What To Wear To Work: Backpacks vs. Briefcases.

The tides of men’s fashion have shifted once again into a fiery debate: Backpacks vs briefcases. So what’s right? Well, it depends.

In this article, we will help you make a decision between the two based on a few factors.

What Bag Should I Use For Work?

You may have noticed that a major difference between backpacks and briefcases is their purpose: One helps you carry a bigger load on your back with ease, the other is a classic that tells the world “I’m important and look like it too!”

Today, companies are more accepting of backpacks. If you work at the Silicon Valley tech industry, expect to wear a backpack. If you’re a consultant in New York, a briefcase would be vital.

For obvious reasons, you would want to use a backpack in school.

So how do I know what to wear to work? Here are a few things to consider when thinking of the backpacks vs. briefcases debate.

Use a backpack if you…

  1. Are a student.
  2. work with others below a manager level.
  3. Dress casually to work.
  4. Need to walk longer to work.
  5. Work in IT or do field work (engineering, geology, etc.)

Use a briefcase if you…

  1. Hold a position of authority.
  2. Meet with clients regularly.
  3. Take a bus or drive to work.
  4. Work in a serious environment (law.)
  5. Can get in major trouble for even slightly informal wear.

Now that you know which side of the backpacks vs. briefcases war you are on, you need to know which one is best for you. Everyone is different, so we gave a few options that vary based on your situation.

The Best Backpacks For Work.

1. Timbuk2 Command Backpack

  • $79.00
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs
  • Laptop fits max: 15” Macbook
  • Water bottle pocket

If you’re a simple man and just need the essentials in a backpack without breaking your wallet, we’d HIGHLY recommend this one.

The command backpack has the advantage of being cheap yet still fulling the 3 most important categories: style, work-friendliness, and utility.

The command backpack is simple and sophisticated so you don’t look like a pack mule, it works perfectly for a work setting,  and it’s lightweight and organized enough so you can keep all the random junk organized and not cluttering your bag.  


2. Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack

  • $129.00
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Laptop fits: 15” – 17”
  • Water bottle pocket

This backpack you’d want if you need to keep cool while walking far. The air mesh back panel keeps you from sweating like a pig and the superlight weight keeps everything, well, light. The inside is also well organized, but not so complex that it looks like a mom’s purse.

With all the “air mesh, organizer, water holder” techy stuff, I’m eternally grateful that they didn’t only have utility in mind. Timbuk2 made sure that the authority backpacks would look professional and work-friendly without sacrificing utility.


3. Cote&Ciel Isar M Ecoyarn Black

  • $295.00
  • Weight: 2.65 lbs
  • Laptop fits max: 15”

If you’re going even further into the “techwear”, this is probably the best option for it. This actually works totally fine for a work environment so long as it’s a “jeans are okay here” sort of place. If you’re working at a tech startup but they still have a bit higher level for formality, I would just stick to the Timbuk2 Command or Authority.

But let’s say your workplace is chill enough to wear this. Not only is the utility and lightweight structure fantastic in this backpack, but it also looks absolutely amazing.

Because it’s such a stylish techwear piece, I would actually recommend this as a daily wear backpack and having a Timbuk2 for work.

The Best Briefcases For Work.

1. Tumi Barnes Brief

  • $450.00
  • More Elegant
  • Lightweight (2.8 lbs)
  • Best For Work Involving Clients
  • Slim + Minimalist
  • Commute Friendly
  • Fits Laptops Up To 14″

Let’s say your client’s impression of you is paramount. You’d want to have something that puts appearance first and gives a good impression. Usually that’s the case (hah, funny!) anyway, and that’s why we most recommend the Tumi Barnes Brief.

Don’t worry, it carries everything just fine and you won’t be sacrificing utility. You can keep all the things you need like laptop, tablet, cards, keys, etc in here just fine without overstuffing it like one of those dad wallets.

Honestly, not much else to say. Sleek, stylish, and perfect for first impressions.


2. Tumi Aviano Slim Brief

  • $395.00
  • Best-seller
  • Extra pockets
  • Slim
  • Commute Friendly
  • Lightweight (2.66 lbs)
  • Fits Laptops Up To 15″

Need to carry some extra cords and presentation materials? Well, too bad. If you’re looking for a briefcase you’re most probably dressing to impress, and fumbling with clunky belongings doesn’t indicate, “sleek. orderly, and in control.”

But that’s okay though! Slim briefcases can still hold a lot of your messy cords and clunky stuffs.

We dug around for the best slim briefs that allowed people in extra-formal settings to carry more stuff without losing the sleek and professional look, and we concluded that the Tumi Aviano Slim Brief is the best option for that.  

Also, the overall handling, weight, and straps also made this super easy for commuting, perfect for places like New York that just devour your shoes and legs.


3. Briggs & Riley Leather Slim Brief

  • $329.00
  • Commute Friendly
  • Versatile
  • Slim
  • Lightest (2.1 lbs)
  • Fits Laptops Up To 13″

This bag is lightweight at just 2.1 lbs, not clunky, and good for storing a few extra items like cords and lunch without getting to bulky. The most important thing I have to say about this bag, though, is that it’s safe.

If you’re concerned about the level of formality in your workplace and anything even slightly deviating from the norm can get you in trouble (like a bag that’s too stylish or too cheap) you’d want this.  

And that’s okay! If you just need something safe, but gets the job done, get this one.

Honestly, the Briggs & Riley Leather Slim Brief is one of those “I take my work and myself very seriously” bags. If you work in a high-intensity, high-pressure environment, even for the average consultant in New York, I’d recommend this one.

The backpacks vs. briefcases debate tends not to be too hard once you ask your employer what’s appropriate. The harder question tends to be this: Which backpack? Which Briefcase? We’ve provided our two cents on the best products, but don’t be afraid to contact us if you’re unsure!