updated April 2018
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Finding a great messenger bag on a budget can be REALLY difficult.
But is it really?
Actually, if you’re looking to get a high quality bag with a brand name while still not breaking the bank, there are a ton of great options out there for you. Trust me.
In this post, I’ve picked 6 amazing bags that look great and will turn heads – whether you’re using the bag for work or for play.
Don’t want to read all of the reviews before you choose? Check out my top pick, the Kenneth Cole “Come Bag Soon”, on Amazon.
How to make sure you’re getting a great messenger bag, 100% of the time
You might be wondering:
How can I buy a messenger bag online, and make sure it’s right for me?
Well, here’s the deal – Just do what I do.
In fact, I’ve already done the leg work for you. When I selected these recommended bags, I looked for items that have a strong combination of the following 3 qualities:
1. Modern and professional looks
Whether it’s a bag for business or for a college student, we like to choose items that have a modern look.
This isn’t to say we don’t love classics – but classics always look modern and in style. Whether it’s the color or the detailing, a modern bag should fit well with a modern, stylish wardrobe. Because a messenger bag is such an integral part of your overall outfit style, we want bags that are versatile and (unless it’s specifically casual) also professional when they need to be.
I think you’ll find that our selections fit the bill.
2. Top quality construction and detailing
Even if you’re not spending hundreds of dollars on a messenger bag, you still expect some measure of quality for your money. We’re no different.
The bags we choose need to hold up to daily use, both in their overall construction and in the details. If zippers are popping off and pockets tearing from normal usage, that bag is a no-go.
Additionally, the details themselves need to be sound. Buttons that are rusting and low quality buckles are also unacceptable.
3. The ability to do what you need it to do
More important than stylish looks and sturdy construction, a bag needs to be able to carry your stuff (all of it).
When we evaluate our picks, we look at how functional they are for the daily use you’ll put them through. For instance, are there enough pockets to keep your everyday carry items well organized and accessible?
Sometimes this means having a lot of pockets, and other times it means just having the pockets in the right place. Like having a padded main pocket specifically for an iPad or laptop. Or a dedicated cell phone pocket that is easily accessible and keeps your pants pockets free (a huge benefit of my own everyday messenger bag).
Now that you understand what we look for, it’s time to get started with our picks.
The best messenger bags for under $100 – Our Favorites
Here’s the deal:
These 6 bags meet my main requirements – quality, style, and functionality. You can’t go wrong with any of them, though my favorite is this first one right here…
Our Top Pick:
Kenneth Cole Reaction “Come Bag Soon” Messenger
For our first sub-$100 messenger bag, we’ve got the “Come Bag Soon” – pun intended, I guess. Beautiful, full grain Colombian leather is the standout feature of this awesome bag from Kenneth Cole. Less decorative than the Nattee bag above, this has a more professional and sleek look, while retaining the classy exterior.
Definitely a Stylish Carry favorite for under $100!
- Comes in three beautiful shades – black, brown, and a reddish cognac color
- Padded interior and high-quality Colombian leather exterior just oozes style
- Special laptop pocket fits laptops with up to 15.6″ screens, as well as a tablet in the additional tablet pocket
- Rear pocket gives you easy access – I use this one for my passport and boarding passes while traveling
- Top handle isn’t very strong – it’s more for decoration than for use of the bag as a briefcase. I’d stick with shoulder bag style on this one.
A gorgeous bag with sleek, modern styling and high quality material. You can’t go wrong with this bag, if you’re looking to keep your messenger bag budget under $100. This one will work for the office, school, and traveling – class yourself up!
For timeless, masculine style:
Kattee “Crazy Horse” Briefcase
Alright, let’s keep going until we find the right bag for you.
Next up, check out this ruggedly badass messenger bag from Kattee. It has a stylish and professional “Crazy Horse” genuine leather exterior that will last you a long time. The buckles and stitching give it a unique and timeless look that’s perfect for taking to a work environment.
It’s just an all around great bag.
- Adjustable braid shoulder strap
- Space for a tablet or laptop up to 14″
- Push button flap in front with elegant buckles for decor
- Multiple interior pockets for cell phone, wallet, pens, and more
- Premium timeless look that works for professionals and travelers alike
- Use the top handle or the shoulder strap, making this work as either a briefcase or messenger bag
- Sturdy construction that will last a lifetime
- Real leather – it even has that great smell right out of the box!
- Adjustable front buckles to allow more interior room
- Some purchasers report that the bag is a bit on the heavy side. Honestly, this is to be expected, though, due to the material.
Whether you’re a new graduate or a professional looking to up their game at work, this is the messenger bag for you. Great look, quality construction, and timeless styling – you can’t go wrong with this bag from Kattee.
Best for Casual Style:
Herschel Supply Co. Sandford Messenger Bag
Not a business professional?
No worries – I’ve still got you covered!
For a slightly more casual (or business casual) look than the first couple bags, check out this piece from Herschel Supply Co. If you’re taking your laptop, tablet, and other items to and from school or a more casual office job, this is a great bag with a good amount of options.
- Holds a 15″ Macbook
- Comes in four different colors: Black, dark blue, grey, camo
- Modern styling with polyester material
- Shoulder and hand straps give you freedom to choose your carry style
- Padded interior to protect your devices
- “Suitcase strap” converts into a pocket if you’re not using it to travel
- None that we can see – to own it is to love it! (check out the customer reviews on Amazon for proof)
This messenger bag is a great choice under $100 for those looking for a traveling carry on or for a more casual school or workplace bag. Padded compartments and modern, sleek styling are the standout features, as well as the ability to show your style (and match your wardrobe) with four distinct and attractive colors.
