From the Mailbag: The in-between, sub $200 work-bag

Not too dressed up, but not too casual either.
Joseph Abboud Double Top Handle Brief – $168.00

UPDATE:  The J. Abboud case seen above is now going for $140 from the flash sale site Beyond The Rack.  Shipping can take awhile though, and it’s a flash sale site, so be familiar with their return policy.

I work at a think tank in DC where the dress code for men is anything from very basic business casual, all the way up to a suit and tie with cufflinks.  I tend to dress as if I have an important meeting that I’m going to (even if I don’t), but I do go more casual from time to time with either khakis or even jeans and a sport coat.  I’m looking for a decent bag that will go well with either one of these scenarios.  Something that doesn’t look too casual with a suit, and not too stuffy with jeans and a jacket.  For an added degree of difficulty, I probably can’t justify more than $200 for this investment currently.  Any ideas?

- Marshall
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Oof.  Marshall, Marshall, Marshall (bet he’s never heard that one before).  That’s a tough one.  Some sticky parameters for sure, but we’ll make a deal with you.  You stick to working at the think tank (good grief man, that’s a conversational trump card) and we, that includes you guys the readers, will try and find you a briefcase.

What you want is something that’s not too rigid, but not schlumpy either.  A pair of top grab handles is a must.  A pure messenger with only a shoulder strap is a no.  Leather accents will be a plus, but an all leather bag is going to be tough to find under $200.  The Abboud up top ^ is a little steep at $185, and the hardware is just so-so looking, but it fulfills the requirements.  What else fellas?  Leave your suggestions in the comments.  More options from this side of the website are as follows:
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Ernest Alexander Spencer Brief – $160.00 ($225)

Proffessional... killer?

Leans tactical.  Heavily.  The olive version on the left leans too casual, but as long as you keep the black one from getting overstuffed, it almost comes across as a soft sided, dark, Zero Halliburton.  Meaning:  If some suited up guy is walking down the street, with purpose, and he’s not smiling… I don’t think many will mess with him.  Who knows what’s in the bag.  Meaner and more urban looking than Filson’s original brief.  Try the code BETTERFIT10.  Seems that might take 10% off for a new customer, or maybe if you’re lucky, it’ll just take 10% off period.

 

Cole Haan Merced Ultra Slim – $198.00

There's slim, and then there's this.

Great if you’re the type who doesn’t like to carry much.  Holds a 14″ laptop, but at just 1″ deep, it won’t be holding much else.  Obviously, real sleek.  Leather.  Also comes in black.

 

Zara Classic Briefcase – $89.90

Durability? Uh...

It’s a little sharp edged looking to work with jeans and a t-shirt, but jeans and a sportcoat?  Probably.  And the ultra-cheap it ain’t leather it’s PVC factor helps a little with that.  If it were some ultra luxurious, drool over piece of fine leather… then it’d overwhelm a more laid back outfit.  That won’t happen happen here.

 

Ernest Alexander Attache – $245.00

The upgraded rugged thing is strong with this one.

The Good news?  It’s made in the USA and looks incredible.  The Bad news?  It leans pretty casual and it’s $45 over the line.  Best to not go digging through the couch cushions if you favor a suit, this probably leans too casual.

 

ABChic Converting Strap Case – $135.00 ($167)

WHOOO! Jester's Dead.

An odd one.  The straps actually slide along some bolt-looking things to go all streamlined when recessed.  F-14 Tomcat Variable Sweep style.  Part of the up to 30% off Yoox sale that’s going on right now.  Also available in a more streamlined, no side pocket style (which looks a little less like a purse.)

 

Jack Spade Cotton Pinsripe Brief – $175.00 ($395)

Final sale. No returns on this one.

The best in show, by far.  After seeing Marshall’s requirements the mind immediately runs towards Jack Spade.  Cleaned up but not stuffy.  That’s what their brand specializes in.  A perfect briefcase for what he’s looking for… as long as he doesn’t have a closet full of pinstripe suits.  That might get a little weird.  A final sale item.  No returns.

Anything else for Marshall?  Leave it below.  More ideas for affordable briefcases can be found in this old post.