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Joli MacBook Air sleeve review: Luxury, meet luxury

The MacBook Air is a very pretty piece of hardware. For that reason, I’m not too eager to hide it away in just any old sleeve. At the same time, I’m super-paranoid about leaving gadgets out exposed, and thus susceptible to rings from frosty glasses and scratches from a casually discarded set of keys. So basically, I need a sleeve that can match the Air’s sense of style while also providing it with protection.

The Joli Originals MacBook Air sleeve might just fit the bill. Joli makes hand-crafted leather sleeves for iPhones, iPads and the MacBook Air, and has recently made the jump from Etsy to its own Shopify-based e-commerce site to sell the Apple device accessories. Joli sent me a sample sleeve to test with my 11.6-inch MacBook Air. Here’s what I’ve found after nearly a week of use.

All dressed up and everywhere to go

Joli’s sleeves are hand-made in The Netherlands, using soft leather finished in Italy on the outside, and 100-percent wool felt for the interior. You can choose from a number of customization options, including four colors of leather and up to four colors of felt, depending on which color leather you choose. My test unit has a brown leather exterior and an orange interior, which makes for an attractive combination.

As soon as you hold the sleeve in your hands, everything about it screams quality. It has a significant weight to it that makes it feel like it can offer a decent amount of protection from bumps and maybe even drops of small distances. The soft leather looks great (as does the stitching holding the two sides of the sleeve together) and feels even better on the hand. The fit is snug, which help makes the sleeve look even better when it’s actually holding the Air.

Despite its good looks and high-quality materials, the Joli surprisingly doesn’t feel like it needs to be coddled. In fact, it strikes me as the kind of leather product that might look better after a certain amount of stress from wear and tear. I’ve been throwing it in the backpack with various other items, and I think the cat’s taken to using it as an impromptu bed; so far, there doesn’t seem to be a mark on it.

Fit and features

Like I said, the fit is snug. In fact, it actually takes quite a bit of shimmying to get the Air into the sleeve to begin with. It does get better with use, and using two hands, it shouldn’t prove unduly stressful. Plus, the grip means you don’t have to worry about your Air sneaking its way back out in a moving bag.

The Joli is open-ended, so one side of your Mac will be exposed, although it is deep enough that the edge of the computer won’t stick out. The open edge actually proves quite useful if you want to charge your Air while it’s encased, which is something I found myself doing often. The lack of a zipper or flap also didn’t seem to negatively affect my Mac during the course of my use, although if you plan on using it regularly on a sandy beach, you might have cause for concern.

Price and availability

The Joli MacBook Air sleeve retails for €55, which works out to around $79 U.S. before tax and shipping. Considering that a basic neoprene sleeve will likely cost you around $40 at the Apple Store, it’s not a bad price for something that’s hand-made using premium leather. Joli sleeves are available right now, and shipping estimates vary based on where you’re located in the world.

Verdict

If you want something to house and protect your MacBook Air that’s as stylish as the Air itself, the Joli sleeve is a very good choice, especially if you’re looking for a unique case that you’re unlikely to see carried by others very often.

By Darrell Etherington / gigaom.com