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A Leather Briefcase Guide from Personal Experience and Use

A leather briefcase can be a tasetful, classy, and functional addition to your set of daily-use accessories. I learned a lot about them while recently considering which to try for mixed work and travel use.

Leather briefcases are carrying devices, generally used to hold laptops, documents, clothing, and personal accessories. They vary in size, quality, material, color, durability, style, and price. Common sizes range from 14″ wide x 12″ high, to about 20″ wide x 15″ high, with varying thicknesses often from 2″ to 8″. Prices generally range from $25 to $1,000.

Personal style will influence many of the factors when deciding which briefcase is right for you. In this sponsored post with refined leather crafter Carl Friedrik, let’s explore the important elements to keep in mind when selecting a quality piece.

What is a Leather Briefcase?

A leather briefcase is a carrying device made, often in a rectangular form, used to protect and transport a range of items commonly including portfolios, papers, folders, documents, laptops, electonics, clothing, toiletries, and common personal accessories. Commonly, they are opened and closed using a zipper to securely hold in the contents while in transport and then easily access them for use.

Often they are associated with professional workers including attorneys, accountants, and business executives (those carrying lots of papers). Though with the evolution of the digital age and laptops and personal electronics being ubiquitous in the office across near-every industry, the leather briefcase has seen an increase in popularity.

Historically, briefcases were made of hard plastic, thin metal, or leather. Some were made of plastic or metal, and covered with a thin layer of leather. A favorite of mine, is a briefcase made fully of leather. They are light, stylish, and wear very well over time, often looking better with age and use.

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik in the Office - Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour in the Office

Internally, these cases might have a multitude of pockets, pouches, and dividers. More can be handy if you have lots to carry and want to reach them easily. One might also prefer a more minimalist internal design, with a singular large space. Overall sizes range from about 14″x12″x2″ to 20″x15″x8″, with prices ranging from $25-$1,000.

Let’s explore some of the options to consider when looking for a great one.

What to Look for in a Leather Briefcase?

Size

Generally, briefcases are designed to look compact and slim. A key element in this approach is the design of the interior, so check the inside dimensions and how it is configured. Consider what you need to carry in it first, then look for one that provides a good fit.

If looking to store your laptop as well as other business essentials, look for one with extra pockets and compartments (for accessories, chargers, cables). This will be a benefit when going to grab something quickly, rather than rummging around for something stuck under a pile of other items. A briefcase that is too large can be cumbersome and look out of place (while also being very heavy). One that fits tour body well, is light enough, and fits your key items will be an asset to be valued, while also looking great.

In general, a briefcase that is around 16″ x 14″ x 4″ is an average size that will be suitable for more uses. One can certainly go smaller, or larger, depending on needs and personal preference.

Leather Thickness

Quality, in most cases, will be of the utmost importance when you’re considering a leather briefcase. Is some situations maybe a cheaper case is just what’s needed – a synthetic leather that can get dinged, scratched, and dirty without much worry. In most cases, though, like a quality pair of shoes, a quality leather briefcase that’s cared for will perform well and look excellent for years.

Leather thickness will be a balance of factors. On one hand, a thicker leather will often be stronger and more durable. However, it will also be heavier. A thinner leather will be lighter, though more prone to nicks, and cuts. Quality bag makers usually do a fine job of pairing an appropriate leather with their bag design, to ensure it lasts for years while also being as light as possible – Carl Friedrik does this well by utilizing Italian Vachetta leather in many of their bag designs.

Thick Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Thick Leather Briefcase

Type of Leather

Often, a quality leather briefcase will be made from natural leather. There are some synthetic options which can be beneficial in some cases (lower cost, increased water resistance), though usually, a vegetable tanned natural leather will be best. This type of leather wears well, looks great over time, and can have a finish applied to make it more water resistant, if desired.

Weight

The weight of a leather briefcase is roughly proportional to its size; where larger bags are heavier. This is due to additional material, internal linings, more pockets, and larger and or longer hardware (buckles, zippers, clasps). Some popular briefcases, like the Palissy 25-hour large briefcase, include a shoulder strap. This can add some additional weight, while also allowing for additional comfort, as it can be carried over the shoulder rather than only carried by hand. In a way, this can make it feel lighter, since it also frees up your hands during travel.

