Today’s question comes from Kartik:
“What are some stylish work bags that can still hold of a bunch of stuff, like the mandatory laptop?”
Recommending the perfect work bag that is both functional and stylish can be a daunting task.
There’s no one size fits all solution. It’s highly dependent on the needs of who’s carrying it.
A tote bag that only has a handle isn’t the most convenient if you commute via bike.
A backpack isn’t the smartest choice if you’re surrounded by high-level executives.
Luckily, my private clients aren’t celebrities with assistants carrying their phone and coffee.
They’re men just like you who work in offices and co-working spaces. They want something that can hold their laptop and gear that doesn’t make them look like a fresh-out-of-college intern.
Below I share 8 bags that have been real-world tested by my private styling clients with a variety of needs: from men who bike daily to work, to executives who want to make an impression, to the health conscious badass who goes the conference room to Crossfit.
The One Bag My Private Clients Love: The Filson Leather-Trimmed Twill Briefcase
The Filson is the most popular bag recommendation among my private styling clients.
It’s a real workhorse, especially in offices with a business casual vibe. Think of it as the raw denim of bags – timeless, functional, and foolproof.
The rugged twill is water-resistant to keep your tech gear safe, while the leather trim says “work” and not “bike messenger.”
The interior can hold laptops up to 15” and have enough pockets to hold your pens, chargers, and any other office essential.
What color should you get?: Depends on your style and vibe. The safe bet: Black, a great option if you’re on the dressy side. If you’re more of a t-shirt, jeans and boots guy, olive or tan are great options.
Variations: If you work in unusually wet climates or just want the extra protection, Filson offers the bag in a waterproof leather or padded model.
The Best “Grown Man” Bag: Metropolitan Slim Brief by Coach
Whether you a new founder, or looking to dress for the job you want, nothing says “grown man with taste” than an all leather bag.
Coach’s Metropolitan slim brief, with a price tag of $495, is a ridiculous steal considering that it’s made from beautifully soft calf leather (the most expensive type of cow leather to use). A bag like this could easily fetch 10x the cost (See: later in this post!)
If you want to stand out in a sea of backpacks or tech bags in a classy way, this is the best entry level leather bag you can get.
The interior is large enough to carry a 15” laptop and has additional zip pockets to hold your cell phone and any important documents. My favorite detail is the invisible outer pockets which secure via magnets, great for quick access to subway cards, passport, or plane tickets.
What color should you get?: Both black and rich brown are versatile and timeless, it’s going to depend on your style. Easy style hacks: Look at the shoes you own. If you own a lot of black shoes, I’d recommend the black briefcase.
My Personal Favorite Work Bag: O’Hare Leather-Trimmed Organic Cotton-Canvas Tote Bag by Want Les Essentiels
I’m a tote guy.
Backpacks always make me feel like I’m going to hit someone, and I’ve never been a fan of how crossbody straps of messenger bags feel.
The problem with totes I’ve used in the past is the lack of functionality. They were mostly cheap canvas bags you get from stores – zero compartments, zero closures, zero protection.
Enter Want Les Essentiels O’Hare tote.
It combines everything I love about totes with the internal functionality of a proper laptop bag. 4 deep interior pockets, removable shoulder strap, along with a zipper top to secure all your work gear.
If you’re like me and prefer vertical bags you can hold, I would seriously consider Want Les Essentiel’s upgraded tote.
What color should you get?: For casual work environments, don’t be afraid to try out their tan, grey, or print variations. For more business casual/professional offices, go with the safer bet with black, navy, or dark brown.
Variations: Want Les Essentiels offers the tote in techy water-repellent nylon as well as a luxurious all leather with all the same internal functionality.
The Stylish Backpack for Guys That Bike to Work: Day Pack by Aer
Work backpacks for have been getting a bad rap lately. I understand. Most backpacks either make you like you’re fresh out of college in the intern program or a tourist on vacation in Europe.
The truth is, backpacks are great, especially for men who bike to work where there’s no place to put their tote, and a messenger is cumbersome. And there are stylish options out there.
The two most important factors in the perfect work backpack for men who bike is comfort and water resistance, and the Day Pack by Aer as you covered.
Made with 1680D Cordura ballistic nylon and a water-resistant exterior, the bag is constructed to sit upright on its own and features a padded mesh panel for breathability. (Translation: no more sweaty back when you roll into work.)
Like all great work bags, the padded interior is designed to hold a laptop up to 15.6”, with internal pockets to hold everything from your wireless mouse, charger, glasses, spare keys and Bullet Journal.
The cross sternum strap adds extra stability, minimizing weight shifts when you’re biking, and the exterior pocket is perfect for your Zojirushi water bottle.
Buy Now: Day Pack by Aer, $125
The Backpack You Can Wear with a Suit: Volume MM Leather Backpack by Berluti
Wear suits and want the convenience of a backpack? Fine, let’s just make sure it’s in line with your refined, tailored vibe and make it leather.
My favorite all-leather backpack comes from Berluti, the Parisian bespoke footwear company that has been mastering the craft of leather since 1895.
This beautiful Made in Italy backpack has a classic backpack design with the artisan construction you expect from one of the best shoemakers in the world.
Inside you’ll find a couple of internal pockets that are perfect for small items. The only downside is that it doesn’t have specific compartments for your laptop, so I recommend picking up a laptop sleeve for a bit of extra protection. My personal favorite is the new zipperless magnetic sleeves from Incase.
The Best Bag for the Gadget Lover: Tech Pack by Aer
At first glance, it’s hard to distinguish the difference between the Tech Pack and the previously recommended Day Pack from Aer.
With the Tech Pack, you get almost a liter more space (16.2L capacity in the Tech Pack vs. 15.4L of the Day Pack) along with added features, like a quick access laptop pocket, YKK Aquaguard waterproof zippers, and a side handle, allowing you to carry it like a briefcase.
Think of it like a King Size Snickers. The Tech Pack is everything you love about the Day Pack, just more of it.
Buy Now: Tech Pack by Aer, $200
The Best Work-To-Gym Bag: Fit Pack 2 by Aer
Ok, 3 Aer bag recommendations in one guide?
What can I say, they know what they’re doing.
If the Aer Day Pack and a gym duffle bag had a baby, you’d have the Fit Pack 2.
The compartment closes to your body is everything you love about the Day Pack: breathable mesh panel, padded laptop bag, and storage compartments for all your accessories.
Lay it flat like a gym duffle to access the front-loading compartment.
The 18.8L space is more than enough space to hold your gym clothes. At the bottom hides a ventilated shoe compartment that can house those Nike Metcons (up to size 13!).
The perfect bag to go from a co-working space to Crossfit, or even a quick work trip where you want to bring a change of clothes.
Buy Now: Fit Pack 2 by Aer, $135
The Bag to Buy to Celebrate That Promotion: Plume 12h Briefcase by Hermes
A single Hermes bag can take up to 48 man hours to make and it shows.
It’s something you can appreciate once you reach new levels in your own career.
Hard work recognizes hard work, and slipping your laptop and notebook into a Plum 12H Briefcase at the end of the day is a great reminder of the rewards of work done well.
The Plume 12H is constructed from calfskin, a leather Hermes is famous for. It’s beautiful, soft, and exceptionally difficult to work with, as it leaves no room for error. One slip of a tool and it can mark the skin, rendering it unusable.
Hermes craftsman train for years, apprenticing under master craftsman to earn the privilege of just making watch straps. They spend even more years refining their craft until they earn the right to make one of Hermes signature bags.
Yes, it is an investment.
But like a perfectly crafted cocktail at the end of a long week, you deserve it.