First Impressions - A Brand New Bag - Bleu de Chauffe Éclair Postman


It was love at first sight.

I'd been searching for a better daily bag for quite some time, carefully compiling a list, collecting pictures, asking advice from some other menswear enthusiasts along the way. But it turns out it was just some random day I found myself flipping through my Instagram feed when a Crafted Paris post flashed across my screen and I caught just the profile of a bag - my first glimpse at Bleu de Chauffe, and it was all over. After years of organized planning and a borderline pathologic amount of rumination, in the end it took just a relative moment to decide this bag was it. What follows below is an introduction to Bleu de Chauffe and a first look at the medium Éclair Postman bag, my new daily carry.

Spoiler alert: It's awesome.

Background and Design - All the Right Curves in All the Right Places


"Bleu de Chauffe" is a nod to the work jackets worn by French railway and factory laborers in the 19th-20th century, and true to name the company has taken inspiration from vintage workwear and classic bags, revised and updated for modern life. Their Éclair Postman Bag is a perfect example of this. Carried predominantly by postal workers and couriers in the 1950s and achieving mainstream popularity by the 1970s, the messenger bag is recognized by its shoulder strap and crossbody style featuring a large main compartment and front flap closure.



There's a certain romance to Bleu de Chauffe's design, and the Postman is a particularly striking example of the aesthetic. Straight angles define the borders of certain pockets and compartments, but it's hard not to notice the abundance of gentle curves, the cascading sweep of the front flap, or the arc of the surrounding strapwork which lends structure and balance to the softer, more organic shape of the body. It's just plain sexy, with all the right curves in all the right places, if I can say so in as unsexual a manner as possible. Maybe not, on second thought, so let's just abandon this line of discussion going forward and never speak of it again.


One of the first things that caught my attention was the gusseted sides, a signature design detail that incorporates a strap wrapping from one end all the way around the spine and to the opposite buckle. There's very little piping to be found throughout the bag, but the raw edges are quite beautiful in the context of a somewhat minimal design. I even like the logo placed discretely on one side - a small piece of ornamented brass hardware miles better than the commonplace gaudy branding or block letters you might see on other bags. There's just an artfulness to it, and to the design on the whole, that's missing from most bags out there. That makes all the difference when you're treading a fine line between the truly sublime and the simply too much.


Hidden quick-opening system

The front flap can be fastened by buckles, but one of the key features is a quick-opening system hidden under the outer straps. This allows you to open and close the bag without all the time or physical stress to the leather that normally starts to show from repeated buckling and unbuckling. You could call them the speedhooks of the bag and briefcase world, to borrow a term from boots, and I find this particular solution to be more elegant and attractive than the more common depressible spring button-style quick releases found on other bags. The removable shoulder strap also includes a larger panel for distributing weight evenly and a dense felt pad on the underside for comfort.



The main compartment splits into three smaller sections, with two main pockets surrounding an integrated felt liner made for a laptop or tablet up to 13", and a smaller outer pocket flanked by two side pockets. If I had to nitpick, my first guess is that the interior pockets seem far more usable than the small side pockets, but that remains to be seen. You'll find snaps on the interiors of both main compartments, either of which you can affix the small zippered pouch to or remove altogether, depending on what you want to carry. Like the quick-opening system above, it's these types of tiny details that show someone has been thinking about the design at a deeper level than it just "looking cool."

Materials and Construction - The Leather Gamble


Under the Bleu de Chauffe logo is the slogan "savoir faire de proximite," which translates roughly into "local know-how." All products are made in the company's workshop in the Aveyron province of Southern France, and the component materials are made in-country as well, save perhaps the hardware. I've read conflicting articles describing their origin as either Northern French or Belgian. Nevertheless,  Bleu de Chauffe place a strong emphasis skilled craftsmanship, and manufacturing is completed 100% from start to finish by a single maker per bag - in this case by a woman named Morgane, signed and dated on the label inside.



It stands to reason that you might expect some variability in build quality depending on who it is that built your bag, but from initial inspection this wasn't Morgane's first day. Construction feels surprisingly substantial for a bag with such delicate features, perhaps owing to its workwear heritage, with solid brass hardware and rivets at points of stress, as well as clean stitching that's doubled up where it's needed.



