The Best Briefcases for Men
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Briefcases were invented in the 19th century, had their heyday in the 20th, and have declined in the 21st as workplaces became more casual. In other words, the briefcase has transitioned from office staple to style moment. Not as many men are carrying them, but those who do are sending a stronger message than ever before.
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The best briefcases on the market today all make a strong philosophical statement — one of both function and aspiration — but differ in price, materials, and style. Prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, so choosing the right briefcase is largely a question of how well its materials, construction, and design translate into a message about the man who carries it.
What the Experts Say
Sources with deep knowledge of briefcases — as both designers and users — are quick to talk about briefcases as symbols as much as functional objects. For this story, SPY spoke with Tom Carbone, an adjunct professor in the Fashion Accessories Design program at the College for Creative Studies, trial attorney Randolph Rice, plus businesspeople and lawyers who carry briefcases every day to help sort through the best ones available now.
Carbone says he doesn’t see any briefcases among the bags his students bring to class. That’s because, as he puts it, the “very term ‘briefcase’ brings alive this usage — almost a demographic. It’s like a lawyer or a CEO.” And so, today, buying a briefcase means deciding how much, if at all, to subvert this cultural meaning with choices in materials and design that feel more natural.
“The attaché, with its boxlike frame, has that ultra-precision look,” continues Carbone. “The moment you go to the flap-style bag, you come down in terms of casual versus luxury — it’s a different image you’re portraying.”
From there, there are also important functional questions to consider when buying a briefcase. Will it fit what it needs to fit? Does it have the right mix of features? How much does it cost and is it worth that price? There are no objectively right answers — there are simply right answers for the person buying it.
Von Baer Essential
This briefcase is all about the material. Carbone says that Von Baer only uses leather that meet’s the brand’s strict standards. “They literally could track it back to the farm where the cow came from,” he says. “Every aspect of it is controlled and environmentally sound.” While you might find this level of quality control at a bespoke bag maker, getting it from a company of this size is unusual.
Aesthetically, there aren’t a ton of ornamentations to distract from the gorgeous leather — just YKK zippers on two compartments, a sewn-on strap, and hardware that the detachable shoulder strap latches onto. Nick Valentino, a VP at Bellhop, says after a year and a half of using the case, he thinks it’s the “perfect combination of durable and classy,” adding that he appreciates “how flexible the simple, durable design is.”
Globe Trotter Oxblood Attaché Case
Made For: The high-powered professional. This is the classic attaché briefcase — one that attorney Dan Xie calls an indispensable tool for his international travels. “Not only does it provide ample space to store and organize my essential documents and laptop, but its timeless design exudes professionalism and sophistication,” he says.
Coolest Feature: Globe-Trotter says it takes five days to make the leather corners on this briefcase, adding durability to the most easily-worn part of the case and creating a timeless look.
Filson Rugged Twill Original Briefcase
Hot Take: Not every briefcase has to be a leather-forward affair. This classic from Filson is predominantly made of a waxed cotton twill, with the cowhide reserved for the handles. It all adds up to a briefcase that travel blogger Yulia Saf says is “unrivaled if you prefer blending style with a rugged appeal.”
ROI: Using less premium leather and more cotton means a briefcase that’s less expensive, but because the cotton in question is industrial-strength twill, no durability is sacrificed.
Alpine Swiss Rolling 17 Laptop Briefcase
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Made For: Carrying more. Tech expert Andhi Ermawan says that this roller is “a lifesaver when you’re carrying a heavier load.” It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Coolest Feature: Lots of locks. There are two combination locks at the main closure and a separate key lock at the front pocket. Those traveling with sensitive or valuable materials will appreciate the additional peace of mind these locks provide.
Samsonite Classic Leather Toploader
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Why It Stands Out: Christen Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, says this briefcase “includes a padded laptop pocket, open pockets for a laptop charger and accessories, a main compartment for documents, and organizer pockets for pens and other small items.” For those who like to keep everything in its place, this is the bag.
Made For: The spacious capacity of the Toploader means it’s great for those who live out of their briefcases, figuratively or literally.
Montblanc Meisterstück Leather Briefcase
Made For: Those who travel light. The upside of a briefcase that can fit a whole lot is obvious, but so is the downside of a bulky, lumpy bag. The delightfully named Meisterstück is a great choice for those who travel light (or want to push themselves to travel light) at less than two inches thick. Clay Cary, lead analyst at CouponFollow, has another Meisterstück that he calls “unrivaled for a sleek, stylish option” with Italian full-grain cowhide that “adds a layer of sophistication.”
Hot Take: Like most soft briefcases, this one comes with a shoulder strap. However, traveling light means it doesn’t require much more effort to carry it by hand.
Bosca Flapover Briefcase
Coolest Feature: The hand-stained Italian leather has a glossy finish that wears nicely with time, but it’s the flapover closure and nickel hardware that give this briefcase its classic appeal. It’s the briefcase Rice, the attorney, received from his parents when he began practicing law in 2006 — one that he says “still has the classic leather smell when you open it.”
ROI: This bag works as a gift for a young lawyer because they can use it until they’re an old lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Briefcases for Men
What is a reasonable amount to pay for a briefcase?
Materials are a big cost driver for briefcases. For something made of nylon — a durable but less-than-classic material for a briefcase — a few hundred dollars is reasonable. For full-grain, vegetable-tanned, Italian leather, a few thousand is more the ballpark.
Are briefcases good for carrying laptops?
Luckily for briefcase makers, notebook computers are about the same size as, well, notebooks. Modern briefcases typically have a dedicated padded sleeve for a laptop, but their dimensions haven’t changed much because the size of what they carry hasn’t changed much.
Who still uses briefcases?
High-powered businesspeople and attorneys, and anyone who doesn’t want to show up to work looking like a bike messenger or middle-school student with a messenger bag or backpack, respectively. We’re kidding. Sort of.
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