Gary Waterfield:

Subject: Thanks for finding us!

Congratulations on being part of an exclusive group of people who own a San Francisco-made WaterField product. You might see another one— at an airport, a café in Florence, or a business meeting in Austin.  The best cases in the world attract some of the best and most diverse people in the world and we are glad to have you be part of our community. 

All our bags and cases are made by the most skilled sewing team in San Francisco. Please keep in touch and let us know what else we can do for you.

BTW, how did you bump into us? 

Thanks again,
Gary Waterfield


Wow, such a personal e-mail, deserves an equally personal response. “Here we go…”

I’ve known about you since the early days back when Jason O’Grady had an email newsletter called “PowerPage” based on the Powerbook (so this would be in the 90’s around the time Jobs was interim CEO). He used to write about you as a good place to buy laptop bags (back when laptops were rare, I had a PowerBook Duo 270c and later a Powerbook 2400c/180 but was in school so couldn’t afford a dedicated laptop bag—I used a Jandd messenger bag I picked from from their warehouse in Santa Cruz on closeout in 1995). I think when the IBM switch occurred I ended up buying a Tom Bihn one for my MacBook Pro instead (back when George Bush was president because Tom Bihn had those subversive tags written in French which I used to get a good price selling it on eBay many years later). Don’t get me wrong, the Tom Bihn bag was tank (only the sold-separately strap broke and they sent me replacement hardware which I still use on my photography bags), but laptops kept getting smaller and the “Empire Builder” became a bit too much for my aspirations.

I eventually bought a laptop sleeve from you (an earlier iteration of the one I just ordered for the iPad Air 9.5″) for my MacBook Air in 2010. I still use it today when I have a bag without its own sleeve and it’s still probably the best thought-out design for a laptop sleeve ever: easy access with a safe and secure velcro closure instead of the inconvenient zipper like competitors; ample neoprene padding inside with ballistic nylon outside and yet not bulky; tasteful fill-grain leather accents that protect high wear areas; available in horizontal for use in my messenger bags or vertical (for backpacks?); and an extra pocket for holding a power supply or cables, or an iPad! in a pinch. It has never so much as frayed even a little in the last six years.

You may actually recall this: I was living in SoMa at the time and offered to pick it up at your HQ which was in Mission Bay. When I came by, you thought I was applying for a job because you were interviewing people for warehouse and shipping! Nah, I just came to pick up my beloved laptop sleeve! 😀

I also have another bag of yours which is my “on the go bag” for computer accessories no matter what bag I am using. In fact it is right here next to me as I type in Starbucks across from the Computer History Museum in Mountain View!

Waterfield iPod case
Mountain View, California, United States

Apple iPhone 6
0.033 sec (1/30) @ f/2.2, iso50 4.15mm(29 mm)

I think it was an iPod bag, but I use it for to hold a power supply, cables, surge protector, USB charger, extra USB battery, and assorted adapters, minty gum and screen wipes. 😉 The bright color means I have no trouble finding it no matter what bag I’m lugging around.

As for the current purchase: walking home from the JCCSF, I was worried I left my hat at the gym and flipped over my gym bag from my back. It landed on the concrete pavement with a loud *THUD* and I realized that the iPad pro I carelessly dropped inside is not long for this world without a sleeve just for “those times.” I thought of you immediately, of course! (I confess I researched other options, but you’ll be happy to know that you still make the best stuff.)

When Apple opened their store in Palo Alto in 2001, they had printed outside a manifesto that read: “5 down. 95 to go.”

“Apple currently has around 5 percent market share in personal computers. This means that out of one hundred computer users, five of them use Macs. … Because if only 5 of those remaining 95 people switch to Macs, we’ll double our market share and, more importantly, earn the chance to delight another 25 million customers. Here we go …”

The hipsters can have their Timbuk2s, Chromes, and Rickshaws (heck, I’ve been known to own a bag or two from them). But for thoughtful form following function and a bulletproof design that will outlive the fads, nothing beats you guys at WaterField. It a shame that owning a product from you could ever be called “exclusive.” The rest of the world doesn’t know what they are missing.