The thickness of the leather is one factor that contributes to weight. While thinner leathers usually lead to lighter bags, if the leather is used as a covering over, say, a metal briefcase interior, the overall item might be heavier. As is with most accessories, lighter is usually better, as long as it fits and protects everything you need.

Color

Brown, black, tan, and navy are the most common briefcase colors. Those in very professional environments might opt for more conservative colors. Some briefcases include highlight color linings (brighter, livelier colors) to add some personality and pop and style to the look. Carl Friedrik is well-known for this subtle and stylish visual element.

Finish 

The finish applied to the surface of a briefcase can have a huge impact on its overall look and function. For example, some could be shiny, add water resistance, or even include textures or patterns. While surface textures are more common on synthetic leather products, some natural leather products can be tooled, and finished with antiqued stains to give it a unique visual appeal.

Warranty

Generally, manufacturers who provide a long warranty also build strong products they believe in, and you can rely on. For example, Carl Friedrik offers a lifetime warranty on their goods, and Saddleback Leather offers a 100 year warranty on their items. This is a sign of quality work and materials that should last very long with proper care; look for leather goods that carry a long warranty.

Buying a new $70 briefcase every 2 years could easily become more expensive than buying one $700 briefcase that lasts 40+ years (and likely longer).

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik on a Desk - Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour on the Desk – Has a Lifetime Warranty

Types of Leather Briefcases

This exists an endless array of different types of leather briefcases. Here are some insights into some of the more popular styles.

Men’s Leather Briefcase

Men’s leather briefcases usually feature a main compartment for laptops, files and documents, as well as smaller pockets for other business items; designed with simple and timeless elegance. Some can have rugged looks, bulkier in fittings, and come in darker colors. They can be made of full-grain or top-grain leather and have stylish exterior finishing.

Women’s Leather Briefcase

Leather briefcases for women are generally smaller in size and lighter in weight than their men’s counterparts. Inside, there are usually numerous pockets for women’s accessories as well as personal accessories for work and or travel, making them a convenient alternative to women’s handbags. Synthetic leather is popular as it’s more easily available in a wider array of colors, finishes, and textures.

Italian Leather Briefcase

The Italian briefcase market is full of stylish leather briefcases made of vegetable-tanned, full-grained, top-quality Italian leather. Many Italian leather briefcases are handcrafted using traditional methods, mastery in the designing of handmade leather briefcases coming from centuries-old traditions of making them.

Leather Briefcase with Monogram - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Briefcase with Monogram

Real Leather Briefcase

Real leather is a general term that can mainly be used to distinguish the leather used for a briefcase to be of natural leather fibers, and not synthetic or plastic leather. While the range of “real” leather can vary from genuine leather to bonded leather to top grain and full grain leather, generally, a real leather briefcase will look good and wear well over time.

Vintage Leather Briefcase

Vintage leather briefcases either are, or resembles old-fashioned briefcases, with features such a key lock and front buckle closures. The can be valued due to their quality, some nostalgia, their history, or just a preference for the look of an older piece, or the patina that develops on leather that has been used over time.

Laptop Leather Briefcase

A laptop leather briefcase has a small, elegant and minimalist outlook, and is specifically designed for laptops. You can carry it in your hand or hang it on your shoulder with the removable strap. Colors and materials vary, and it’s provides a stylish and convenient way to protect and carry laptops and digital devices.

Leather Briefcase Backpack

A leather briefcase backpack is a convertible item that can be worn like a regular backpack. It can also be worn on the shoulder or carried out in the hands, like a normal leather briefcase. It’s provides utility in its carrying style, thus making it appropriate for travel, casual environments, and professional environments too.

Slim Leather Briefcase

Thin leather briefcases are another option available that often carries less than larger briefcases, though are usually lighter and smaller than their larger counterparts. When designed well, they can still have roomy interior compartments, while offering a thin visual profiles that can be preferred for day-to-day use.

