The 5 Stylish Work Bags You Need to Buy

It was 1999. Joey was in need of a sophisticated, professional bag for an audition, so his gal-pal Rachel selected a clean black version with a short shoulder strap and tuck-lock closure. And lo, Joey carried that “man purse” everywhere. “At first, I thought it just looked good, but it’s practical too,” Joey defends. “Check it out! It’s got compartments for all your stuff! Your wallet! Your keys! Your address book!” Yes, we’re referring to the hit sitcom Friends.

Laugh all you want, but the goof-ball character has a point. Whether you’re lugging around your laptop to and from work or heading on a business trip, a sturdy business bag reads more sophisticated and professional than a backpack or that free messenger bag you scored in college. But with a bevy of materials, colors, and silhouettes to choose from (let alone the array of price points), finding the perfect briefcase for you is no easy feat. Allow us to ease this fashion woe – read on for five styles every working guy should check out.

1. Basic black leather

Source: Neiman Marcus

Source: Neiman Marcus

Consider a basic black leather version the meat and potatoes of men’s work bags. While black briefcases are never reinventing the sartorial wheel, they are that rare piece that you won’t feel (too) guilty about splurging on because you’ll have it forever. And the unparalleled quality will fit right in at an investment bank or big-time law firm. When it comes to selecting a black leather bag, a clean silhouette and minimal hardware are key. After all, a bag that’s adorned with loads of studs, zippers, and locks can cheapen the overall look.

Think a basic black bag is a little ho-hum? Opt for an accessory in a luxurious skin. Michael Kors’s crocodile-embossed option, for example, upgrades the otherwise minimal silhouette. Like the idea of a basic black bag but are against sporting animal skins? Try this microfiber pick from Target. Not only is it made of faux leather, which will appeal to your inner animal lover, the slick silhouette provides a great way to look boardroom ready without breaking the bank.

2. Casual with canvas

Screen shot 2015-10-06 at 11.03.58 PM

Source: Mr Porter

If we were to envision what a self-starter would wear to work, he’d sport a canvas bag every day. Don’t be fooled: This option is nothing like the those canvas bags that you use for your groceries. Made of a cloth that isn’t prone to scratches like some of its more expensive counterparts, the canvas bag can easily double as an overnight bag. Or, if Mother Nature is calling you this fall, it could be equally suitable for a short, outdoorsy trip. But even if you’re more of an office guy, mixing this versatile fabric with a structured shape keeps this style professional and creative — perfect for that budding entrepreneur.

While we love this Marc by Marc Jacobs for its cool green hue and sharp leather details, a zesty color may not be appropriate for your office. Before your pick up a canvas bag, think about your work environment. If you sport a button-down and pair of chinos to work, choose a bag that features a subtle shade like this black canvas pick from Rag & Bone. Does your office attire consist of a flannel, jeans, and a pair of desert boots? Then you have the green light (pun totally intended).

3. Dual tone

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Source: Macy’s

Why choose one color when you can (carefully) select two? From clever accents to an eye-catching shoulder strap, a two-toned briefcase is a great way to add some extra dimension to your work wear without feeling like you’re carrying around a childhood parachute. You know, the overwhelmingly bright ones that boast (almost) every color of the rainbow? Most of the time, bags that feature two colors also have mélange of textures: While the strap or top handle is a sturdy leather or nylon, the accessory’s body tends to be a tactile wool or suede. Translation? The mix of fabrics is effortless, but totally chic. When it comes to selecting a two-toned bag, proceed on the air of caution.

Sure, a cherry red and navy cross-body seems fetching, but it’s not going to mesh well with a lot of your brown and grey suits. If you’re using this piece to accessorize your daily office garb, opt for neutral hues instead. For example, this Jack Spade bag is the perfect blend of business and pleasure. While the dual-tone color palette and water-resistant fabric point toward a career that allows more casual attire such as journalism or tech, the boxy silhouette keeps this sharp, stylish, and professional. As an added bonus, the exterior zip pocket is perfect for stowing those daily essentials.

4. Plaid

Screen shot 2015-10-06 at 11.28.18 PM

Source: Nordstrom

Getting dressed for work can be such a drag sometimes, right? Instead of experimenting with that new crop of patterns you picked up for the fall, you’re stuck wearing a solid dress shirt and chinos. Attention all print lovers: you’ve scrolled to the right place. Polka dots and stripes may read too kitschy for a business-friendly bag, so try your luck with a man purse of the plaid variety. The heritage print breathes some life into your work accessories but won’t be deemed “untrendy” in a matter of months. And its scholarly vibe is perfect for a professor or literary agent.

If you’re looking for a stylish printed bag for an affordable price, this Ted Baker pick fits the bill. While messenger bags (like this pick) are known for being saggy and adorned with a front-flap, the structured shape and faux leather detailing pays homage to the brands British roots while keeping the overall look similar to a traditional briefcase. And that navy color palette provides a subtle jolt of energy for your office attire. But be warned, dear reader, stick with those solids when toting around this bag.

5. Colorful leather

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Source: Brooks Brothers

As we wrap up our list of must-own man purses, you may find yourself at sartorial crossroads. While you may not be ready to experiment with plaids and two-toned versions, your job is too corporate for a canvas pick. But what’s a guy to do if he’s looking for more of a fashion challenge than a black leather bag? Cue colorful leather, the former’s hip cousin. Just like a trusty black leather bag, the objective here is to find a clean, high-quality piece that is worth investing in (and it’s appropriate for those high-brow boardroom settings); however, a selection of fun colors gives what may look stogy to some a youthful, modern twist. But before you go ahead and start Googling “bright blue leather briefcase,” do us a favor: don’t.

Sure, an unconventionally-hued bag may grant you attention from onlookers and street style photographers alike, but remember that this piece costs a pretty penny. That’s right, genuine leather will set you back hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Instead, opt for an unexpected color that isn’t going to go out of style anytime soon. For example, this burgundy pick from Brooks Brothers is classic in shape and hardware, yet the color will create a subtle pop of color against your outfit. And if you’re looking for a colorful, yet animal-friendly pick, this tan iteration from Amerileather is cruelty free and will brighten up your ensemble.

Follow Kelsey on Twitter @KMulvs

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