A Review of Saddleback Leather Company’s Thin Briefcase: A Businessman’s Toolbox

Getting your gear from A to B never looked so good.

A man takes great pride in his toolbox. This was true 100 years ago, and it's just as true today. A symbolic vessel bringing about improvement, to create something from nothing. Carrying a man's required tools for the day.

A man's tools help him become who he wants to be. Whether they're physical hand tools, a computer, or a master's in business administration, your tools are what help you achieve what you want in life.

And just as it's important to use the best tools, it's best to use the right toolbox.

Equally as masculine as a mechanic's toolbox is the businessman's equivalent: the briefcase.

As a kid I remember my idea of a grown man: suit, slick haircut, briefcase. The briefcase is so essential in a man's life, it is a stereotypical part of the costume. If you read Primer, then you know how important it is to carry your gear in the right bag. Doesn't improve your image of being inexperienced when you're carrying your bookbag from high school around with you at the office. You're a grown man now. You need your toolbox.

I wholeheartedly recommend Saddleback Leather Company's Thin Briefcase.

Before I go on, there are 3 things I wish I knew before I got it:

  1. I should have got it sooner
  2. I won't be disappointed at all
  3. This thing will take a beating and look better for it

I chose the large thin briefcase in chestnut leather. I opted for this size based on my laptop's dimensions. The large is 17″ long, big enough for my Macbook Pro and then some. (The medium is 15″ long) It's also a nice size for your body profile, not too big like some larger briefcases, and not so small that it looks like a satchel.

The briefcase has two large compartments, a collapsible small pocket perfect for your phone or external hard drive, and a back pocket to keep oft-used documents handy, or a magazine or two. Inside there are also two pouches for pens on each end. I use a neoprene laptop sleeve from Chrome when stowing my laptop, since the briefcase isn't padded on the inside.

Inside of Saddleback Leather Thin Briefcase

Saddleback's briefcase is built like a bomb shelter. It's made with large pieces of thick full-grain boot leather with only 3 major seams, and pigskin lining that is tougher than leather. The design features no breakable parts, has hidden nylon reinforcement straps at all stress points, and marine grade polyester thread to hold it all together.

And if for some reason your lifestyle is beyond all that armor, Saddleback has an awesome 100 year materials and workmanship warranty.

Here, watch a video of a Saddleback bag going head to head with a crocodile.

If you've never had a briefcase, it's understandable. Growing up, many of the briefcases we saw were pretty dressy. Why would we ever need to carry one? Your dad's accountant, he had a briefcase. You? You just need something to carry your shit in. And I get that, I was like that too.

One of the best parts of Saddleback's thin briefcase, beyond its ruggedness, is its multipurpose style. You'll look as great carrying it with your suit, as you will on the weekend in jeans. There's something about a simple brown leather bag that is acceptable to carry in almost every situation.

The functional design of this briefcase is also really versatile. It's got the best of both worlds: carry it like an attache case with the onboard handle, or use the included strap and haul it like a messenger bag. It also converts into a backpack in about 10 seconds, proving how many uses this bag will have in your life.

It is probably heavier than what you are used to carrying. Coming in at about 4 lbs, all the armor has its weight. However, after carrying it for about six weeks, the weight is not an issue for me. I've read about some folks who cite this as a concern, from my perspective I don't even notice. If you're carrying a laptop and some books around, you're already prepared for a haul.

saddleback leather thin briefcase

Saddleback's quality and warranty come at a price. At just over $400, you may think of this as an out-of-reach luxury item. Gosh, just a couple years ago you didn't know why you would need a briefcase, right? Don't look at this the same way you bought a new backpack every year in school. This is a one-time investment in a bag that will last you the rest of your life. When you're 80 and you go to drop off the draft of your will at your attorney's office, you'll be taking it in your Saddleback briefcase. Morbid? Maybe. But true.

Saddleback's slogan is pretty damn accurate: “They'll fight over it when you're dead.” If you buy one quality set of screwdrivers, you're set for life. No more buying screwdrivers. Same goes with a briefcase. Spend a little more once, and never worry about it again.

That man's toolbox a hundred years ago is something he took great pride in. If he had been using a Saddleback Leather Company briefcase he'd still be proud using it today. (And it would still be under warranty.)

