How you dress makes a huge difference in today’s competitive workplace. But dressing for success involves more than just your clothes. Your professional appearance extends to the items you carry – the most important of which is the briefcase or portfolio that keeps you organized and looking classy.
Design and purpose have changed over the years as technology has eliminated the need to carry excess papers, printouts, pencils, and calculators, but the professionalism of a classy portfolio continues to make a statement in the workplace – whether you’re a new-hire or CEO.
The modern business world offers a variety of briefcases. Keep reading to learn which is the right choice for you.
Above all, your briefcase should be big enough to store what you need (but not too bulky) and make you feel confident when you walk into the office. General types of briefcases include the attaché, the messenger bag, and the rolling/traveling briefcase.
The attaché can be considered the “traditional briefcase.” It is large, angular, and spacious. The attaché typically features two compartments and is designed to be opened while on its side.
This type of briefcase is an old favorite and is appropriate for virtually any business event.
The bag pictured at left features a top handle for carrying, two spacious exterior pockets, and a roomy central pocket that comfortably fits a 15” laptop.
The Rolling/Traveling Briefcase
Small enough to bring to a meeting but large enough to carry a spare set of clothes, the rolling briefcase is appropriate for traveling businessmen who spend lots of time in airports and hotels. Most models feature a long handle and wheels. Avoid this model if you aren’t a frequent traveler.
The Messenger Bag
This is the most casual form of briefcase, but is considered trendy in today’s business world. The messenger bag features a long strap and is designed to be carried over one shoulder. The portability and versatility of the messenger bag makes it popular among college students.
The messenger bag featured at left was designed exclusively for Apple. Its stylish yet casual design features a fleece-lined interior to protect your laptop and numerous mesh organizers to promote organization.
With its removable shoulder strap and top handle, you’ll be able to disguise this messenger bag as a traditional briefcase if needed.
What to look for when buying
Purchasing a briefcase is one of the most important business decisions you will ever make. A clean, high quality bag is necessary to complete your unique professional image and will help you exude style and class at your next meeting, interview, or your average day at the office.
Most briefcases are unisex, but some have slight stylistic features aimed towards men or women. The main things you should look for when purchasing a briefcase are:
1) Will it fit your laptop?
Most briefcases will accommodate a 14” laptop, but you’ll also need room for paperwork, your laptop charger, and other personal items. If you’re concerned for your computer’s safety, check the padding on the sides and bottom of the laptop compartment.
2) Straps, handles, and wheels
Where will you be using the bag? How heavy will it be? Adjustable shoulder straps are the most convenient, but shoulder straps are far from traditional and in some cases will be too casual. Bags with detachable shoulder straps can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
The top handle is a standard feature of the traditional briefcase and is necessary for carrying without a strap.
Avoid bright colors and patterns. Black is the most popular, but beige, grey, and dark brown also work. The goal is to pick a simple neutral color that will match most of your outfits.
4) Bottom feet
Some bags feature tabs or “feet” on the bottom that allow the bag to stand upright when full or empty. These feet also protect the contents of the bag as well as the outer material of the bag.
Briefcases without these feet are liable to slide around on smooth surfaces. This could be dangerous for a laptop.
When purchasing a bag for your laptop, look for bottom feet that separate the base of the bag from the floor (there will be less impact on your computer when you set the bag down).
Note: For interviews, you’ll want to chose the most simple briefcase possible. In most circumstances, we recommend a portfolio as opposed to a full briefcase. Click here to learn more about what you should bring to an interview.
The smallest and thinnest variety of briefcase available to the businessman is the padfolio. This slim folder is designed to contain everything you need for an interview or business meeting. The padfolio is stylish and appropriate when making a first impression.
Traditional models have no handle and are meant to be carried under the arm or in hand.
While this article uses the terms “portfolio” and “padfolio” interchangeably, the portfolio is technically bigger and more portable.
What to look for when buying
Don’t be afraid to splurge on a high-quality portfolio. You won’t be using it daily, so investing in a quality product that will last makes sense. We like the padfolio pictured at left because it is built to accommodate both right- and left-handed users.
This business Padfolio features high quality leather and is the perfect accompaniment to a clean suit and a winning smile. The position of pen holders and pockets minimizes bulge for a sleek appearance.
Other features include a side divider, cell phone pocket, and zippered compartment for small items like flash drives and business cards.
Most padfolios are very similar. Take a close look before you buy and consider what you’ll be carrying in it. Do you want a zippered portfolio like the one above? Do you want an inexpensive and simple model for occasional use?
Things you should note:
- How it closes (zippers, magnets, clasps, etc.)
- Position, number, and size of pockets
- Size (is it comfortable to carry under your arm?)
- Color (again, choose a neutral color for a professional appearance)
- Price and quality
- Pad position in regards to right- or left-handedness.
- Are you looking for a particular model designed to fit your tablet or iPad?
If you’ll be taking notes while standing, you may want to choose a more rigid portfolio like the model at left. This padfolio is a bargain at just $40.
- Business card window
- Smooth and sleek leather finish
- Inserted notepad and folder
Don’t be afraid to opt for a simple portfolio if you if you can’t afford a deluxe portfolio. A sleek, clean and organized leather portfolio folder makes a perfect resume holder!
If you’re looking for engraved, embossed, or otherwise personalized portfolios, check out the following websites:
If you’re looking to stay trendy with your briefcase or portfolio, I recommend the following brands: Kenneth Cole, Samsonite, Kate Spade/Jack Spade, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Herschel, Skagen, Ernest Alexander, and Billykirk.
We hope the above introduction will help you find the best leather briefcase for you business needs. And if you’re on your way to an important interview, good luck!