Briefcase vs Messenger Bag – When to Use Which

Just as in any social situation, first impressions in business count. Even something as seemingly subtle as opting for a briefcase over a messenger bag to attend an interview or a meeting with a prospective client, could be the difference between landing you the job of your dreams or that elusive, lucrative business deal.

Paying close attention to detail can tilt the balance in your favor. So here’s our guide to the differences between the two to brief you on whether the briefcase is your best bet or if the message is clear - the messenger bag is the accessory for this particular encounter.

The Briefcase

The briefcase, now synonymous with sophistication, developed into the stylish carrier it is today, from humble beginnings. In the fourteenth century, its flimsy predecessor was used to carry money and valuables by all and sundry. It was then revamped and became the essential hold-all in which lawyers placed their all-important briefs for court, and the rest is history - a sturdy stasher that embodies class. It is seen as the essential accompaniment for professionals and the big players in the business world.

briefcase vs messenger bag

With this in mind, if your career is associated within the realm of the executive, then the briefcase is just the job – the document holder that exudes elegance, style, and confidence.

Characteristics of the Briefcase:

The briefcase has three main styles. These are:

  • the portfolio – a handleless case;
  • the folio – a portfolio case but with the added convenience of a retractable handle;
  • the attaché case – the choice of the diplomat in days gone by, hence the name, that opens on hinges.

In accordance with these styles, they are mainly designed to be hand-held or carried underarm – although some can be worn over the shoulder or across the body.

It also tends to be available in three colors – black, brown and tan.

The case is rigid due to its framework design, which means it doesn’t sag or fall over when placed on both floor and desk alike.

They have an organized inner structure that usually contains two or more separate compartments, of which now some include zipped or sealable, hidden pockets.

The material of choice is strictly leather or a slick equivalent, and it’s this, and these other features give the briefcase its stylish reputation.

As a general rule, match a suit or executive dress with a briefcase. You’d be hard-pressed to find a messenger bag that gives off the pristine impression of class and organization that the briefcase does. What’s more, we’ve all had to readjust a suit jacket, or even a sweater due to an inflexible strap in the past and a creased suit doesn’t fit the dress to impress mantra.

Do check out our guide on selecting the best briefcase if you are thinking of getting one!

The Messenger Bag

Similar to the briefcase, the messenger bag got its name from those who wore and used it first – delivery staff such as postal staff and the bike messenger. Gradually, it moved into other spheres of life where practicality is more important than professional image – schools, colleges, universities and casual, relaxed or creative-industry offices.

While messenger bags are predominantly seen as a more casual alternative to their more formal counterpart, some are designed for smartly-dressed situations.

Characteristics of the Messenger Bag:

The messenger bag comes in many styles and sizes nowadays but is known for its large, front-opening flap and long shoulder strap that means the bag can be worn both on the shoulder and across the body.

It comes in a variety of colors and can even be subtly patterned – chances are you name it, you’ll find it.

The bag is flexible and floppy due to its lack of frame and lighter material.

There are usually fewer compartments than what you’d find in a briefcase and a lot less structure to its inner layout.

They can be made from a variety of materials and fabric which vary in texture, durability, and softness.

If you work in a role that doesn’t require you to be suited and booted daily and in which your shoes couldn’t be used as an emergency mirror, then the chances are it’s the messenger bag that should fit your day-to-day routine and meeting schedule.

Despite the fact that messenger bags are generally less formal than their slightly stuffier cousin, the degree of their slickness and casualness can vary, and leather models are available for your more formal occasion. Having said that, the sportier designs would be put to better use on the running track rather than on the office run. Overall, the messenger bags are a no-no for coupling with a suit.

So there you have it – the briefcase vs messenger bag dilemma solved!

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