Check out more on the Thin Briefcase.

How they hold up

Recently, Reddit user Hejog posted a review with some photos of his thin briefcase (in a different color) after 14 months of use. I think the marks give the bag a lot of character. More of his photos here. How awesome is this bag going to look in 10 years? Thanks Hejog!

UPDATE

A few readers have requested updated pictures to see how the bag is holding up. Besides some battle scars from use, it's in pristine condition  almost a year and a half later. As you can see, this is a beautiful bag that only gets better with use.

Click on each thumbnail for a full size image.

 

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

44 Comments

  • Reply August 24, 2011

    Jason

    Damn. That’s beautiful.

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    dovev

    even the croc want it. looks great and you can go to war with it…

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Patton

    Is the color on the website really that far off?

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Andrew

    Patton, Yeah I noticed that too. My photos are a good representation of the color.

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Joel

    That’s a great looking bag! Better start saving!

    Quick question: Did you buy the bag or did they give it to you? I feel like I’ve seen their ads on the site before and I was just wondering.

    • Reply August 25, 2011

      Andrew

      Hey Joel, I reached out to them about reviewing the bag. I’ve known of Saddleback for a couple years now, received some requests from readers about reviewing some briefcase options, and wanted to give the thin briefcase a test drive. That’s how about all reviews are done on Primer, I find something I think you guys would be interested in and reach out to the company. Saddleback doesn’t advertise with us, the banners you’re talking about were affiliate links. Our reviews and opinions can’t be bought, never have never will. If we believe something is a quality product, we mean it.

      Thanks for reading and for the question!

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Bruce Wheyn

    So need one of these in my life. Seeing a few briefcases recently really turning my head, luv them

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Andrew

    Bruce it’s awesome, I always feel so on top of things when I carry it. It is different than carrying a messenger bag. I can’t wait for it to get all beat up like the Reddit picture. So Indiana Jones.

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    Aydika James

    Sharp find! It’s hard to find a handsome leather case that doesn’t cause back issues — or compromise your look. LOVE the “Indiana Jones” style class. We’ll be sharing this recommendation with our clients — thanks Andrew!

    Aydika, Hendricks Park Style Expert
    http://www.hendrickspark.com/

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    John S.

    If I had read this review just a week earlier, I probably would have bought this. I recently came into about $450 that I decided would be spent (at least most of it) on a briefcase. I looked at this one kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to make the investment. I never pulled the trigger.

    Instead I bought a Filson Original Briefcase, a Saddleback Kindle pouch, and a Kindle to go in it.

    • Reply August 25, 2011

      Andrew

      Hey John,

      The Filson is a classic! I’ve never used one myself, but they are very well-respected. Sounds like you made out ok! Now if only I could figure out how to come into $450 like you did!

  • Reply August 25, 2011

    John S.

    Andrew,

    Have a birthday and college graduation right around the same time.

  • Reply August 27, 2011

    Daniel

    As a college student with a lot of bags/backpacks/messenger bags/ etc. I probably wouldn’t use it just yet, but I think I would completely love this once I enter the slightly more professional world.

  • Reply August 28, 2011

    Larissa

    Great briefcase! I’m gonna get one for my husband 🙂
    Thanks!

  • Reply August 29, 2011

    Grace Blando

    I really appreciate this businessman toolbox you have shared, I would like to buy this for my husband.

  • Reply August 30, 2011

    A Kang

    That is one GREAT looking bag! Price is a bit out of my range however =\

  • Reply October 19, 2011

    nick

    how do you think this bag would look while wearing black shoes and a darker suit?

  • Reply November 6, 2011

    Sugar

    Hey what is the height and weight of the man who is holding the briefcase in the first picture?

  • Reply November 6, 2011

    Andrew

    Hey I’m 5 foot 10 and 170 pounds

  • Reply January 22, 2012

    Walter

    I’m a tad late in responding to this thread but I must say this is a good review and had. I have been wanting for quite a while to purchase this exact bag. I’m torn as I do not wear suits to work. I mostly wear khakis, jeans and my trusty Barbour Bedale jacket with my Rew Wing 1907’s.
    I currently use a Filson 257 that has been my amazing goto bag the last 4 years but now i am looking for a cleaner looking bag. Do you think this bag would look great out of a suit? I was also looking into the Orvis Bullhide Briefcase to match my Orvis Bullhide weekend carry on but this saddleback is calling me and would go well with it.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Nick Vence

    I’ve been eyeing this for a while and when I finished my PhD, I got it as a graduation present for myself. I bought several styles from Saddleback and returned all but the Medium Thin Briefcase. It fits my 15″ laptop perfectly, and while I thought I wouldn’t have enough room for all my stuff, I found that I had been carrying around a bunch of junk that I never used.

