About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Briefcases are used for a variety of purposes, but for most of us Dappered readers, we’re looking for a well-designed and versatile bag that can carry both work and personal stuff while looking great. In a world of options that spans plastic grocery bags to thousand-dollar designer pieces, it can be difficult to weed through the totality of the internet (that is typically full of trash) and find something that’s made well enough and looks stylish enough. This becomes an even harder task when you’re working with a college graduate or entry level career budget.
Banana Republic recently launched a line of suede bags, including this briefcase, that looks to be a stylish and highly functional option. And it even goes on sale every so often! Today we’re dissecting it to find out how it stacks up.
Conservative and versatile.
Works with both office and casual looks.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
- Brand: Banana Republic
- Style: Laptop-Compatible Zip Briefcase
- Size: ~16″ Wide x ~12″ Tall x ~5″ Deep
- Construction: Stitched
- Material: Suede
- Strap: Suede
- Hardware: Brass toned zippers, rivets, and buckles
- Extras: Removable suede shoulder strap with brass toned buckle and rivets
- Price: $400 USD
Warm brown suede that’s of noticeably better quality than other mall brand stores.
My briefcase was ordered on a lazy Saturday afternoon from Banana Republic’s website like any other Joe would do. The package shipped out on the following Monday via Lasership’s “Ground” service and arrived on Tuesday for quite the laser fast delivery.
FYI: Banana Republic says you have up to 30 days from ship date to return or exchange items by mail that are purchased at Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic (and up to 60 days for stuff you picked up from Athleta). Returns and exchanges are free when you use their prepaid return shipping label (online purchases only), or when you return in store. They also employ the use of localized return stations like Happy Returns or Express Returns set up in retailers like Staples.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy online ordering, rapid delivery speed, and dead simple returns.
Lots of packaging and wrapping ensures this bag stays protected in transit.
This briefcase arrived in a rather large cardboard box which turned out to be the perfect size “rollercoaster” for my little one. Unboxing the briefcase offers quite the surprise in packaging materials. The bag itself was well protected with multiple layers of plastic and tissue paper before being stuffed inside a giant plastic bag. The handles, shoulder strap, zippers, and buckles were individually wrapped in layers of tissue paper and plastic as well, which took a surprisingly long time to clear away before being able to use the bag. Inside, the bag was stuffed with bundles of some sort of craft paper, too, helping to keep the bag’s shape in transit.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Surprisingly a lot of packaging to protect the outer suede. Nice!
Fresh out of the box and removed from all of the wrapping paper, this bag looks fantastic. This is definitely one of those situations where the online images make the item look worse than it really is, mainly because of poor lighting, editing, or the lack of detail and depth. The quality of suede used on this briefcase looks totally serviceable; meaning it’s notably better than the cheap, paper thin suede you find at other mall brand stores, but it’s not quite up to snuff like the hearty, weatherproofed stuff you get from tanneries like C.F. Stead. However, this suede does have a bit of texture and feels soft to the touch. Color-wise, the BR website makes this bag look like it’s brolive (that’s brown + olive), but it’s definitely closer to a warm brown tone. Imagine a Venn diagram of tobacco, snuff, and umber colors. This bag slots right in the middle.
The color lands somewhere between tobacco, snuff, and umber.
As always, suede can look different under different types of light
(indoor vs outdoor, warm vs harsh-overhead, etc.)
For the design aesthetic, this briefcase leans more conservative and that’s a good thing because it means the bag is more versatile and will blend in with more outfits. Whether you’re dressed up for the office in a traditionally American business casual suit or dressed down in a polo and jeans while you’re working from the local coffee shop, this briefcase will blend right in and make sure you don’t look like a weirdo with a hard sided attach© case. What do people even carry in those things, a brown bag lunch and spare pair of boxers in case of an accident?
This brief features a substantial zipper of unknown origin.
Out front, you have one large zippered pocket that can hold a small stack of documents, a thinner spiral notebook, or some magazines or hardcover book for the plane. As you can see, this installment of HODINKEE’s magazine slides in perfectly and can be hidden, should you choose, by zipping the pocket closed. Speaking of zippers, this bag has brass toned metal hardware throughout that adds a touch of elegance and harmonizes well with the warm brown suede. Nerd alert – these zippers aren’t from YKK, Riri, or Talon (from what I can tell at least), but if we’re honest, that detail only matters to a handful of us who like to pour over the details.
Front zippered pocket is perfect for documents, some magazines, etc.
