Style | April 18, 2019 8:00 am

Upgrade Your Work Bag With Oak Street’s Restocked Waxed Canvas Line

American-made briefs and totes from a Chicago footwear maven

Oak Street's line of waxed canvas utility bags are back in stock.
Oak Street's line of waxed canvas utility bags are back in stock.
Oak Street Bootmakers

We’re big proponents of American purveyors who do one thing and do it well.

Chicago’s Oak Street Bootmakers, as their moniker suggests, used to be one such company.

Then they released a line of hard-wearing, convention-defying briefcases and utility totes in waxed canvas, and we forgot all about that stay-in-your-lane nonsense.

The bags quickly sold out. Then yesterday, they released a fresh batch.

We spoke with Oak Street’s Mike Wilkie to get the lowdown on their made-in-America pedigree, how to take care of waxed canvas and exactly how fast they’ll sell out this time round.

Why make waxed canvas bags?

Mike Wilkie: Our co-founder and design director, George Vlagos, is a very frequent traveler and was looking for bags which had a surprisingly difficult-to-find combination of attributes: extreme durability, heavy utility with lots of pockets, large enough for a 15-inch [laptop], ability to slip into a carry-on bag, and of course, the finest quality leather trim.

Where were they made?

MW: Like all our products, these bags are made in the USA. Specifically, these bags are made in California.

How many were made this time around?

MW: Since we don’t release numbered editions, we do not disclose the number of items we produce, but we did produce more this time around so we might hope to satisfy demand. Historically, the briefcase in particular has sold out very quickly.

For someone unfamiliar with waxed goods, what kind of upkeep do you recommend?

MW: Waxed canvas is extremely heavy and requires very little (if any) maintenance. Unlike the lighter-weight waxed cotton used on some jackets and outerwear, the heavy weight and tooth of canvas retains a substantial amount of wax, meaning you will not need to re-apply wax with any sort of regularity, if ever. However, after years of use, more wax can be applied to restore the bag’s original water resistance.

The utility briefcase comes in field tan and brush brown. (Oak Street Bootmakers)

Waxed Canvas Utility Briefcase

The field tan or brush brown waxed canvas can take a beating compared to the traditional leather briefcase you’ve been lugging around. But Oak Street doesn’t forego Horween leather entirely, including Latigo shoulder straps and handles. The Latigo process is a one-two punch of chrome then vegetable tanning, rendering the leather both tough and smooth. But it’s not all about the materials: two exterior gusset pockets, a computer compartment, plus various dividers and stow pockets help it live up to the “utility” signifier.


The utility tote is handsome, hefty and made in America. (Oak Street Bootmakers)

Waxed Canvas Utility Tote

Like the plastic bag before it, most of us have a drawer or cubby where we’ve stuffed our never-ending supply of promotional tote bags. That overabundance has given a bad name to the tote, as evidenced by Oak Street’s legitimately functional version. The waxed canvas and Horween Latigo leather is carried over from the briefcase, and that sturdy construction paired with brawny pockets and compartments make this particular tote a solid everyday bag, rather than just a flimsy grocery carrier.


Besides Oak Street’s online store, the waxed canvas bags are also available at Independence at 920 W Randolph Street, should you want to check ‘em out in the flesh first.