    One problem was fishing for stuff at the bottom of the briefcase, so I asked my mom to make me some drawstring bags. Now I remove the bag pull out my USB drive and am in business.

    I feel like I’ve leveled up in life.

  • […] in, or you’re a San Francisco bike messenger.  On the other end are some awesome briefcases like Saddleback Leather or Filson, and are worth buying when, you know, you can spend a few hundred dollars on a […]

  • Reply June 19, 2012

    The Modest Man

    Sick! I like that it converts to a backpack for casual carrying. BTW is that an Indochino suit you’re wearing in those photos?

    -TMM

  • Reply July 10, 2012

    Walter

    Any chance you could do an update piece on your bag to see how’s it holding up

    • Reply December 27, 2012

      Andrew

      Hey Walter,

      I just added some updated photos.

  • Reply July 22, 2012

    Ian

    Indeed. Please update us – I have a birthday coming up.

    Thanks.

  • Reply October 7, 2012

    Nicholas Gomez

    What’s the colour of the briefcase shown here?

  • Reply December 8, 2012

    Chris

    I am personally a fan of the tough rugged man bag look. I have one myself but it is not a saddleback bag. I had bought mine from a site called VagabondTraveler.com, they’re just as nice. I live in Florida but I don’t think that I will be testing out my bag this way, haha. I love how man bags are starting to look more like man bags, and are not all dolled up with million dollar price tags and anorexic male models. I want a bag that says “I’m a man” not “wheres my eye liner??”

    • Reply December 19, 2012

      Ruben

      Andrew,

      Any chance of an update on how the bag is holding up? Really great looking back. Also, any reason why you opted for the thin version as opposed to the classic version? Thanks.

      • Reply December 27, 2012

        Andrew

        Hey Ruben,

        I’ve just updated the article with some current photos to see how it wears.

        The thin briefcase is a more simple style, and a good bit thinner than the full-size briefcase.

  • […] a big fan of both the Saddleback Thin Briefcase and the Knomo briefcase, but those two are built to carry a lot of things. Great when I have a ton […]

  • Reply May 2, 2013

    Alex K.

    Hi Andrew, are those photos of the man holding the bag of you? Alternatively, do you know if those photos are of the large or medium size briefcase? I’m having difficulty deciding on sizing. I have a 13 inch laptop, but I imagine in the future I may upgrade to a 15 inch.

    • Reply May 8, 2013

      Andrew

      Hey Alex,

      Yep that’s me. I have the medium. It’s 15 inches. The large is 17 inches.

      • Reply May 28, 2013

        striklan

        Hi Andrew, I was scrolling through these 2 year old comments looking to see if this question was answered, found this, and now I’m confused – here, you said you have the medium, and in the review, you said: “I chose the large thin briefcase in chestnut leather. I opted for this size based on my laptop’s dimensions. The large is 17″ long, big enough for my Macbook Pro.” So, I’m wondering which of these is true – is it a medium or a large?

        • Reply May 29, 2013

          Andrew

          Crap, you’re right. I just measured it, it’s the large.

          • May 31, 2013

            striklan

            thank you!

  • Reply July 18, 2013

    Nick

    Hi Andrew,

    What shoes are you wearing in the top photo? Love how well they match the briefcase…

  • […] or just jeans and a six pack, you can’t go wrong with an all-leather bag. Premium bags like Saddleback will set you back a bit in the wallet, but are guaranteed to last a hundred years. No, really: […]

  • Reply January 2, 2014

    Chris Jones

    What shoes are you wearing in the first photo?

  • […] Jacket: Similar, $198, Shirt: Uniqlo, $30, Tie: TieBar, $15, Pants: Similar, $45, Shoes: Allen Edmonds, $385, Briefcase: Saddleback Leather, $461 […]

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