Soft Leather Briefcase

Soft leather offers a different feel than vegetable tanned leather. Softer leathers include chrome tanned leather, suedes, nubucks, and some synthetic leathers. They might require a little more maintenance and care than the vegetable tanned leather options, though they also offer a stunning look and feel that might be preferred.

Classic Leather Briefcase

Just like its name implies, the classic leather briefcase is designed for the classy business professional seeking to make a chic and sophisticated statement. Typically made with refined leather and the best finishes, the options are limitless.

Classic Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Classic Leather Briefcase

Laptop Leather Briefcase

Leather laptop briefcases are not limited to business settings alone – they also work well in school settings or casual outings. Their designs vary but typically, they feature spacious compartments that fit different laptop sizes from 10 to 17 inches. Most designs also have smaller pockets to hold other items.

Leather Briefcase Bags

Leather briefcase bags come in a large variety of styles. Some are compact and portable, while some have a large capacity. Depending on the one you go for, these bags can be used as work or travel bags – as long as you’re not packing a lot. 

Popular Leather Briefcase Sizes

14” x 11.4” x 3”

Many leather briefcases come in this size. Not only can they contain laptops of up to 14 inches, but they also carry Legal, A4, or Letter-sized documents. 

15.75” x 11.75” x 3.75”

Leather briefcases of this size can hold laptops and other devices up to 15.6.” The capacity for extra items depends on the number of smaller compartments a specific one has.

16” x 12.5” x 1.5”

This is a classic briefcase size. The laptop section of these bags is meant to hold laptops from 14” to 15.”

16.25” x 11.75” x 5”

The roomy nature of leather briefcases with a dimension of 16.25” x 11.75” x 5” inch leather briefcase makes it useful for business travels. It is ideal for someone looking to store a big laptop or other items that take up space.

16.5” x 12” x 5”

A leather briefcase of this size can fit a laptop of up to 17,” for those who use bigger laptops. It should also have room for other movables like phones, business cards, pens and accessories.

Popular Leather Briefcase Colors

Leather briefcases can come in a wide range of colors. Natural leathers are often available in more basic colors, while faux leather provides an easy way to produce pieces in a variety of bright and varied colors.

Brown Leather Briefcase

Brown leather briefcases generally wear well due to their color. Scuffs and scratches can be less noticeable, as well as soiling from everyday use. Also, brown pairs well with much of the professional dress attire, including black, tan, gray, and khaki. This is a color where you’ll find plenty of options in both natural and faux leather briefcases.

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik with Accessories- Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour with Red Accent Color

Black Leather Briefcase

A black leather briefcase will go along with most any outfit, look great even when slightly soiled from daily use, make scratches and abrasions less noticeable, and also project a sense of classic style. Most leather briefcases can be found in black.

Navy Leather Briefcase

A navy colored briefcase offers good fashion matchability with most clothes and shoes, stays looking clean for a while, and hides light scratches and abrasions well. It’s also a color that will subtly “pop” more than standard black and brown briefcases, while also still remaining professional and simple.

Chestnut Leather Briefcase

Chestnut is a great color for leather briefcases. It adds a stylish and subtle flair, an element of class, and can be used in both professional and casual situations. The color wears well over time, and in natural leathers, can even look better over time with use. It hides scratches and abrasions well, and looks incredible when paired with an outfit that incorporates chestnut shoes and belts.

Popular Leather Briefcase Brands

Some leather briefcase manufacturers are popular because of their brand, where they also product briefcases. Others are popular because of their craftsmanship. Often, a quality crafted piece, even if it isn’t from a fancy manufacturer, will look great and last for a long time. In some cases, a popular brand can also be popular for a reason, and the best is when it’s for timeless design, quality materials, and expert craftsmanship. Let’s have a look at a few.

Carl Friedrik

Carl Friedrik briefcases offer sophistication, quality, and class incorporated into classic designs with a modern touch. The brand’s options feature minimalist designs made Italian Vachetta leather, and a lifetime warranty. Even their zippers have polished teeth to ensure edges are smooth to protect items that are put into and taken out of the briefcases. Details like this matter, and they have a few great options for sizes and colors of briefcases.

