The Bag, Not The Town

Timbuk2 Forge

The name may suggest Mali, Africa, but the provenance of this bag brand is really San Francisco. Timbuk2 did not, in fact, begin life with this evocative moniker. It was, believe or not, known as Scumbags—surely outrageous even for the left-leaning city in which it was born. It isn’t terribly clear why (but we can surely guess), the name was changed to Timbuk2 in 1990 by founder of the brand Rob Honeycutt, who created messenger bags to meet his needs as a bike messenger in the ’80s. According to the brand’s amusing telling, the settled name was inspired, in part, by the Devo-ish, American, post-punk band Timbuk3.

Timbuk2 is not new to Singapore. Its first stand alone store (reported to be it’s first outside the US) opened in 2013 at Bugis Junction, a corner unit so strikingly appointed—with a nod to its bicycling roots—that it stood in sharp contrast to its cluttered neighbours. Before that, Timbuk2 can be found at outdoor gear suppliers such as those in Queenstown Shopping Centre. With its own standalone space, now relocated to another unit in the same complex, Timbuk2 is able to let its products better project its pre-dot-com, post-hippy American image and heritage.

Messenger bags are synonymous with Timbuk2, but what drew our attention when we visited the store last week was this handsome roll-top tote named Forge (top). The make of Timbuk2 bags are solid, but their designs have generally been stolid. Forge is a gentle pull away from the relative same-same sensibility applied across their bags.

Firstly, there’s the tote part, a rather late entry for most American brands in the business of bags for men. Then, there’s the two-way mode of carrying the Forge (it’s a backpack too), even when the Japanese have put out similar binary styles much earlier. And, for this colour (above, cross between gray and khaki known as ‘Flux’), the bright blue of the straps and the yellow of the zip that looks like a related hue to McDonald’s Golden Arches.

Timbuk2 Forge (back)

Colours are, of course, not alien to Timbuk2 since one of their most distinctive bags is the tri-coloured messenger (known as the Classic Messenger Tres Colores, and can be customised to suit your taste). In the case of the Forge, the colours are accents and are used as graphic counterpoints to the overall chromatic solidness of the body.

The bag is equipped with a staggering dozen of pockets: two easy-access front-centre (one with zip) slots, two skinny ones by their sides (may not be that useful), and two roomy side slots that are definitely handy. Inside, one large pocket with additional four more attached to its front. In the rear, a zippered side opening allows access to that pocket inside, which is padded to better protect on-the-road necessities such as a tablet. There is also little a slip of space on top of that for MRT card and such, allowing you to keep valuables close to you.

But what we really wish to have—as an option—is extra compartments in the rear to hold and conceal the shoulder straps when not in use. The fashion-conscious, you see, may deem a backpack not cool enough. Tuck the stray straps away, and no one shall know of your bag’s other personality.

Timbuk2 ‘Forge’ tote, SGD159, is available at Timbuk2, level 3, Bugis Junction. Photos: Jim Sim