I carry a briefcase, more properly an attaché. It’s nothing fancy; not nearly as cool as the Dunhill 1973 Attaché Briefcase that Robert De Niro carried in The Intern, but the function is the same.
Briefcases used to be a common accessory for business people and professionals. The reason was simple. They had important papers to carry around — contracts, reports, projects, and the like. My dad had a hard-sided Samsonite with the most solid latches I have ever seen.
Why have briefcases become rare in recent years? The answer is simple: the laptop computer. Laptops get their own bags, often soft-sided, and most of the documents professionals used to carry now reside on the hard drive.
I received a messenger bag as a gift in college that I used until it completely wore out. Most messenger bags, however, aren’t structured enough. I regularly carry around books, and books last longer in an attaché than they do in a bag. Also, most attachés have a compartment or two for file folders, which fits my workflow well.
Since my college messenger bag died, I have had a couple of backpacks and another messenger-type bag, but none of them were completely satisfactory. The backpacks carry more, but papers don’t do well unless they are in something rigid. It can be nice to be able to carry lunch with everything else, but then there is a risk of leaks.
For me, the briefcase isn’t a fashion statement or my idea of being hipster. It’s about function. I choose to work with paper as much as possible and paper — loose sheets, a journal, a book — lives happier in luggage designed for it. Most laptop bags can hold a file folder or two just fine, but that is about it. They are not made for books to tag along, especially not an Oxford Annotated Bible. It’s a hefty tome, but it is worth it to me to have it on hand for sermon prep and reference.
My attaché is not that difficult to carry. Yes, it can get a bit heavy when I really load it up, but I can set it down anywhere and it will stand by my side like a well trained German Shepherd. Bags tend to slump like exhausted toddlers or completely lay down, shifting their contents and as they do so.
A hard-sided briefcase can also double as a work surface in a pinch. Sitting in an airport waiting area, for example. Break out your paper and pen and get to work. It’s not ideal since the side of a briefcase isn’t really big enough for extended writing, but it’s better than trying to write without something underneath you.
In the couple years since my wife graciously suggested I buy a briefcase as we were out shopping one day, I have become a convert. Thinking about future technology purchases —someday this laptop will die — I first consider how it will fit in my briefcase. The computer, in this sense, has become the accessory. The insanely skinny Macbook Air may carry the day.