The 8 Best Leather Briefcases
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in May of 2016. Looking for something a little more elegant and professional than a backpack to tote all your gear? Whether you're commuting to the office, going to school or taking a business trip, one of these leather briefcases should fit the bill. Available in attache, messenger and traditional styles, they provide enough room to hold papers, files, books, laptops, pens and usually a few personal items, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 23, 2021:
Sadly, an ultra-premium option from Saddleback and one of our favorites from Samsonite are both extremely hard to find right now, so they're no longer on our list. Today's only newcomer is the Kenneth Cole Reaction Risky Business, which is a compact, no-nonsense laptop bag with just enough space for the documents you'll need during the day. The Ladderback Logan is another great small option, and the Texbo Genuine remains our favorite for those who need a whole bunch of room.
April 08, 2020:
We removed several items from the list, three due to a lack of availability: the PeaceChaos Tote, Time Resistance Messenger, and Banuce Italian. We also eliminated the Alpine Swiss Expandable, noting significant durability concerns and a defective locking mechanism.
Some models offer special characteristics that distinguish them from the traditional briefcase style. The Saddleback Classic and Polare Satchel, for example, can of course both be carried like a standard case, but they can also be configured to wear crossbody-style or as a backpack. In addition, a special strap on the back of the Texbo Genuine allows you to easily attach it to a piece of rolling luggage. Several options have special compartments for storing items like tablets and clothing.
You may notice that your briefcase has a strong scent when it arrives. This is normal for a product made with real leather. If you’re not among those who enjoy that smell, you’ll be happy to learn that it should dissipate with time. You can also turn to various strategies for removing the smell, such as packing the briefcase in newspaper or wiping it down with a vinegar solution.
LederMann Bags This range of moderately priced briefcases consists of several styles, each available in brown or black. A couple are designed specifically for toting laptops, while the slim model looks a bit more formal without the added capacity. They all offer multiple pockets and a padded shoulder strap. ledermannleather.com
Pad & Quill Luxury Each briefcase from Pad & Quill — a family business that values high-quality materials and expert craftsmanship — is hand signed by the artisan who built it. The interior consists of five pockets and two dividers, while its outer surface features two quick-access compartments and polished nickel hardware. padandquill.com
Versatility Meets Function
Regardless of the application or profession, the leather briefcase is a perfectly suitable storage companion for many situations.
The briefcase conjures up a variety of images in the human mind. One such image could be a scholarly, scruffy, rugged, and brave archaeologist, professor, and action hero searching for lost civilizations and saving the world. Another is a medical doctor in need of a place to keep his stethoscopes or a frequent traveler requiring a resource to protect and store his business documents. Regardless of the application or profession, the leather briefcase is a perfectly suitable storage companion for many situations.
Typically equipped with a handle, the briefcase is defined as a narrow, hard-sided, box-shaped bag or container normally used to store, organize, and carry papers from one place to another. While this is a basic definition, we know that a briefcase comes to have different functions depending on the person using it. As our list currently shows, the leather briefcase comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Three distinct styles of the leather briefcase include the traditional hard-sided, soft-sided, and attache case. The hard-sided variety evokes the image of a fancy lawyer on his way to the courthouse or the business professional walking on Wall Street. Characterized by a lightweight frame and carrying handle, the hard-sided leather briefcase features a series of internal dividers or pouches that keep sensitive documents neatly organized and easy to find. Though they don't have any shoulder straps, many hard-sided briefcases are equipped with combination locks, adding an extra layer of security for transporting a large number of documents with sensitive information.
Resembling a hard-sided briefcase, the attache case is significantly smaller, thinner, and more formal in appearance. Its interior is simpler in design and has fewer compartments, but it can be used in very much the same way.
Soft-sided leather briefcases are gaining quite a bit of popularity in both the casual and professional sense, as they lack rigid framing and open from the top, allowing for quick retrieval of paperwork and laptops when vertically oriented. Many soft-sided leather briefcases include the convenience of both handles and shoulder straps. Additionally, they can be folded down and tucked away when not in use. Although many soft briefcases have buckles to keep their contents from falling out, they don't always provide the same level of security or protection from impacts as a traditional hard leather briefcase.
Taking All The Variables Into Account
You should realize that like many red wines, quality leather improves with age. For that reason, if you're looking for something that will remain resilient in structure and fashionable for years to come, finding an option made with genuine full-grain leather will ensure it develops an attractive patina. Whether you go with a hard or soft-sided option, make sure that it's durable and that it smells real to your trained olfactory senses. Yes, you heard that right! It is okay to smell that briefcase. I know that it might sound strange to imagine yourself standing in the middle of a department store with your nose pressed up against an item on display, but you should understand that genuine leather has a distinct odor that cannot be replicated by its synthetic counterparts. Taking a whiff of that new leather briefcase will give you a good idea of its authenticity. But I wouldn't recommend taking a taste, as that could make the store detective your new best friend.
Whether you go with a hard or soft-sided option, make sure that it's durable and that it smells real to your trained olfactory senses.
Consider your occupation, what you'll be using the briefcase for, and how often you'll need to travel with it. This will usually dictate the best option for your needs. For example, if you're a high-powered attorney or tax professional, something discreet and secure is a great idea (i.e. an attache or hard-sided option). Always pay attention to the hardware by feeling the handle, shoulder straps, buckles, locks, zippers, metallic rings, and anything else on the case that is likely to wear out over time.
Make note of the number of available storage compartments inside your briefcase of choice. If you plan to present a lot of documents in court, it's always a good idea to choose an option with plenty of pouches, so you can keep your materials organized and available for quick access.
When your fashion sense and working environment come into play, consider your available color options. Many leather briefcases come in either black, brown, or tan.
A Brief History Of Leather Briefcases
The earliest briefcase-like bag dates as far back as the 1st through 3rd centuries C.E., and was known as the Roman loculus. Made from a single goat or calf leather hide and offering an envelope-like design, the loculus was used by Roman legionaires and was typically reinforced with diagonal straps that met in the center with a bronze ring. Its original purpose was to store food and other personal effects for members of the army.
The earliest briefcase-like bag dates as far back as the 1st through 3rd centuries C.E., and was known as the Roman loculus.
While its overall function didn't change much in the centuries that followed, the concept of the "man bag" remained a strong influence right up through the 16th century. Prolific writer William Shakespeare provided insight into the steady popularity of the rudimentary satchel as a means for storage in his 1599 work As You Like It.
With the innovation of pockets being sewn into most clothing by the 17th century, the satchel became more synonymous with women's fashion and the elite.
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century saw the use of new materials for construction purposes, including iron and steel, mobilizing human society with an ability to travel farther than ever before, creating a growing need for bags and briefcases that could withstand heavy use.
Fast forward to the 1950s and 1960s, and we find the briefcase becoming a staple accessory for anyone from the government worker to the budding entrepreneur. By the 1980s, designer labels reigned supreme with companies like Prada and Gucci releasing sleek and refined leather bags and briefcases.
In today's market, both soft and hard black leather briefcases have become potent symbols of power, sophistication, and success.