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You want a functional bag for work, but you don't want to look unprofessional, so in this post we'll go over the best options to wear with a suit.
A great messenger bag looks great on its own, but we’ve all seen that guy on the street outside the office, with the shoulder strap, shirt wrenched to the side, tie bound up… not the look you want at all. It’s also hard on a good suit, a nice tie, and your shoulders! Treat your body and your wardrobe with more care by carrying your technology in a way that looks great… and is more comfortable.
After all, the way you care for and transport your tech, paperwork, and daily essentials says a lot about you. If the first impression you give is a negative one, that can hang with you for a long time, but make the right first impression and you can be that bright new light in the office, starting your new gig on the right foot.
Let’s start with the right bag.
There was a time when the only thing a person needed to carry was a thin sleeve of documents and a couple of pens. Now, the bag has become more like a mobile office, sometimes holding a computer, phone, pens, tablet, and even workout gear – as well as those papers of yesteryear.
So, now what to put it all in. There is the traditional leather briefcase, with a few modern advances with regard to materials and technology. There is the backpack too: casual and sporty, but a good fit in some office situations. A leather or canvass one provides yet another look, somewhere between sporty and more formal.
No, the problem isn’t a lack of choice, but finding the right one. You’ll need something that goes with your more formal work attire but will also do for more casual days and situations. Don’t worry, we’ve looked into the problem and come up with some tips and advice.
The biggest challenge for a lot of people is choosing the right balance between formal tradition, and the comfort and versatility of a more casual (but potentially unprofessional) backpack.
Take a moment to consider the following, and then you can meet that challenge with a solid plan.
Consider first what you need from your bag. List – or better yet lay out on a table – the items you will need to carry with you. This will give you a clear idea of the volume you need to carry, but it will also start to reveal your organizational needs. Your ability to produce what you need in a moment, and to appear as organized as possible, will make the right impression – and this is where that organization begins.
Consider whether or not you need separate compartments. Do you need a rigid frame? A few big compartments, or those small ones with netting over them that can keep little items in place and easily accessible? Do the pockets need zippers? Do you carry anything (like a sleek laptop) that could be damaged by internal rivets? If so, make sure the interior of the bag or case doesn’t have any bare rivets – or use a slipcover for your laptop.
The fashion-conscious have always known that the best men's work bag is the one that either fits seamlessly with your overall look or adds that little something that elevates the whole thing. If your work attire is a suit, you’re lucky, because the best choice is clear: a hand-held document bag or briefcase that reeks of class and updated tradition.
Save the shoulder strap – wonderful though it is – for days when things are a bit more casual. They are not only hard on suits and other structured tailoring, but they distort the hang and turn a sleek, sophisticated suit into a crumpled, out-of-place mess. However, on days when your outfit is a bit more casual, the shoulder strap can free up your hands for more important tasks, like holding onto that subway bar, or that essential morning coffee!
A soft leather satchel with both a handle and a strap is a great way to ride the line between the formal and casual ends of the spectrum. Use the handle on formal days, and the shoulder strap on casual (or even semi-casual) ones. Problem solved.
The size you need is determined by a couple of factors. First, is how much you need to carry in it. The second is to match it with your size. If you are tall, and especially if you are a tall man, you’ll need it to be big enough not to look like a clutch. If you’re shorter, or very petite, avoid a big bag, as it will look like a suitcase.
If you use public transport this is a must, but even for lunches at cafés or restaurants, you might want some way to ensure light-fingered neighbors don’t walk away with your valuable possessions. It needn’t always be a lock; a clasp, buckle, zip might be enough for you.
If you go with a traditional briefcase, then yes, all of the leathers should probably match. Black is more formal than brown, and the next level down includes all of your earth-tone leathers, greens, etc. Least formal are the brighter-colored cases. The less casual you are dressed, the less casual your bag should be.
It sounds odd, but one of the functions of a suit is to NOT be functional for manual labor. It is designed for the thinking man, the clerk, the executive. It is not designed to look good with a backpack. Leave the backpack at home.
Hikers, mountain climbers, combat soldiers, and children use backpacks. They aren’t a good look for the average office. Where the gear those people wear goes well with their clothing, a backpack will ruin the lines of a good suit, wear out the shoulders, and will make you look more like a kid than a serious employee.
You may not spot it right away, but the constant rubbing of backpack straps will wear out the shoulders of your suit, gradually changing the pristine fabric to something scruffy, and then it will wear right through. The more you invest in your suit, the less you will be okay with wearing it out.
The best bag to wear with a suit is a leather briefcase. These bags are both smart and practical, and are durable enough to look smart as they age, making them great for the professional modern man.
Men use briefcases. This is a tradition for a reason. It looks reliable, professional, capable, and trustworthy. It adds to the image as much as it adds to the ability to tote your items back and forth from the office.
Briefcases come in any size you need, so your laptop, files, and anything else you need can fit well inside. Interiors vary too, so you can get one with the pockets and compartments that you need.
You don’t need to overspend, either. Secondhand shops often have high quality items at. Fraction of the cost of a new one, and they might have just enough patina and wear on them to avoid that shiny-new look… you’ll appear more like a veteran who holds the answers and has the skills your employer might need.
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Every professional needs to bring their belongings to and from work in a way that keeps fine clothing looking good and keeps the image intact. You need to look the part, but you don’t need to break the bank.
To see all of the available Saville Row Company document bags, messenger bags, satchels, small leathers, and briefcases, take a look at the leather goods section.