All the best and take care,




Subject: O’Grady’s Powerpage – I do remember…

You have an amazing memory.  I remember all that – again – now.  The Tom Bihn GWB tags – yes.

I guess we are still exclusive – we are all about keeping the quality and the consistency – perhaps someday less exclusive – but I doubt it.  We have a smallish sewing shop here in Mission Bay where you ‘applied’ for work – and we’ve been at production capacity for a spell now – and in a good place.  It still feels great when long time customers come back and write to me – Thank you.  Your iPod Gear pouch seems to be hanging in there.


The sleeve arrived. My iPad feels a bit safer now. 🙂

Waterfield sleeves
The Richmond, San Francisco, California

Leica M8, Carl Zeiss Biogon 2,8/25ZM T*
1/20sec @ f/3.4, iso160, 25mm (33mm)

Check WaterField Designs out at

3 thoughts on “A little about WaterField

  1. They were one of the first companies to make an iPod case (for the original Firewire, spinning-wheel, Mac-only iPod), which is where I got my first intro to the brand in January 2002.

    I’ve owned several of their bags since (most notably the Vertigo, ideal for carrying 11×14 photo paper, and the Muzetto) and all my laptops get a W|F Sleevecase, and I have a variety of their more exotic cases like the dedicated ones for the cylinder Mac Pro, Jambox Mini, Apple Bluetooth keyboard, SuperDrive and a bunch of cable organizer pouches.

    My current laptop is a 12″ retina MacBook, and they have a lovely leather slipcase in their new “Atelier” line that replaced my previous (also W|F) Dash sleeve. I can’t seem to find it on their website any more, I hope they didn’t discontinue it.

    I wish you hadn’t blogged about this. I visited their site, just saw the new limited-edition navy blue leather Cozmo and am sorely tempted…

    1. Well technically, the firewire, physical touch wheel iPod (1G) were made PC Windows compatible in a later iteration of the 10GB model. I, like you, had the original 5GB one. In fact, I still have it above the fireplace. Really doubt it works anymore. But that and the Powerbook 2400c are nice to show people (I’d have an Apple ][+ and Fat Mac, but we lent those to friends years ago and they broke them. I think I donated the original Mac Portable to Goodwill—first commercial active matrix LCD + lead acid battery in a nice portable suitcase-size with convenient integrated handle – lol).

      That’s quite an impressive array of WaterField stuff! Of course, I’m not surprised as you have an uncommon attention to detail and good design. I really think their sleeves are peerless and I’ve never seen any of their stuff fail. I’m still amazed to this day that they can do all the stitching, not only in the USA, but in San Francisco. Timbuk2 moved all but their bag-in-a-box to China, Rickshaw has a two-piece design where the complex part is made by computers in China, Chrome only makes the messengers in the USA and they go across the Bay to Oakland for those. I think Tom Bihn and Red Oxx are the only two widely-available (non-cycling) laptop and accessory bag manufacturers who still make everything in the USA in Seattle and Montana respectively, but I don’t recall them using top or full grain leather.

      Lol about the Cozmo. When I was a kid, a friend had a US Postal full grain leather bag. I think those things will outlive you AND your children. My next bag purchase, if I were to do one, would probably be something from PeakDesign. I’ve gotten my bag stuff down to a science so that’s why I haven’t bothered. Don’t want to disrupt things.

      1. I thought Chrome bags were made in Colorado, like Mission Workshop? I asked Waterfield why they don’t sport the “SF Made” logo and they responded that they disagree with the program because the rules on provenance are too lax.

        I have way too many bags (53 and counting). I signed up for the Peak Design backpack (designed in the Dogpatch but made in Vietnam, I believe, which is not surprising given how much labor is required for the construction). If you want a bag that will last a lifetime and is also 100% made in SF, you can have one made to order by Glaser Designs. In the ultra-luxe category, there is April in Paris.

        There are plenty of US leather bag makers, in the higher price points: Frank Clegg, Killspencer, Mitchell, Saddleback, Chester Mox, possibly Killspencer. In a more affordable bracket, Zugster and Archive Bags claim to be handmade in SF. TAD claims to be made in the USA, not sure where. DSPTCH claims US production, mostly SF and LA.

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