Best bag for business meetings:
Kenneth Cole “Risky Business” Messenger
The Kenneth Cole “Risky Business” messenger bag is the perfect carry-all for you.
It’s made of leather, making it a good fit for anyone who finds themselves in a business setting from time to time. It has a sleek, professional look, while still being appropriate for casual settings.
This particular bag has a single main compartment, padded laptop sleeve, and two interior pockets. It’s a good fit for someone who doesn’t have a lot of small items to carry, and is looking for something to fit their laptop and a few books. It’s an even better fit if you’re looking for form rather than function, as it looks really great (in my opinion).
- This bag is simple, and perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot to carry
- Easy access to your belongings
- Just enough additional compartments to keep things separated
- Adjustable shoulder strap and a shoulder pad
- It doesn’t offer as many organizational compartments as other bags, but that only poses a problem if you’re looking to carry a lot of small things
This bag is small compared to other options, so if you’re looking to carry a lot you should opt for something larger. However, I think the professional style of it makes it a great choice for someone that needs a bag for business meetings and other short-term professional commitments. Some buyers have said the color fades overtime, but taking good care of the bag should prevent that.
Minimal, yet classy:
Visconti Distressed Messenger Bag
The Visconti Distressed bag is made of leather and consists of a classy, but simple, design. This makes it a good fit for those in professional settings, as well as those who are simply looking for a bag to carry around day to day.
It’s a perfect option for anyone who wants a briefcase alternative.
- This bag has simple design, which is very attractive on the inside and outside
- Full foldover flap with two magnetic connectors to keep it shut
- Oiled material with attractive contrast stitching
- Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.6 x 4.7 inches
- easily fit in any environment (ranging from casual to professional). Simple interior for a less complex interior setup (no endless zippers and hidden compartments)
- two zippered compartments (one interior and one exterior) as well as a main compartment
- a good alternative to a briefcase, but
- not ideal for someone who is looking to carry much more, or stay extremely organized.
This bag is a great fit for someone looking for an easy-to-carry alternative to a backpack or briefcase.
However, if you’re looking for messenger-bag specific benefits like compact in size and increased organization, this isn’t the best option. The strap acts like a shoulder pad, making it slightly more difficult to carry during long commutes.
“Urban casual” style:
Manhattan Portage New York Messenger
The Manhattan Portage NY Messenger bag is a good fit for bikers, students, gym goers, and professionals who aren’t looking to carry their fancier messenger bag around the office. It’s not the most professional looking bag, but it’s a good option for those who value function over form.
- On the larger end of the spectrum when it comes to messenger bags
- can carry just about anything you throw at it
- has a large interior pocket (can fit shoes, change of clothes, etc.) as well as a zippered laptop compartment and small exterior compartments
- Dimensions: 22 x 12.5 x 8
- 7 different color variations to fit your specific style needs
- large size doesn’t take away from its organizational capacity, so you get the benefits of both a small and large messenger bag
- a good fit for anyone with a lot to carry
- Style isn’t appropriate for work, dates, etc.
- A little large for normal use, in my opinion, but that may be what you’re looking for!
This isn’t the bag you want to take to a date or to a business meeting, as it is very casual in appearance. However, it is extremely practical and a good option for keeping stored under your desk, or putting in a locker at the gym. It gets you from Point A to Point B, with all your stuff in tow (and I mean all of it!).
Why should you carry a Messenger Bag?
To me, messenger bags are one of the few things in the world that need no introduction.
You see lots of men wearing them, whether you’re strolling through New York, Chicago, or even your local suburb. The reason I love them so much is that they can be a real fashion statement, as well as a practical tool for the everyday man.
By this, I mean that messenger bags can both complete an outfit, and serve as a means of carrying anything from your laptop to the book you’re writing. That’s why you’ll often see men wearing them on college campuses, in the office, and around town.
What benefits do you get from using one?
One of the major benefits of a messenger bag is that they make organizing your things easy, and are more easily accessible than a traditional backpack.
This is super helpful for your EDC (everyday carry) needs.
These bags come in so many different shapes and sizes. It can be hard to find one that’s a perfect fit (but we promise it’s out there). I think that the above selection of the best messenger bags under $100 has something to suit everyone’s style and practical needs. Additionally, we took into account comfort, construction, and overall value for money in making our choices.
Because your style is so unique, we picked a variety of designs so that you can find something that works for you.
For more info, check out this great YouTube video for more advice about styling yourself with accessories:
Conclusion – Which bag is best?
Here’s the deal:
Despite the fact that I love all the bags above, if I had to choose, I’d probably go with the Kenneth Cole Reaction “Come Bag Soon” – I’m a fan of the modern design with less “stuff”.
No offense to the Nattee, but I prefer a “slicker” bag without the decor on the front.
However, if you’re a fan of the buckles and a more classic western, “Pony Express” messenger bag look, the Nattee above is a great choice. You really can’t go wrong with any of them (otherwise I wouldn’t have blogged about them!).
There are a ton of amazing bags that you can pick up on any budget – if you’ve got less than $100 to spend, we’ve also covered a lot of lower cost bags (that you can get for under $50) in our post here.
Got any other suggestions for a great messenger bag under $100? Leave them in the comments below!