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We carry a lot of shit with us — laptops, books, tablets and other random things that aren’t necessary but we can’t bring ourselves to rid of. Not to mention the emotional and mental trauma we’re required to lug around day in and day out. We’re practically pack mules.
Considering the wide variety of objects people are now expected to transport from home to work and then back again, the type of bag one uses can make all the difference. A bag ill-equipped for the job can make that morning commute all the more hellish, whether it’s by losing your earbuds in a black hole of disorganization or, worse, your bag breaking completely. But, we are vain creatures, and while ideally, we want something functional, we often favor aesthetics over practicality. Who cares if it gives us back problems as long as it’s a nice-looking bag?
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Yet the market for bags both handsome and functional isn’t as slim as you might think. Brands are catching onto the idea that people can simultaneously want both (what a concept). But with more options comes more difficulty in finding the bag that is just right for you. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to narrow down the selection to 20 work bags, broken up into four categories: Totes, messengers, backpacks and briefcases. If you’re a devoted tote carrier, maybe it’s time to retire that New Yorker tote that’s seen better days for something a little more durable. Or, branch out and try a completely new style. Either way, there’s bound to be a bag for everyone.
The Best Tote Bags for Men
Tote culture has taken off in recent years thanks to the proliferation of publications offering them alongside subscriptions. While those flimsy canvas totes alert strangers to just how cultured and well-read you are, they do little in the way of providing support. When it comes to a tote, especially a work tote, you want something sturdy. It’s a type of bag that doesn’t allow for much organization, save for an interior pocket or two, so if you don’t carry much or you’re the kind of person who throws in their shit and goes, you’re well matched for a tote. Also: it’s 2023, if you’re hesitant to carry a tote for fear of it reading as too feminine, don’t be. Trust us, no one’s going to think you’re carrying a purse (and if they do just let them know that handbags are all the rage).
L.L.Bean Boat and Tote
Incorporate a bit of the beach into your work life with L.L.Bean’s iconic Boat and Tote, available in a variety of sizes and colors. If you do opt for this one, be sure to go the extra step and have it monogrammed, so there’s no mistaking it’s yours.
Filson Rugged Twill Tote Bag
This tote has ‘rugged’ in the name, so you know it’s appropriate for even the manliest of men to carry.
Away The Longitude Tote
Maybe your work requires a lot of traveling, so you need a tote equipped to take you from the office to the airport and everywhere in between. If that’s the case, consider The Longitude Tote from Away, big enough to carry a 13″ laptop and a backup outfit. Plus the bag comes with a removable strap that easily attaches to any Away suitcase, ideal for when you need to make a mad dash through the airport.
Noah Multi-Pocket Tote
This 100% cotton canvas tote from Noah has not one but two side pockets, perfect for stowing your essentials and keeping them readily available at a moment’s notice.
Stutterheim Stocksund Bag
As mentioned above, traditional tote bags aren’t exactly known for their durability. But this highly technical number from Stutterheim, the brand renowned for its rain jackets, proves capable of enduring the elements and keeping your precious belongings safe (and dry) from any inclement weather, thanks to its 100% waterproof, heavyweight 1200-gram body and secure magnetic metal snap button.
Marni ‘Tribeca’ Shopping Bag
Made from PVC-coated canvas, you won’t have to worry about being too precious with Marni’s Tribeca bag, despite how expensive and luxe it might look (and in fact is).
The Best Messenger Bags for Men
For the person who needs something that will provide a little more organization, look no further than the messenger bag. If you need each and every object you carry with you to have its designated place, a messenger will make sure things stay tidy and accounted for. Out of all the options listed, it’s probably the most commuter-friendly bag, especially if you’re constantly taking public transportation. The single shoulder strap means you can just sling it across your chest to keep out of the way of other passengers.
Coach Hudson Messenger
Sleek, sophisticated and compact — it doesn’t get any better than Coach’s Hudson Messenger (especially at 60% off).
Acne Studios Black Large Messenger Bag
If your preferred aesthetic is an extremely chic Swedish bike messenger, look no further than Acne Studio’s durable messenger bag, featuring functional yet snazzy accents like a vinyl ID pocket and D-ring for affixing keys and other necessities.
