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Briefcase VS Messenger Bag – The Differences

That’s not a briefcase, this is a briefcase! Many people mistake messenger bags for briefcases, so in this article, I’ll be explaining the main differences between the two.

You don’t want to make the mistake of giving the wrong impression based on your choice of carrier. This can influence the determining factor of whether you get a certain job position, or close a business deal.

Notable Features Of A Briefcase

Ever since 1850, the invention of the rectangular briefcase as we know today, the briefcase has been associated with business, professionals and wealth. It still holds those same values to this day.

So if your occupation requires that you look like an executive,  a man of power and wealth, or perhaps you just want to project that image, get an elegant briefcase.

Maxwell Scott briefcase for men

A briefcase represents professionalism and prosperity.

Here are some of its most distinct characteristics:

  • Normally held under warm, held with one hand or worn over one shoulder, though it can be worn across the body.
  • Will usually come in only three colors, albeit with different shades – Black, brown and tan.
  • There are usually more compartments with an organized structure.
  • The body frame is solid and doesn’t sag, which allows it to sit up straight when placed on the floor or a desk.
  • Generally seen as being more stylish.

My rule of thumb is that if you have to wear a suit, you have to wear a briefcase. It’s difficult to find a messenger bag that will go with a suit, and if you were to wear the shoulder strap across your body, it can cause damage to your suit.

Notable Features Of A Messenger Bag

Traditionally, a messenger bag was worn by postmen and bicycle messengers, but overtime, many more people began wearing it to schools, colleges, casual offices and pretty much anywhere that an individual doesn’t have to uphold a professional image.

Casual and formal messenger bags

Messenger bags are usually casual, but certain styles are designed for formal use.

Here are some of its most distinct characteristics:

  • Usually worn across the body via a shoulder strap.
  • The construction material is more varied when it comes to texture, softness, durability etc.
  • Has a signature large front flap.
  • Doesn’t have a solid frame and remains floppy.
  • There are usually less compartments, and often less structured than a briefcase.
  • Many more different styles and colors.

Your job may not require you to dress up everyday, therefore, a messenger bag would be suitable for these occasions. It’s also possible to get messenger bags (usually leather models) that look similar to briefcases, since it has that professional appeal about it (click here to see some examples).

In any case, if you’re wearing jeans and a shirt, or anything informal, then a messenger bag would be ideal. However, it’s probably not a good idea to wear a sports type messenger bag to the office. You can read more about messenger bags here.



Written by Julian Walters

Head Editor of BestMensBriefcases.com. I'm obsessed over things that keep me organized, especially briefcases. My favorite movies are The Godfather I & II. I love Progressive House music, and my favorite food is steak.

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