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik Interior - Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour Interior and Pockets

They offer briefcases in a range of exterior and interior colors, as well as sizes. Some make for great day-bags, enough to comfortably hold laptops and accessories, while larger options offer more space for items and clothing making them excellent overnight bags too. Their Palissy line of bags is quite popular, including the 25-hour bag – click here to view details on the Carl Friedrik site.

To see their quality inside the bag (which is fun and demsontrates that the materials back up their claims), here is an insightful video into the Palissy Briefcase in Cognac:

Exploration of the Quality of Carl Friedrik Palissy Bag Materials

Saddleback Leather

Saddleback Leather’s multifunctional briefcases known for their durability. They are designed to hold notebooks, folders, newspapers, magazines, and accessories such as pens, smartphones, and chargers. Saddleback uses full grain leather in their goods, making them heavier, though also demonstrating the ease of their lifetime warranty. Their briefcases usually look better with age and can easily last for decades or more with proper care.

Coach

If you’re looking for a briefcase that will last you a lifetime then Coach will has some great options. for you. Made from genuine leather, they are beautiful, yet practical, briefcases for daily use. While they generally cost more than other brands, they also utilize fine craftsmanship in the crafting of their leather goods.

Tumi

With superior quality and high functionality, these multi-compartment briefcases are suitable for everyday use in the office and also for business trips. They are designed to hold documents, laptops, cell phones, and various other accessories. Tumi offers various options, colors, and configurations where one will likely fit your needs well.

Samsonite

Samsonite uses some synthetic leathers in their line. The briefcases are spacious, durable, and professional-looking. Some featuring an expandable zipper, allowing the size of these briefcases to be enlarged to accommodate a large number of accessories.  The choice of materials can make these less expensive that other types (such as those that use vegetable tanned leather), though the style and function can make them an excellent choice for a few years of daily use.

Barbour

Barbour makes a nice leather briefcase with a textured leather outer, and tartan lined interior. Construction is solid and it can be a great everyday bag. Stronger leathers will generally last longer, though they offer an option that is above synthetic leather, while being less expensive than a full grain leather option.

Best Leather Briefcases

1.    Palissy 25-hour Large Leather Briefcase

For quality craftsmanship, with a lifetime warranty, that looks fitting in both professional and casual evevironments, the Palissy 25-hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik is an excellent choice. It’s made from Italian vachetta leather, has a tapered profile, polished zippers and hardware, strong edge finish, and an included (removable if preferred) shoulder strap.

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik on its Side - Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase

It easily fits laptops for the office, a portfolio if you carry papers, and has several integrated interior pockets. Key for me is it’s flexibility. It can also hold shoes, a water bottle, and a light change of clothes; this makes it great for an office day where one is going to gym afterward, or as an overnight bag (hence the 25-hour name) for a change of clothes, your laptop, and toiletries bag.

It’s a little larger than standard briefcases, though the added flexibility while also offering carrying by handle, or over the shoulder, allows it to flex with lifestyle choices from a day at the office to an overnight stay. That usability range in a single bag, with the quality it offers, and minimalist looks, make this a option to seriously consider. It’s available in 4 exterior colors. Click here for details on the Carl Friedrik site.

I personally have and use this bag, and have been quite pleased with it’s function. Moreso, I was impressed with its feel in person. Often manufacturer photos look different than the physical product in hand – when opening this, I actually thought the product looked better and the leather and finish felt smooth and refined in the hand.

Palissy 25 Hour Large Leather Briefcase by Carl Friedrik Hardware Zippers and Edges - Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Palissy 25 Hour Hardware Zippers and Edges

2.    Saddleback Thin Front Pocket Leather Briefcase

“They’ll fight over it once you’re dead.” That’s what the brand has to say about its range of products, including my favorite Leather Classic Briefcase. It has no buttons, zippers, or magnets which means there exist no stress or pressure points on the leather. It’s made with a few but large pieces of full-grain leather with a 100-year warranty.

Their briefcases are incredible, and carry a very rugged look and feel to them. Due to the leather they used, as well as it’s thickness, they are heavier than most briefcases. Even though, they will likely very easily last 100 years or more.

