It’s not that briefcases are out of date. It’s that alternative versions of the archetypal business bag are now accepted as appropriate in most work environments. Backpacks, messenger bags and trendy canvas totes have taken advantage of this cultural easing and attempted to displace the briefcase in productive everyday carry, but it has held on to its position as the most respected work bag.
Today’s briefcases aren’t the cubic leather carriers you might imagine a bowler-wearing businessman would pair with his favorite trench coat though. They’re more casual, and more like the satchels and shoulder bags that initially inspired the design’s creation. The new species of briefcase carry laptops, tablets and daily essentials instead of overstuffed folios of paper, and durable, weather-resistant materials like waxed canvas and Cordura nylon come in handy for that. It’s no wonder that outdoorsy brands including Patagonia, Filson and Topo Designs have managed to not only make the briefcase more functional but also more contemporary.
Orvis Battenkill Briefcase
Perhaps the closest to the stiff rectangular original, Orvis’s Battenkill Briefcase exchanges hinges and latches for canvas and locking zippers. Its build and aesthetic are very much in tune with the brand’s sportsman roots.
Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase
Topo Designs has applied its retro-outdoor vision to the Mountain Briefcase. It’s built with tough 1000-denier Cordura fabric, accented with leather and stuffed with organizational pockets. Also, it doubles as a backpack, and the straps that allow it to do so stow away when they aren’t needed.
Filson Original Briefcase
This handsome bag is made of 22-ounce cotton twill fabric. Its interior is more than large enough for your daily essentials, and a range of exterior pockets allow for quick access to the items you need most.
Patagonia Headway Brief
Patagonia wants you to use this bag on the weekend too, so it gave it a 22-ounce capacity and built it with ballistic nylon. In addition to its main compartment, there’s a smaller one that’s stocked with organizational sleeves and pouches for smaller items, another for a laptop and tablet, and a fourth, zipperless sleeve for things like magazines and travel documents.
L.L.Bean Heritage Waxed-Canvas Brief
L.L. Bean has been in the bag-making business since the 1930s, and it draws on that heritage in this eight-liter briefcase. Rugged and weatherproof waxed canvas and leather are the two materials at play here, and they’re used to create a simple carrier with a main compartment, two exterior pouches and a quick-access sleeve.
Mystery Ranch 3-Way Expandable Briefcase
The 3-Way Briefcase might be the most technical on this list, with many different points of access including a main compartment, separate laptop sleeve and a front access pocket that’s lined with additional pockets and sleeves for other essentials. Want to use it as a weekend bag? There’s a third zipper that expands the bag’s capacity by five liters.
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