Unzipping the main compartment unveils a divided compartment with some smart design choices. On the side closest to the front of the bag, there’s a quilted and padded pocket for stashing your laptop. It holds my 15″ work machine just right. If you’re working with a 13-16″ laptop of standard proportions, you should be good to go. If you’re still using an older 17″ Macbook Pro or you’re a dedicated gamer with a machine that’s thicker than Tolstoy’s War and Peace, you’re probably out of luck. I’ll note here that the padded pocket isn’t super thick, so I wouldn’t consider the quilted nylon lining as “bomb proof” or anything like that. Moving towards the center, you have a two-plus inch wide cavity to fill with your computer accessories, headphones, three-ring binders, or whatever else the Average Joe needs on a typical day.
Stuffed to the gills with all the necessities of every day carry.
This interior section has an organizer on one side that feels well laid out and has four pen pockets and two wider stash pockets that can hold portable hard drives, small earbuds, car keys, and/or a stack of business cards. The final internal compartment is the one farthest away from the front of the bag. This rear pocket is large enough to fit multiple spiral notebooks, one three-ring binder, or any number of other larger items that you’d like to keep away from the main internal cavity.
Around back, you’ll notice a slightly smaller pocket at the top of the bag and a zippered slot at the bottom of the back. The boffins at Banana Republic have also incorporated a discreet compartment on the backside that allows you to unzip the bottom and slide the bag over the handle of most carry-on or rolling suitcases, making transport through the airport even easier. If you don’t travel that often, you can use this section for smaller books or frequently used items.
The back panel can be used as a pocket (zipper shut) or travel strap (zipper open)
to slide over a carry-on-luggage handle.
The weakest part of this bag is the suede shoulder strap. It feels thin and like it was designed as an afterthought. After wearing it around the office for a bit, I noticed that the suede texture acts like sandpaper and tends to drag or get caught on your shirt or jacket. This strap feels like a cheap belt in that you can easily bend it in half and it’ll take that shape. I would prefer to see a smooth leather or rugged twill shoulder strap instead of this thing, especially at this price tag.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Surprisingly nice. Suede is OK, pockets are nice, but the strap stinks.
In terms of sizing, this briefcase feels like a traditional messenger bag but cranked up a notch in style and formality. Unlike a lightweight twill tote from L.L. Bean or one of those behemoth leather “toolboxes” from Saddleback Leather, this one feels just about right for a daily carry bag. It’s large enough to carry all of your typical work essentials and still have some room left over for a few snacks, a water bottle, and a fresh pair of socks for those humid days.
Strap is not great. The hardware is fine,
but the strap’s texture drags/catches on your shirt or jacket. It also feels cheap.
For size reference, I typically carry either a Filson model 256 rugged twill briefcase (or a Filson Dryden backpack depending on the day’s loadout). While the Filson 256 briefcase is certainly iconic, its effective size is smaller than you realize when you factor in modern large format laptops, their power bricks, and other assorted essentials for working remotely. This is where the Banana Republic suede briefcase shines. It’s large enough to fit all of your junk without feeling cumbersome AND it has a better interior layout. Have questions on this one? Email us!
Comfort is always subjective, but I carried the Suedecase around the office one day and it felt pretty good. Fully loaded with my 15″ laptop, some chargers, a fat spiral notebook, and various other accouterments, the whole kit weighs in at roughly eight pounds. As I mentioned earlier, the shoulder strap is the weakest point of the package and should be replaced with a smooth leather or canvas/twill option. The strap feels like a cheap belt in that it folds over itself easily; if you’re strong enough to break a shoelace, you could probably break this strap in due time. It’s easily added or removed, though, using the brass toned studs on either side of the bag.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Size is good for a briefcase, feels pretty solid and comfortable in use.
The Banana Republic suede briefcase is a well-executed exercise in min-maxing style, substance, and overall build quality while keeping the price point attainable. The bag is made from a serviceable batch of suede in a versatile color, the interior layout is well thought-out, and they’ve designed the bag to be travel friendly. While the overall quality still says Banana Republic, I think it’s a step above most other entry level, cheap suede bags on the market.
At the full $400 MSRP, I think this bag is a little overpriced for the overall quality you’re getting. You can get higher quality or more refined options from Tecovas, Satchel & Page, or Carl Friedrik within the same price ballpark. However, we all know Gap Inc. loves to run promo codes, so at 30-40% off, I think this suede briefcase offers a ton of value and is worth it.
Avg. Score: 4.5/5.0 – Recommended! Overall this bag is nice and well designed.