Nisolo Loreto Messenger Bag
For those looking for a messenger that isn’t as sporty as nylon iterations yet not so sophisticated as a leather option, Nisolo’s Loreto Messenger Bag crafted from waxed canvas strikes a happy balance, classic in appearance yet still allowing you to be a little rough with it.
Bellroy System Messenger Bag
Need optimum organization? Bellroy’s System Messenger Bag is the HBIC. (Head bag in charge.) The water-resistant pack is loaded with features, including shoe and water bottle holders, plenty of internal pockets, a padded shoulder strap and a luggage slip.
Polo Ralph Lauren Heritage Leather Messenger Bag
Take your messenger bag game to the next level with this leather beauty from Polo Ralph Lauren. Crafted from rich full-grain leather, the bag is just as functional as it is appealing to look at, offering a spacious interior that’s lined with a tartan pattern for that extra preppy Polo touch.
The Best Backpacks for Men
Unfortunately, some of us are burdened with having to carry more than others. If that’s the case for you, you need something a little more heavy-duty like a backpack. But that doesn’t mean your only options are some overly technical, burdensome hiking backpack — there are plenty of ‘packs that are both sleek and roomy. Plus, they’ll work for a number of other needs, like a carry-on or if you’re going on a weekend getaway but don’t need to bring much with you. And what better way to connect with your youthful side than a good ol’ knapsack? You’ll feel just like a schoolboy again. Rest assured, you’ll look very much like an adult though.
Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack
Featuring a sizeable 15″ exterior laptop compartment (also handy for easy TSA access), a handful of exterior and interior pockets, plus a sturdy 100% recycled polyester body, this Everlane backpack is a highly functional, no-brainer pick that also doubles as a solid travel backpack.
Rains MSN Bag
For those looking to avoid resembling a prepubescent high schooler struggling to tote around a cumbersome load, opt for a compact style of backpack like Rains MSN Bag that still allows for plenty of room (and includes an interior compartment for housing your laptop) but will force you to edit down your daily carry, which is admittedly for the best.
Osprey Arcane Large Day
Featuring a large J-zip front panel, a spacious main compartment with a built-in laptop sleeve and a convenient water bottle pocket, this offering from Osprey is minimalist in design, but functional and versatile, as well.
Arlo Skye The Backpack
The Backpack from travel brand Arlo Skye has a water-resistant exterior, a padded laptop compartment and two RFID-lined slip pockets to keep credit cards and passports safe from electronic pickpocketing. How impressively high-tech!
Boarding Pass Metro Backpack
If you really struggle to stay organized, allow Boarding Pass’s Metro Backpack to rectify your bad habits with its compartmentalized interior that forces everything to neatly stay in its place.
The Best Briefcases for Men
A true briefcase is difficult to carry daily unless you’re extremely minimal when it comes to what you bring with you to work, but they’ll make a great impression in a meeting and show that you mean business. Plus, you don’t have to go the old-school hard leather route — there are plenty of new iterations that in no way resemble your dad’s briefcase from the 80s.
Topo Designs Commuter Briefcase
Go the untraditional route with this Commuter Briefcase from outdoor-focused brand Topo Designs. As the name would suggest, this briefcase is designed specifically with commuters in mind and even converts into a backpack for those days when your load is heavier than usual.
Eastpak Acton CNNCT
Keep it understated and discreet with this polyester briefcase from Eastpak that features fleece-lined interior sleeves to keep your tech protected.
Lacoste Unisex Classic Petit Piqué Computer Bag
Lacoste brings their iconic petit piqué (in PVC) to this computer bag which features a handy adjustable shoulder strap so it can double as a messenger bag when necessary.
Land’s End Waxed Canvas Laptop Briefcase
Who says a briefcase has to be strictly business? Lands’ End’s Waxed Canvas Laptop Briefcase proves that the silhouette has evolved from the bulky pleather versions of the ’80s to ones that appeal to those with a more rugged sartorial sensibility.
Smythson Slim Briefcase with Zip Front
Maybe you have a big work anniversary coming up, earned a handsome raise or just want to treat yourself to a damn nice work bag. Whatever the case, splurge on Smython’s Ludlow Slim Briefcase made from grained calf leather and consider it the only work bag you’ll ever need from now until retirement.
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