The Changing World of the Leather Briefcase

by Adam Justus - Date: 2007-02-13 - Word Count: 621 Share This!

The leather briefcase—the quintessential mark of the successful businessman. Made to exude quality and professionalism, the briefcase originally was just that—a case to carry legal briefs to court. In today's business world, however, the briefcase has had to evolve significantly.

No longer just a means to carry paper, the briefcase is often now required to carry cell phones, BlackBerries, business cards, laptops, computer disks, even lunch. As the essentials for doing business have morphed significantly, so has the briefcase.

Rather than simply being comprised of paper file shaped pockets and hard exteriors, briefcases have become more versatile in styling and features. Sometimes referred to as "saddlebags," "messenger bags," or "man-bags," the new styles include special compartments for gadgets and computer equipment, while still retaining space for paper (a significantly decreased item).

Yet successful businessmen can still make a statement of quality and panache by choosing a case made of supple and stylish leather. Most now come with handles and shoulder straps so you can carry it as you like, and many styles feature a large flap to conceal the gadget pouches for a more streamlined look.

Most briefcases are derived from a limp satchel used in the fourteenth century for carrying money and valuables. Godillot of Paris first used a hinged iron frame on a carpetbag in 1826. Then followed the Gladstone bag and the Rosebery, an oval-top bag. Eventually these became the more recent metal frame briefcase that opens like a laptop on the table in front of you.

Today, however, you're likely to see a briefcase that acts more as a college student's knapsack, meaning it sits on the floor and the files within can be accessed from the top. This style allows for the addition of outside pockets that remain oriented upward, so today's wheeler and dealer can bring along cell phones and laptops without worrying about them falling out of the case.

Soft leather, often with shoulder straps, has replaced traditional hard rectangular cases. The soft leather cases are more conductive to packing and expanding, plus they project a friendlier image.

In choosing the bag that is right for you, consider the following:

Color. Black remains the most professional and brown somewhat more casual, but there are also briefcases cropping up in designer colors such as mustard or cranberry. Choose one that both fits your personality and your industry.

Structure. Are you carrying around paper that needs to stay flat, computer equipment that might get banged around or irregularly shaped items such as snacks or personal grooming products? Some bags have less structure and will mold around your items comfortably, others will provide the overall protection your equipment needs. Perhaps make a list of all the items you'll want to carry to ensure your new briefcase will accommodate everything.

Style. Does it have handles, straps or both? Do the straps resemble carry-on luggage straps, or are they too reminiscent of women's handbag straps? Does the entire item look more like a backpack or messenger bag than a professional briefcase? Something that may look comfortable and casual might not look as well with a suit. Consider what you'll be wearing when you use the briefcase and choose accordingly.

Compartments. Are there special compartments for laptops, cell phones, etc.? Will you use all the compartments provided? Take a hint from female shoppers: if the bag has too many specialized compartments, it might just be a waste of space and money. Only get as many compartments as you'll actually use. Sometimes larger, less defined pouches can be more versatile.

A briefcase is most successful when you find you don't have to carry another bag for or fill your pockets with the stuff that won't go in the case. But when you find the perfect briefcase—leather, classy, stylish—you won't go anywhere without it.

Related Tags: leather, briefcases, shopping advice

Adam Justus works for Creative Leather Concepts. Creative Leather Concepts is an online retailer of quality leather briefcases, goods and accessories. CLC combines the best selection of products with unrivaled service and extremely competitive prices. View their complete line of leather briefcases today.

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