Can you remember your first briefcase? I can remember mine quite clearly. It was a brown, faux-leather, box-shaped affair that looked like a prop from Wall Street. Being nine years old and in my “executive” phase at the time, I thought it was a vitally important accessory for any businessman worth his salt. I spent many a happy hour trundling about the house with it, filling it with “confidential” documents and generally being a nuisance. A few months after I got it my interest turned to other things – like football and melting stuff – and the briefcase was relegated to the back of a cupboard.
By the time I began my first full-time office job my childhood briefcase was but a distant memory, but it had left me with one conviction: that sports backpacks were not the right sort of bags for the office. Unsurprisingly, many of my co-workers disagreed. These white-collar ramblers didn’t go to the gym, nor did they take mountains of work home with them. The main reason they used backpacks was because they hadn’t given “proper” bags much thought, and even when they did they tended to dismiss them with a pithy comment, like “What’s the point? It’ll only get ruined, or someone’ll steal it.” While this kind of logic could apply to anything (”A suit? Nah…”), buying a decent bag remained, in their eyes, a waste of money.
The office backpack is, sadly, something we will have to live with for the foreseeable future. They’ve infected most workplaces like a polyester plague. This is a great shame. Backpacks destroy the gravitas that a smart outfit provides, and while clothes and accessories no longer proclaim the man as they once did, they still have a profound effect on his public image. Imagine George Osborne arriving at the door of Number Ten to deliver this year’s budget. He gets out of his diplomatic car and, jaw set determinedly, strides over to face the cameras. He solemnly raises his right hand, the hand that holds the future of government spending for the next twelve months, to display a battered backpack with the Tipp-Exed initials “G.O.” flaking off the side.
The chances are that on most days you only really need to bring a few essentials to the office: a book or newspaper (for the commute), wallet, phone, keys, pen, notebook and music player. All of these could easily fit into a slim leather briefcase or satchel. And even if you have to take work home with you, you don’t have to carry it in an enormous backpack. Instead, invest in a robust vintage briefcase that is big enough to hold a laptop. The one above – found on eBay – looks great, and still has many years of use left in it.
Or, you could search for a new briefcase as I have begun. At present I’m using a black nylon Porter briefcase. It’s lasted a good six years but is getting increasingly tatty around the edges. My next one should be leather, dark brown in colour and able to put up with at least ten years’ worth of daily use. Something like Mulberry’s Heathcliffe (pictured here) would be ideal.