If I had a briefcase, it would have been kidnapped by ninjas
May 3, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm a man, and I need a briefcase. Are you a bad enough dude to help me find one?*

*(Please note, you can be a bad enough lady to help me find one too)

I've been trying to get a briefcase for some time, but I've suffered from shifting priorities. For years, I've been using a canvass Israeli Paratrooper bag that I got at army surplus. But it's more of a messenger bag than a briefcase/laptop bag, and the olive green canvass doesn't really go with any suits, you know?

SO I've been trying to find something a little more professional-looking. But now it turns out I'm going to go to grad school this Summer, which means I will probably need a bag to be hella functional as well, and I would like to be able to use it professionally in a couple of years as well.

Right now I have a 13" Macbook, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to upgrade to an Air, once the SandyBridge and Thunderbolt business is included with them (though there is a small chance I'll go "pro") and I see myself schlepping my laptop everywhere I go for at least the next two years.

I've checked out the SaddleBack laptop bags, and they seem awesome, but I don't know if they fit my needs exactly. I *LOVE* the design of this bag, but it's way out of my price range, especially for canvass (WWII Canvass or not), but I've never seen another bag with that design, especially with the ability to take the laptop out of the bottom and not have to open the whole top part. If I could find that bag without the crazy materials, I think it'd be perfect.

So... in a nutshell, I'm looking for a well-designed and functional bag that is going to get a LOT of use over the next two years (possibly rough use) and that I hope to transition into a professional setting in a couple years (eg: looks OK with suits). Do you know of such a bag? Generally speaking I've been leaning toward "brown" but I am open to all suggestions.

Thank you in advance, hive mind!
posted by indiebass to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
STM makes some handsome laptop bags in a variety of styles and sizes, and they're nearly indestructible.
posted by Zozo at 12:39 PM on May 3, 2011

I just got myself a beautiful, used, Coach tanned leather computer bag for less than $50 on ebay. It looks like something my hipper uncle would have given me for law school graduation after having used it all the way through his first five years as an architect.
I fucking love it. Especially the patina.
posted by pomegranate at 12:45 PM on May 3, 2011

I've used this one for the last two years of law school and absolutely love it.
posted by saladin at 12:46 PM on May 3, 2011

I recently picked up a nearly-logo-free Targus bag after a search for an affordable-but-professional bag. I'm a graduate student/instructor, and so habitually need to schlep around a significant load: Laptop, binders/folders full of papers to grade, lunch, umbrella, et-cetera.

I was originally looking for something more briefcase-y, but ended up going for a laptop bag. I got one with both a shoulder strap and a good pair of handles on the top. I find the professional-looking nature of bags depends a lot on how you carry them. Sloppily tossed over my shoulder, my bag just looks like any old laptop bag. If I detach the shoulder strap and carry it at my hip by the handles, I suddenly look professional.

Simple matte black material and lack of egregious logos help to keep things professional-looking for me. Brown would have worked, too, but I like my bag waterproof and find that non-black waterproof material tends to look much cheaper.

All told, don't rule out a $30 bag from Target for your "rough use" years.
posted by Rallon at 12:47 PM on May 3, 2011

I've had my Coach messenger bag for 4 years now. They don't have my bag still but i've put my all leather bag through hell and it still looks great. Great investment!
posted by doorsfan at 12:52 PM on May 3, 2011

Who needs a Brooks Saddle, when you could have a Brooks Messenger Bag?
posted by advicepig at 12:57 PM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: The Bashful Billionaire I find intriguing... I'll definitely look a little more into it, so thanks saladin!

I have no problems with a used bag for a better price, and I'll check on ebay, but the weak link in that chain so far has been not having any idea what I was really looking for. ;) Coach seems to be a popular choice so far.

I should have mentioned I do tend to wear it on my shoulder, just out of comfort, and I envision much biking in my future (though I can always strap a bag to the handlebars with some bungees) But yeah, I'll be stuffing books and papers and cell phones and everything else in there along with my computer, so pockets are a premium in my eyes. Like I said about the Temple bag, the pocket design and the ability to expand the main space seems great.

Also: I've not ruled out the $30 Target bag, but I did want it to be tough and reliable, and I am going back for a professional degree so I wanted it to look good, but I'll swing by and see what they have, at least. And I definitely take your point about the waterproofing and the colors. I'll have to keep that in mind.

Thanks so much, so far. And please, keep them coming!
posted by indiebass at 1:07 PM on May 3, 2011

Hartmann is a bullet-proof brand, but they are pricey, like Saddleback Leather.

Tumi is another great brand.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:09 PM on May 3, 2011

If a paratrooper bag is working for you now, style-wise, how about something like a bug out bag? all the pockets and built solid.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:18 PM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: For reference, this is the bag I'm currently using.

Actually, a pretty good blog post on it. It has lived up to its reputation: I've beat the CRAP out of it, and it's still solid.

As I said: my issue has just been that it doesn't look professional enough. And it's not really designed for laptops. But yeah, I had no idea it was a "thing". I just picked it up from army surplus because it was the right size and held what I needed it to at the time. I've probably had it close to 15 years at this point...
posted by indiebass at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tumi; mine's been alive through a decade of severe abuse, but they tend to telegraph a very particular message: I like good design and a quality make (and can afford it) but I can't be bothered to seek out something truly unique.

At the total other end of the spectrum, you might try some of the things at Maxpedition, in particular, here. The stuff is, as they say in the trade, marketed at the "gear queer" but it's quality stuff. Good enough that my friends have had their stolen.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:18 PM on May 3, 2011

posted by twblalock at 4:49 PM on May 3, 2011

So far I've gotten good use out of my brown leather fossil messenger bag.
posted by jander03 at 6:29 PM on May 3, 2011

It's pricey, but the mister loves his TravelTeq Trash Messenger. You may also want to have a browse through the "bags" tag on Uncrate to see if anything strikes your fancy.
posted by evoque at 10:40 PM on May 3, 2011

Brady, Sandstorm, Chapman. All of them will last for ever, improving with age and adventure. All perfectly acceptable for business, in Europe at least.
posted by col at 5:20 AM on May 4, 2011

Seconding Ebay -- I purchased a couple of really nice vintage Coach softside briefcases on Ebay for really reasonable prices. I suppose that you need to be worried about knockoffs, but I purchased from sellers with very good + high feedback stats and was pleased with my purchases.
posted by seventyfour at 7:08 AM on May 4, 2011

mandarina duck
posted by Lanark at 3:06 PM on May 4, 2011

Thirding Tumi. My leather laptop bag has already outlasted the original laptop I bought it for and two replacements. Their eather bags run around $450-$500, which is more than you want to pay, but they make the same models in ballistic nylon which run $200 cheaper. Best of all, you can check them out in person at a mall near you and see if they're what you want.
posted by zanni at 2:14 AM on May 5, 2011

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