Everything You Need To Know About The Comeback Of The Briefcase

Synonymous with the rise-and-grind work-life culture that has become a relic of the past since the pandemic hit, purchasing a briefcase could feel like a journey back into an uncanny valley. But the office wardrobe has changed post-quarantine, and briefcases are seeing a renaissance.

Perhaps fashion writer Liana Satenstein put it best when she wrote in Vogue that she's "been lusting after some structure." Not to be too deep about it, but having structure in our lives can provide us with peace of mind, and knowing that our documents are organized and laptops safely secured makes moving through the day just a little bit easier.

The issue, as Satenstein points out, is that briefcases have never been a fun purchase, nor have briefcases catered to women's fashion as much as men's fashion. Now, however, that could be starting to change. Can a good new briefcase make more structure appealing? Perhaps so. And perhaps whether or not the briefcase is still fashionable is less of the point than if it makes your life better, in some way.

An accessory of necessity

The briefcase has long been an accessory of necessity rather than expression, though this is not to say the two cannot go hand in hand. Per Pad and Quill, the rise of the briefcase as we know it today largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution. As new materials became available and travel more frequent, briefcases were a durable, secure way to keep important documents in one place.

Demand and use of the briefcase had proliferated by the mid-to-late 20th century, which saw the briefcase evolve from practical to fashionable, just to seemingly drop off again by the aughts. One fashion reporter for The Wall Street Journal even wrote about the "Death of the Briefcase" in 2007, where consumers, equipped with laptops, were looking for more modern carrying solutions. Even now, The Wall Street Journal suggests a "chic alternative to the briefcase" that fashion houses such as Hermès and Salvatore Ferragamo offer. It seems that some hesitation around the return of the briefcase proper remains.

Modern briefcases can be playful and practical

In Vogue, fashion writer Liana Statenstein cites the briefcase shown on the Balenciaga 2023 resort collection runway — a show which borrowed inspiration from various fetishisms — as an example of a "cheeky" briefcase, one that is unafraid to be both playful and practical. While most briefcases on the market still seem to be targeted toward men (and "work bags" more akin to totes seem to be targeted toward women), gender binaries are arbitrary and anyone can rock this trend. We say buy a briefcase because you want to! 

We recommend checking out vintage designer briefcases to get a sense of the style you might desire, from the portfolio briefcase to the classic attaché, per Floto. With lab-grown leather changing the fashion industry, perhaps briefcases will become part of that wave. Consider it a stylish and useful addition to your office wardrobe — or a fashion statement in and of itself!