Papa Needs a Brand New Bag

My current work bag (pictured below) was a more or less a lucky find. It is made by Billy Kirk’s lower tier label Brothers Bray. I first saw it in a Urban Outfitters ad. I liked its drab colors and simple construction. Its utilitarian design spoke to me. Plus, it was right around $100. After 8 years of service my bag is now approaching retirement I am starting my search for a brand new bag.
Current BagI started my search at Filson. Filson sells the trad bag which is the Filson Original Briefcase (see below). I am sure that my bag’s similarities to this classic bag is what caught my eye in the first place. However, priced at $325 the Original Briefcase is not cheap.
Filson Original Brief Case

Looking for more affordable options I spotted a few great looking alternatives at L.L. Bean. One of the bags is labeled as a tote and the other two briefcases, but I think that all of them would work well in our business casual world and would be a improvement over the backpack trend that I have been seeing over the last few years.

The L.L. Bean West Branch Tote ($159) – This bag is strikingly similar to my current bag. The only thing that it is missing is the olive green accents. Priced at $159 this is a good looking bag. It is high on my list. If I go this route I will probably switch out the brown shoulder strap for an olive one.
West Branch Tote
The L.L. Bean Heritage Waxed Messenger Bag ($149) – This bag is similar to my current bag, but is also noticeably different. It has the olive green accents that I like, but it lacks a leather bottom which in exchange gives it a more casual look and feel. Overall it is a great looking bag at a great price.

Heritage Waxed Messenger Bag

The Sportsman’s Briefcase ($119) – This bag is actually very similar to the Filson Original Briefcase. Albeit it is not as rugged the Filson, but to its advantage it has a great 80’s Original Preppy Handbook vibe. On top of that it is probably the most professional looking of the bags that I have listed, but I could see it being confused as suitcase.
Sportsman's BriefcaseI hope this list helps out all of my fellow office dwellers. With the need to carry laptops, tablets, smart phones, and an assortment of other work supplies a bag is a necessity of the modern professional. These bags will make your day-to-day life easier while still retaining some semblance of trad style.

oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

21 Comments on "Papa Needs a Brand New Bag"

  1. Beth says:

    Have you checked out the bag/briefcase offerings from J.W. Hulme? A bit on the high side, but worth it. Accessories include multiple strap options.

    I also use several Filson bags/totes primarily for field sports as the waxed twill and canvas have a unique odor that isn’t always optimal for an office setting. They’re practically indestructible.

  2. Lennart says:

    As for the work bag, I am in the exact same position myself. Might be off the track for you but have you checked a bag at Lands End, it’s got navy exterior and tan interior, looks nice and has a decent price. I am also considering a swedish brand Sandqvist, slight differnt design from Lands End and comes in olive with dark brown leather strapping. Price is double the one at Lands End but it looks nice, let me know if you want a link to it.

    Also, how is it going with the bicycle project, have you started using it for job commuting yet?

  3. Dallas says:

    Go with the Filson if you like the Filson, but if you’re worried about price, get one secondhand – especially if you’re not in a rush because you already have a bag, and they seem pretty plentiful on the resale market (this is what I did anyway).

    One thing I would suggest though (this is another thing I did), don’t go for the tan bag. It screams “FILSON” and obviously is one from blocks away, go with one of the other colors as they’re more subtle and suited to your look. Myself, I went with dark brown, and the way mine is breaking in is truly beautiful.

    All that being said, I could also see you carrying something like the old school Lands End square rigger bag, or more currently, the Wm. J. Mills and Co. stuff.

  4. Tom says:

    Some really great options over at Orvis right now, and were even on sale here in the Chicago store

  5. Craig says:

    Hello Jerrod,

    One thing I appreciate about this blog is that you always identify the gold standard in items, but are not afraid to explore or share more affordable options. The LL Bean West Branch Tote is indeed handsome, but I note that it’s polyester, not canvas. I wonder how it will age.

    In terms of cycling, I would love to obtain a Brooks Lexington Briefcase – canvas and leather, with a bright interior lining for visibility, and sleek stowable attachments to clip it to a rear pannier rack. However, like the Filson, it is quite pricey. A bit more modern, but I like the Green and Blue canvas options.

  6. David says:

    I currently carry a Filson 257 (the “big brother” to the Original Briefcase) in otter green and really like it. I bought it a number of years ago at the Burlington, WA outlet store for ~$200, however I’m not sure it’s worth the current sticker price of $345.

    If you’re looking for Filson quality, styling and domestic production without the price, I’d recommend Gustin. They have offered bags similar to the 256 in olive twill, khaki twill and olive waxed canvas. (And, currently they’re offering an amazing deal on Horween leather briefcases.) Unfortunately, with their business model, you’d need to wait for the next “campaign.” They have good customer service and should be able to tell you if they plan to offer the bags in the future.

    Another option for getting a good deal on Filson is to visit or call one of their outlets. A couple years ago, I ordered a tin cloth duffle bag over the phone for about 50% off and paid a few bucks for shipping.

