straps coming in a V from the centre of the back of the bag, rather than separate straps on each side. This style is sometimes called a satchel backpack.

A cover illustration from The Queenslander Illustrated Weekly on January 31, 1929 shows a school bag taunting a schoolboy.

There is an example of a schoolboy's satchel in the collection of London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

The school satchel is described as "the bag of choice for 1950s children".

A 1959 photo shows schoolgirls with satchels (schooltassen) in the Netherlands.

The use of school bag satchels is common in the United Kingdom, Australia, Western Europe and Japan. In Japan the term for a school bag satchel is randoseru.

In cases where the school bag is a hard-sided box, it is a briefcase rather than a satchel.


Much of the popularity of the satchel as a fashion accessory since 2008 is driven by the Cambridge Satchel Company, whose product was on a Guardian gift guide in 2009, and was described as a cross-body bag in a 2010 article.


In literature, the satchel is often associated with the classic image of the English schoolboy: "And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel" is a phrase from Shakespeare's monologue All the world's a stage.

In Mark Twain's 1869 travel book The Innocents Abroad he reports that upon arriving in France in 1867, "With winning French politeness the officers merely opened and closed our satchels".

In the Little House on the Prairie novel By the Shores of Silver Lake, the Ingalls family carries two satchels on their train ride west.

Indiana Jones always carries a satchel as part of his outfit, alongside his whip and hat (the prop used in the movies was a 1943 Mark VII gas mask bag).

The satchel is referenced in the movie The Hangover, where the character Alan Garner says "it's not a man purse, it's called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one." The bag he was actually carrying was a Roots Village Bag. Following the attention due to the movie, Roots released a larger bag, called simply The Satchel, however the design of both the Village Bag and The Satchel are not the same as the traditional satchel.

The satchel is indirectly referenced in the nod to both Indiana Jones and The Hangover in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, where the character Peter Quill says "It's not a purse, it's a knapsack."

In My Neighbor Totoro, Satsuki Kusakabe, her friend Michiko and other school children can be seen wearing satchel backpacks as they go to school.

In season 3 of Glee, Blaine Anderson carried a buckle-detail satchel.

In The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper is seen carrying a brown satchel (reported to be a distressed-canvas Goorin Brothers bag).

In Stargate SG-1 season 8, Dr. Elizabeth Weir is seen with a satchel behind her desk and later on her desk, in the two-part episode New Order.

Jack Bauer, in 24, is often seen carrying a satchel.

In their song "Jennifer Eccles", The Hollies sing about "carrying her satchel".

In the Disney film Tangled the satchel carrying Rapunzel's stolen crown is carried by Flynn Rider, a central character in the story.

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