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Canvas vs Leather: How to Choose the Perfect Bag for You

Priscilla Greene |

canvas and leather bags

Whether you want to refresh your accessories cabinet you or you are looking for an amazing gift for someone else, a bag is always a nice and practical gift. One of the most common dilemmas when buying a bag for you or someone else is canvas vs. leather.

Each type of fabric comes with its own advantages and disadvantages and each type of tote bag satisfies certain needs, while meeting some requirements and expectations. In order to help you make excellent choices for your work/travel/casual accessories department, we will talk about canvas vs. leather and try to learn which one is the perfect bag for you.

Canvas Bags

pink canvas tote bag

Canvas bags have been in fashion for hundreds of years. Thanks to new technologies, now we can enjoy canvas bags in various sizes, shapes, colors, functionalities, and price ranges. In other words, there is more to canvas than the eye can see and we will look at its pros and cons from all points of view.


  •         Canvas is a much lighter and easier to carry fabric than leather.
  •         Canvas is more versatile, meaning manufacturers can create a variety of shapes and styles of bags, that you can choose from, depending on the purpose and the occasion you need the bags for.
  •         Canvas bags’ durability comes from the fact that canvas is a plain-woven fabric that provides strength and sturdiness. The canvas fibers flex and adjust with weight and size of the items you place inside. A canvas tote will handle heavy items easier than other materials and it does not tear as easily.
  •         As fashion versatility is concerned, you can find canvas tote bags, messenger bags, travel bags, and any other types of bags you can imagine featuring amazing colors and prints. You can style up canvas bags, paint them, decorate them or buy them in a myriad of prints, patterns, and crafted, handmade, unique designs.
  •         Normally, canvas requires little maintenance. A simple shopping tote bag for instance is easy to clean in your washing machine. Most canvas bags are low-maintenance, as dust and debris go away if you use a bristle brush or a damp cloth to wipe them. You can also treat canvas for more durability with specialized sprays.
  •         Canvas is eco-friendly and this is very important in a world more and more concerned with saving the planet and not using animals for fashion.
  •         In case you think that canvas is not waterproof and we have to mention this on the disadvantages list, you have to know that there are plenty of methods to render canvas waterproof and make it resilient to the elements.


Now that we solved the dilemma with waterproof canvas, we have to move next to the disadvantages list regarding canvas bags.

  •         From a fashion point of view, canvas bags are more forgiving in terms of looks. They have a sporty, dynamic flair to them. They look more casual than formal and they accompany mostly the young urban generation who is always on the run.

Even if some of the biggest designer brands use canvas as the primary material for their label bags, no one can argue against the fact that canvas is not Wall Street material – especially when it comes to formal business attires.

  •         While we showed you plenty of celebrities wearing canvas bags, they do not make the Oscar ceremonies either, as they match more bohemian, young, and lighthearted outfits for both men and women.

Leather Bags

worn leather bag

Leather bags have a timeless elegance to them that nobody can deny. Despite high levels of debate on using leather for any type of products – and thus endangering animals to harvest their leather – the world still uses leather shoes, bags, and other types of clothing and accessories for at least two reasons: well-treated leather is durable and it looks stylish in any given occasion.


  •         Leather has been always the first preference over other materials because it can offer the wearer long years of service. It is also sturdy enough to endure rough handling and heavy weights, and it does not catch dirt easily.
  •         Leather gets softer with age, while gaining a more refined look due to the patina that enhances the vintage, somehow rugged aspect of the leather. The typical patina is the indicator of the leather’s genuine quality. Genuine and high-end leather is the most upmarket and elegant material available for manufacturing fashion goods.


  •         Despite popular knowledge, high-quality leather that features no chemical treatment absorbs water faster than waxed canvas. In other words, if rain catches you, you will have to dry the bag quickly. You can treat a leather bag with waterproof chemicals, but this means damaging its patina.
  •         Leather is more high-maintenance than canvas or waxed canvas. It absorbs stains and oils very fast – and they damage the fabric – so you need to frequently clean leather bags with dry or slightly damp cloths.
  •         Leather dries out quickly. Just as you treat your shoes with leather enhancing products, silicone-based shiners, and leather conditioner, so you should treat your leather bags so they keep their properties and looks.
  •         If the leather bag suffers damages from scratches, wear, and tear, you cannot simply take a needle and some thread to fix it up (as you can do with most canvas bags). Leather repairs require professionals to handle the situation and make the necessary corrections.
  •         Besides not being eco-friendly, leather products in general are more expensive than canvas ones. You can waterproof your canvas bag at a fraction of the price of the cheapest leather bag you find on the market.

Canvas vs. Leather: What Bag to Choose?

In short, both leather and canvas are durable, sturdy, great looking, and promising you long years of service. Waxed and waterproofed canvas is just as good as leather, as we use it for outdoor equipment and tents even – so this should not be a problem for anybody.

When you want to pick out of the two materials in a canvas vs. leather challenge, you first need to answer the following questions: what is the occasion you are going to wear your bag for and what attire will you wear together with the bag? Beyond the fashion differences, canvas is better than leather in terms of maintenance, durability, and reliability. Moreover, and we can’t stretch this enough, canvas is eco-friendly and no animal has to die in order for you to carry your things.