    Gustin bags (click on “Load More Campaigns”):

    Filson outlets:

  7. Paper Clip says:

    I like that Filson bag. A guy has one at work, and it looks great after being used for a while. I think that will be my next bag.

    I currently have the Bean Sportsman’s, and I find it is too big – at 12″H x 17½”W x 4″D it’s a little larger than the Filson at Height: 12in, Length: 16in, Depth: 4 in. I don’t need that size anymore for day to day stuff, but I do use it for business travel as my personal bag. It holds plenty. I also have the sportsman’s rolling carry on, so when traveling, I have a matched set…which I’m not too comfortable about. They are good bags and have the Bean lifetime guarantee.

    Good luck in your hunt!

  8. Drew says:

    I got my Filson briefcase for about $150 on eBay a couple of years ago — lightly used.

  9. PMcK says:

    Here is asuggestion Wychwood River and Stream Shoulder Bags

    It’s on a British Site John Norris of Penrith.

    I have ordered things from them. Often, very good prices on Barbour. The rebate of the VAT usually covers postage, so the price you see is more or less the price you pay ( converted to US $ of course)

  10. RWK says:

    My father gifted to me a Filson leather field satchel, in brown, upon my college graduation. It’s certainly not an inexpensive option, but it is a lifetime investment. Buy one of these, and you’ll never buy another bag again. It only gets better with age.

    I certainly plan on using this for the entirety of my own lifetime, and I plan to pass it onto one of my kids, as it’ll have plenty of life left in it by the time I’m finished using it.

  11. Tweeds says:

    I think the LL Bean Heritage washed canvas bag with a plaid lining looks nice for the money.

    If you are still searching try Fossil briefcase or something higher end like Ghurka Examiner #5 . When I bought mine about 20 years ago it was half that price. You can find some slighty used online.

    I’ll look forward on what you decide on.

  12. Ted says:

    Try Duluth Packs. Made in USA and they offer leather and canvas options.

  13. snakeninny says:

    I’m wondering, what’s the problem with your current bag? Except for the wear-outs on the olive open seams, I don’t see a reason for a new bag. I mean, it’s a bag with 8 years stories, both the canvas and leather age in a natural way, which make THE bag rugged and YOURS. You can’t buy these from anywhere, with how much money. Right?

    For the wear-outs, an experienced tailor may find a proper way to fix them; either patches or decorations would be great, and make the bag more rugged and unique.

    What do you think?

  14. oxford cloth button down says:

    Thanks for all of the the great feedback! I really appreciate it !

    Lennart – I haven’t made the leap to commuting. I have got a ton of summer cycling in!

    Snakeninny – The reason that I am looking for a new bag is the last “big” meeting I was in I felt a little embarrassed by its eroding appearance. If I can make an analogy it is like wearing my chinos that have a little too much fraying at the cuff. I do think that I have 6-12 months of life left in it!

    • snakeninny says:

      I got you. If I were you, I’d buy a new one for more “formal” occasions and keep the old one as a daily bag.

  15. Andrew says:

    I vote for the Sportsman’s briefcase, and I may order a sage colored one myself. The 1980s OPH comment is right on; it has a terrific preppy look. It can be monogrammed. It has modesty and style, and the price speaks to a natural thriftiness. It can also be used as a computer bag on airplanes, and you can still take your regular carry-on in addition for overhead, thereby avoiding the need to check anything.

    • Andrew says:

      I ordered this and it came in three days. It is very preppy, perhaps too preppy for some, but my wife thinks it is perfect for me. I had it monogrammed using their Times font with serifs. The size of the font is a bit big, but it is very slightly darker than the color of the leather so it works well on the olive. The black interior poses no problems. There is a soft lined interior compartment for computers and a smaller one for ipads or similar. Lots of pockets inside and out. The handles fold down making it easy to store. The exterior olive canvas has a nice hand. Recommend it.

  16. Don says:

    Another vote for Duluth Pack. I live in Minnesota, so of course I have one. (Builder’s Portfolio, that is.) But I would buy another no matter where I lived.

  17. Andersdad says:

    I have been carrying a Filson 257 daily for 4 years. It looks better than the day I bought it and imagine I will retire (20 years from now) before the bag will. I have the classic tan color and it really looks great in a sea of black poly backpacks.

  18. Morris says:

    Love your blog.

    I have a Filson 256 in navy and use it quite frequently. Generally I like it. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gotten the 256 in the original tan color. My main issue is that there is no padding for my Surface computer, ipad or HP laptop. I got navy because I didn’t want to look like every other guy with the tan version. The 256 in navy attracts a lot of dust. I’m looking at switching to a Tumi backpack. I’ll also look into the 257 in tan.

    I feel like Filson products are very American and very manly. Considering how many years you will use your briefcase, it’s worth paying a little bit more. It’s like buying a high quality watch like a Rolex. On a cost per day basis, it’s cheap considering you can wear it your entire life.

    Filson has a great restoration department in the Seattle HQ. The way they’ve restored some really worn out 256 tan briefcases is super cool. Google Filson Restoration Department.

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