American leather goods brand Colonel Littleton is a living, breathing example of how products can carry the DNA of their creator. Based in the town of Lynneville, Tennessee, about an hour’s drive south from Nashville, Colonel Littleton the man, has created a company that reflects his values, sense of quality, and deep appreciation for history.
The first question asked about this company that has achieved something of a cult status, is whether or not the Colonel is indeed a real person. He very much is. And, while he may have a folksy demeanor and move with the gait of a relaxed country doctor, but don’t be mislead. The Colonel is a sharp businessman who has turned what could have been a novelty idea into a rustic luxury brand that holds a deep respect from the cognoscenti of American craftsmen. And, it’s not by accident.
Colonel Littleton products have a distinctive, heritage-meets-steam-punk look that can speak to both Americana traditionalists and urban hipsters; both key demographics in the high-end leather goods market. In contrast to the clean and streamlined briefcases and bags we often see today, they have a decidedly functional and vintage look. Constructed with straps, brass fittings, military snaps, and engraved badges, Colonel Littleton bags are unmistakable and to us, flat-out beautiful.
While they have a certain theater about them, when it comes to quality and design, these bags stand toe-to-toe with any other brand we have reviewed. Thick, full cut, naturally tanned leather hides are hand assembled, literally, under the Colonel’s watch. From design through to the packing of the finished products, his fixation on ensuring quality and customer service are readily apparent.
Every aspect of the company’s interaction with a customer is built around Littleton’s philosophy that he is in the “wants” business, not the “needs” business. As a result, these folks take the view that their box showing up on your doorstep is a privilege and an invitation. You don’t need to buy their products, you want to buy them because you like what Colonel Littleton has to offer – and they in turn deeply appreciate that trust.
Shipping boxes and even the packing tape are branded. Every box is carefully packed and each bag is carefully protected in possibly the coolest dust bag we have ever seen. It’s a work of art in its own right. Lastly, they add in a locally made Moon Pie – an iconic Tennessee treat – and leather coaster.
Our No. 43 Mailbag Briefcase, embodies every aspect of what makes the Colonel Littleton brand so exceptional. While it captures the classic, form-follows-function elements of the original postman’s bag on which it’s based, it is very much a distinctively elegant heirloom. The body of the bag is comprised of a single large section and a full-length front pocket. Both are secured under a large flap by a single strap secured by a very cool, and strong, military button snap.
Typically, this style of bag is prone to becoming a bit unwieldy and floppy when worn, but the entire structure of the No. 43 Mailbag Briefcase is suspended from a cleverly placed copper tube. This unique and functional feature adds an element of rustic elegance and also creates the support system for the detachable shoulder strap and handle.
The shoulder strap is beautifully crafted and reminiscent of an old leather military belt. It can be adjusted to varying lengths by way of a solid brass double claw hook. While this bag can be carried cross-body, we find it better suited for either shoulder or hand carrying – by way of a very comfortable layered leather handle.
As a briefcase, its capacity is huge and can hold all manner of gear, from laptops to books to your gym clothes. The dry-milled leather flap is both protective and a beautiful feature of this bag. For some, it may be problematic on windy days, but the addition of the secure strap with closure underneath keeps everything in its place.
The No. 43 Mailbag is not a small briefcase and may not make sense as an everyday bag if you want something compact. However, if you are looking for unique, rustically elegant, handmade American craftsmanship, Colonel Littleton is a brand about which you should learn more.
Below, we have included several images of our No.43 Mailbag Briefcase in use and on the road. We absolutely love this bag and see it, and the company, as examples of classic American craftsmanship, design, and genuine heritage.