In terms of leather quality, there isn't a whole lot out there about Bleu de Chauffe or the local tannery/tanneries they use, so I took a huge leap of faith in this regard purchasing sight unseen. Leather is one of those things that can appear very different online and in person, and it has the tendency to look much worse in the latter when you find yourself face to face for the first time and realize someone just took really good pictures. This happens a lot in the online dating community, my single friends tell me. So I was relieved to find that the vegetable-tanned hides they've chosen are just as nice up close as they are online - especially on the body, which is reasonably thick but very soft and supple. The straps are much thicker and durable with the same general feel as saddlery leather - rigid, tough, and oily with a fair amount of pull-up (an effect where color lightens at spots where the leather is bent or creased) - a good choice for components doing the heavy lifting.

Styling, Daily Use, and Some Questionable Terminology


I use a 15" Macbook Pro (the gut-wrenchingly expensive model with all the USB-C ports and Touchbar no one asked for), which doesn't fit into the felt center sleeve unfortunately, though in their defense BdC only advertise the medium Postman as being able to accommodate a 13" laptop. I knew this going in but didn't want the extra size of the large model and figured I could make it work. So I just snap the zippered pouch to the far pocket and use the near side as my laptop sleeve, which still benefits from the felt padding on one side. This leaves me enough storage room to throw whatever else in I need day-to-day on the opposite side quite comfortably. I wouldn't worry about space being an issue unless you're the sort of person that needs to haul half of your belongings around with you daily or you have the sort of paperwork inherent in your profession that normally requires a double or triple-gusset briefcase, in which case it sounds like your job is a real blast.



For style, the Postman makes for a great daily carry as long as you don't need something very formal. Bleu de Chauffe's products beg to be paired with the type of workwear they reference, and they fit in quite naturally with a pair of jeans and a chambray shirt, or many an indigo sashiko coat and a pair of Red Wings, as you see here. I find the earthy shade of marine blue to be incredibly attractive and surprisingly restrained, but you can also find the Postman in all the traditional colors if you find your machismo challenged want to go a more conservative route. If you're a bit of an indigo-daddy like me, though, I think you'll be really happy with the marine option, and perhaps slightly less excited about the term "indigo-daddy."

Impressions and Value

Also pictured: Boots - Red Wing Beckman (review); Jacket - Freemans Sporting Club; Watch - Seagull 1963 (review);
Wallet - Chester Mox (review); Sunglasses - Persol; Scarves - Vintage Japanese

I paid $457.50 USD shipped for the Éclair Postman, which is a great deal of money for most people I know, including myself. It doesn't hurt that the actual quality and craftsmanship seem to meet or surpass the bar at the price point, but while I'd like to be able to point out a list of objective reasons why the cost is justified - the components, the process of vegetable tanning, skilled labor costs, etc. - the main reason I consider it to be such a great value is simply because it's beautiful, which is as valid a reason to justify owning something as any metric once you hit a minimum standard of build quality.

If you like the style, Bleu de Chauffe make a number of different sizes and models, including a nice briefcase and a collaboration with Blitz Motorcycles on a variation of the Postman bag worth looking at. Prices are the cheapest actually buying directly from the company if you're outside the EU, which deducts the 20% VAT from the price with free worldwide shipping, though I could envision some items making their way to the semi-annual Mr. Porter sale this winter if you're not in a rush and like some of their other models (they don't carry this one).



One final point to consider is that Bleu de Chauffe put a particular focus on ethical production and environmental responsibility. In this day and age, where we're exposed to so many headlines exposing unacceptable working conditions in the third world and compelling evidence for global climate change due to human factors, it's hard to ignore from any reasonable perspective. I won't pretend that at a practical level we don't often turn a blind eye to issues when cost is a factor, but there's something to be said for supporting businesses that strive to do better.

It'll be a while before I can make a truly informed opinion that takes into account durability and aging, but in these early days I'm in love. We tend to use a small set of items every single day - a watch perhaps, a wallet, a bag - and yet most guys don't give them a second thought. You can easily buy a functional and durable version of each of these for next to nothing, but finding pieces that resonate with your personal style are few and far between. In large part, that's what also makes discovering that perfect thing so special. It's the same sense of instant connection I got when I bought the Chester Mox wallet I've been using for about two years now, and it's the same type of feeling I expect will continue to grow down the line with this bag.

Pros

Elegant and sophisticated design aesthetic
Quality components and single-maker build
Brand emphasis on sustainability and ethical manufacture

Cons

Significant investment
Side pockets don't seem as functional as the other compartments

Others in the Range

Please reference this prior post for a list of other makers and models to consider

Comments

  1. Great looking bag and great review!

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    1. Thanks, man! Hope you're well and enjoying flannel season.

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