Their Thin Front Pocket Leather Briefcase is available in 4 colors, and has enough interior room to fit a laptop and some accessories. It comes with an attachable shoulder strap that also turns it into a backpack, making it quite versatile depending on how you want it to look, and if you’re moving from the office to an outdoor weekend or to an overnight trip.

3.    Buffalo Jackson Leather Pilot Bag 

Buffalo Jackson makes a nice Leather Pilot Bag, as a more mid-range price point, that provides enough room for a 15″ laptop, removable shoulder strap, full-grain buffalo leather (most leather briefcases are made from bovine leather), it’s canvas lined, and includes brass hardware. Pockets on the front allow for easy access to personal accessories.

It’s available in a single color, which is a nice darker brown that displays nice color variance across the piece. They offer a one-year warranty, which is generally less than ideal, though not many bags are available in buffalo leather. If you’re looking for that unique material is a well-crafted bag that’s usable for both office and travel use, this can be worth a look.

Helpful Leather Briefcase Insights

What is the difference between a briefcase and an attaché case?

Historically, a briefcase was a rectangular container that opened into a single compartment containing important documents. An attaché, on the other hand, is a multi-compartment case, allowing you to tote around a laptop, documents, and other accessories. However, the distinction between these two has been blurred by modern briefcases as they are ready to perform all the functions that were traditionally performed by hard-side briefcases and attaché cases separately.

Should a man carry a briefcase? 

A BIG YES. A briefcase is an abject of both utility and aesthetics. One can consider them a tool of living, allowing for easy and stylish transport of important personal items, papers, electonics, clothing to/from the gym, accessories, art supplies, photograpy and camera equipment, and most any helpful items that can fit inside. It’s like a modern-day work “toolbox” 🙂

Man with a Leather Briefcase - Liberty Leather Goods
Man with a Leather Briefcase

Should your briefcase match your shoes?

Not necessarily. Matching ones briefcase with their shoes (and belt) signifies an additional level of attention to detail, and can look excellent, though in most cases it would not be considered a faux pax to have a differently colored briefcase and shoes.

Does anyone still use briefcases?

Certainly, many people still use briefcases because they are very convenient. The number of people who use traditional, boxed, briefcases has drastically reduced. However, leather briefcase bags are very much on the rise in trend due to the combination of functionality and style they offer.

Today, leather briefcases are made with modern materials and a renewed approach to design that keeps them in tune with modern fashion, while also providing excellent ways to easily carry work items, clothing, electronics, and personal accessories across the more vaired areas of life we experience on a daily basis (work, gym, travel, vacations, etc.)

Why is a briefcase called a briefcase?

Briefcases were originally cases used by lawyers to carry “briefs” to and from their offices and court, hence the name, “brief”-case. It was originally called the brief bag, and over time the briefcase became more popular and used by others in different professions.

How much is a briefcase?

Briefcases can range in cost anywhere from about $25 to $5,000 or higher for specialised materials and or custom designs. Let’s have a look at a table with a few variables:

CostFeatures
About $100Quality, faux leather
About $350Quality, mixed materials briefcases (some leather some other materials)
About $600-$800Quality full grain leather briefcases with fine designs and lifetime warranties

Leather Briefcase Care and Maintenance

The best way to take care of a leather briefcase is to maintain a regular cleaning routine. Ensure to keep dirt and grime buildup off as often as possible. Invest in a high-quality leather cleaner, and conditioner to keep the leather fibers in clean and healthy condition. More specifically, learn about the exact type of leather that it is constructed from, and ensure to take the proper steps to treating it as needed. For example, faux leather that’s water resistant(made mostly from plastics) will require a different approach than bovine leather with a full grain, untreated surface.

There are extended times when you might not use your briefcase. In this case, empty it and stuff the inside with soft paper (ideally, acid-free tissue paper) to help the bag retain its shape. Then, store it away from extreme heat, humidity, direct sunlight, and dust buildup. Some manufactures include a thin cotton storage bag just for this use, as it nicely protects the leather briefcase while in storage.

In Closing

Leather briefcases can be as much about style as they are about function. Choosing the best one for you will be a balance of factors between cost, material, weight, size, and look. Finding the right one will be exciting, offering an item for daily use that can be appreciated and enjoyed for decades or longer of great use.

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