Our culture makes it pretty difficult for guys to pick out a bag for work. If the bag isn’t utilitarian enough, it’s compared to a purse. If it’s too utilitarian it’s viewed as unstylish and not gentlemanly. If the briefcase is too gentlemanly, it looks like you’re a 1940s accountant or carrying around the nuclear codes.
Sharp-tongued menswear commentators like to compare any bag that isn’t a classic briefcase to the computer backpacks you see slung over the shoulders of your company’s IT guys. But there’s a ton of great looking and well-built options in between. For the perfect option that balances these demands, we’ve found the 12 best bags for work that aren’t traditional briefcases.
Mystery Ranch 3-Way Briefcase, $150
It may be called a “briefcase,” but this bag couldn’t be more different from the imagery that word conjures. This Mystery Ranch model is resilient and can adapt to just about any situation. With a padded laptop sleeve, expandable main compartment, and plenty of sections dedicated to accessories, this carryall converts from a messenger bag to a backpack to a laptop bag without sacrificing the functionality of any of those designs. If you’re on the hunt for an additional look, Huckberry has an exclusive Coyote colorway available.
Andrew, Primer’s editor and founder, uses this adaptable bag as his daily carry.
Handmade World Vintage Leather Backpack, $69.99
While backpacks are great for ensuring heavy loads are distributed evenly across your torso, you can’t just stroll into a professional situation with a Jansport. Enter: this beautiful leather pack, which will help you look both mature and like a globetrotting treasure hunter from the 1930s. And on days you don’t want to constantly carry something on your back, this bag can be carried like a portfolio with the large comfortable haul strap on top, or slung over your shoulder with the included strap.
5.11 Tactical RUSH Delivery XRay, $110
Stylish enough for business or travel but tough enough for anything you could encounter in the outdoors, the RUSH Delivery XRay is a large, heavy-duty bag designed to get the job done, no matter what the job is. The XRay is constructed with function and durability in mind, featuring pockets that can accommodate everything from a laptop to a water bottle to a concealed sidearm. Also, thanks to the webbing across the front of the bag, you can customize your XRay with patches and additional gear (from 5.11 or elsewhere) to ensure the bag fits your needs and bears a distinct look.
(If you want an even more affordable tactical bag option, try this GES messenger on Amazon.)
Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack, $83
The classic rucksack look is still very much in style; the “Little America” takes that idea and runs with it, integrating new features to ensure that the bag is both comfortable to carry and equipped for the demands of modern life. The main compartment includes a padded and fleece-lined laptop sleeve and a dedicated phone pouch, complete with a headphone port. And the contoured shoulder straps combined with a padded ventilated back panel makes wearing this bag for an extended period a breeze.
KROSER Laptop Bag, $20
Minimal and sleek, this KROSER bag is water repellent and features a surprising amount of storage space, whether you’re going to work, school, or traveling. Stash a laptop, a tablet, a phone, and assorted other items and accessories without having to lug a huge bag on your back. Also, there’s a luggage strap on the rear of the bag so when you’re moving through an airport or train station, you can affix this bag to your rolling suitcase and sprint to make your connection.
Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack, $79.95
It’s a bag that has become enormously popular in recent years: you’ve probably seen the Kanken Classic in airports, in schools, in gyms, and everywhere in between. The appeal of the pack is that it is as uncomplicated and timeless as a backpack gets – one main compartment (with laptop sleeve), one front zipper pouch, two open-top pockets on the sides, and that’s it. Available in over 50 colors and made from dirt- and water-resistant Vinylon fabric, the Kanken is simple, iconic, and practical in a way that few bags are.
Kattee Leather Canvas Shoulder Bag, $40.99
You may recognize this bag: its design was popularized by the Belstaff Colonial 554 / 556 messenger bag in the early 2000s. You know, the bag carried by Will Smith in I Am Legend, by Christian Bale in Batman Begins, and by Daniel Craig and Brad Pitt in real life. However, tracking down an authentic Belstaff Colonial these days will require a bit of luck (it’s been discontinued) and well over $400. So we’re recommending this much more reasonable option from Kattee on Amazon. The combination of rugged canvas and genuine leather straps provides a look that will work with just about any style and any setting. And let’s be real: any bag carried by Batman is good enough for all of us.
Timbuk2 Custom Fold Messenger Bag, $150
Timbuk2 makes excellent products, ranging from rolling luggage to briefcases to accessories for bike commuters. But when it comes to everyday work bags, their messenger collection shines the brightest. As the name implies, the Custom Fold has personalized options on everything from the hardware on the zippers & buckles to the fabric used in multiple sections of the bag (including several weatherproof options). The option to integrate a bright color in one or more of the bag’s sections could be especially helpful to give your bag a distinguishing flair, and help it stand out amongst the thousands of dark-colored messenger bags you’re sure to encounter out in the world.
S-ZONE Crossbody Sling Bag, $29.99
An excellent blend of backpack and messenger bag, this sleek crossbody bag looks professional but also wouldn’t seem out of place on a college campus, a shopping trip, or a weekend trip to another city. With 8 different pockets and a shoulder strap that can be attached to either side of the bag, the S-ZONE can adapt to just about anyone and any need.
Fjallraven Totepack No. 1, $110
Typical tote bags are pretty limiting, with their single main compartments and handles that don’t allow for comfortable carrying options. But this isn’t a typical tote bag. Made from durable waxed fabric, this bag is lightweight, water-resistant, and tough. It also has the option of being carried via short haul handles, long shoulder straps, or a super cool design wrinkle which allows you to convert one of the shoulder straps into a set of backpack straps without any hassle whatsoever. Plus, as with all Fjallraven bags, the Totepack No. 1 also comes in a bunch of different colors.