Ditch the Backpack: You’re Not in High School Anymore

By Mash Neidich

When I was 7, I had an awesome backpack. It was red and blue, had pictures of Aladdin, the Genie, and other characters on it. It even had a golden plastic lamp on the back you could rub. Nothing came out, but still, it was awesome.

As you might expect, I didn’t keep it for long. By the time I reached 5th grade, I no longer used the backpack because it wasn’t age appropriate. (Ok, fine. It was 9th grade.) And if you are reaching the end of your college career, or have entered the professional world, few backpacks are going to cut the mustard anymore. It’s time to switch to something more mature. Luckily, there are a lot of great options out there. A briefcase, messenger, or tasteful backpack will help you give the impression of maturity, instead of reminding your boss and clients of their kids boarding the bus on their way to kindergarten.

Saddleback Leather briefcase

Top of the line

Whether you show up to work every day in a suit and tie, jeans and a button down, 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: Saddleback has a 100 year warranty. Top that off with premium full grain leather and quality construction, and you have yourself a bag that will last a lifetime or longer, and look better the longer you use it. From their Satchel to their many briefcases, these bags are beautifully constructed and functional.

Will Leather Goods bag

Another premium brand, Will Leather Goods, has a few excellent options to fit your needs. While Saddleback sticks to Leather, Will Leather Goods also offers bags with a nice balance between high quality leather and canvas. These bags, like the hopper messenger, are a bit less expensive than the all-leather Saddleback, with the price mostly attributable to the change in materials and sourcing. Nevertheless, Will Leather Goods makes a couple of men’s bags that may fit your style and budget a bit better than Saddleback.

Less expensive, but will certainly work

If $300 is not a good starting budget for you, something a little cheaper could suit your needs—At least temporarily. I owned two Timbuk2 bags as an Undergraduate and they are certainly made to last: I still take them hiking and biking from time to time. With off-the-shelf options starting at $79 for ballistic Kevlar constructed bags, a custom design option starting around $150, and leather trim canvas bags closer to $250, Timbuk2 is certainly worth a look for a wide range of budgets. The bags do end up a little dingy with daily use, after two or three years. And they may not be appropriate for all careers. They are biking bags: If your commute involves a bicycle, this may be the category for you. But if you are a broker trying to make it to the boardroom, don’t be surprised if the higher-ups hold your taste against you with one of these. Another strong contender is the Knomo laptop briefcase, which marries canvas and leather without breaking the bank.

Knomo briefcase

But if now is not the time to invest in a quality bag leather or canvas bag that will last a lifetime, and you feel the need to replace your Disney bag with something a bit more professional, there are plenty of options on websites like Ebags. For the short-term, an $80 leather bag can look professional, work great, and serve to tide you over until you can afford a better quality, life-long replacement.

Collection of bags

One thing to bear in mind while investigating cheaper leather options is material. Low cost, full grain leathers are often not tanned all the way through, and “Genuine Leather” is actually barely leather at all. So don’t be too surprised if that $80 leather bag ends up falling apart in three or four years.

Aurora laptop sleeves

For those who prefer to keep it light

If the only thing you carry with you to and from work or class is a laptop, the Aurora by Olson Kickstarter bag may be right up your alley. In an increasingly mobile world, options like the Aurora minimize storage space to what you really need, whereas the other options presented here are for a more traditional approach to a commuter’s payload. But then again, they are also made to last longer than your computer—and who’s to say how big the next one will be. The Aurora is still available at Crowd Supply.

So what’s it going to be?

Shop around. Learn your options. And carry your business in something that looks right for the part. Good hunting.


“Mash” Neidich is a guest blogger from Wefty + Mash, a blog focused on things that get better with time. Mash blogs as a hobby, in addition to being a Doctoral Student studying Biochemistry. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, & Google+