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Photography by Craig Landale

Sack off the utilitarian backpack

Every morning on to the Tube to work I see the same scenario. From mainline stations like Euston and Kings Cross, to the centre of the creative industries at Old Street and throughout the financial district by Bank and London Bridge. 

It's not restricted to London either; I've seen it right across the UK and in mainland Europe. I'm talking about well-dressed men carrying ghastly outfit destroying backpacks. 

Yes backpacks are having a fashion moment, but I’m referring to the practical utilitarian variety that are anything but a style statement and have no place in office environments.

There are two distinct types; the sporty kind which isn't dissimilar to the one you carried your textbooks in at school, and the corporate standard issue - typically grey or black, which came with your work laptop on day one of joining the company. 

Why would any sane man want to pair a bag designed for hiking with business attire? It seems such a pity to put so much thought into selecting a perfectly tailored suit/blazer, crisp shirt, top notch timepiece and polished shoes only to ruin it all with a bag that has zero style kudos. 

Admittedly, backpacks probably keep osteopaths happy but they look awful. They are quite possibly the ultimate woman repeller. And let’s not forget how irritating they are on public transport, if you’ve ever had someone swing round and inadvertently whack you in the face with one you'll undoubtedly agree. 

It's time to sack off functional backpacks and say hello to these stylish alternatives.

"Pouches or document holders are great alternatives"
"Pouches or document holders are great alternatives"

Travelling light 

There’s no need to carry a big bag if all you really require for the day ahead is a few documents and your iPad. 

Pouches or document holders (sometimes referred to as folios) are great alternatives to the brief case. Avoid looking like you’ve borrowed your missus’ clutch bag from Saturday night by opting for an oversized design made from grainy leather to keep it manly. 

This dove grey document holder by Tod’s is perfect for both winter and summer. For a cheaper alternative, check out this tan offering from Ted Baker

City slicker 

The briefcase has come on a long way since the hard-cased sort commonly found carrying stolen cash in gangster films. 

Re-engineered with softer lines and tech-friendly compartments, the modern day briefcase makes a serious style statement that will complement your smart attire. 

Invest wisely by seeking out durable fabrics, styles with piping around the outer edge and strong handles. Don’t feel like you’re limited just to black, the modern briefcase comes in a variety of colours so pick a shade that reflects your personality and style.

"Invest wisely by seeking out durable fabrics"
"Invest wisely by seeking out durable fabrics"

Look, no hands 

Backpacks aren’t the only option for hands free commuting, messenger bags can be worn across the body without compromising on style. 

These are perfect if your working wardrobe varies according to what’s in your diary, smart enough for when you’re suited and booted for a client pitch yet still suitable for casual meeting-free days in the office. 

The good news is that there are a wide range of messenger bags like this one by Fred Perry to choose from at all price points. However, there are a few rogue styles out there, steer clear of the canvas variety or anything with a slight student vibe – remember you want to be taken seriously. 

Make sure you play close attention to the strap, is it comfortable and durable? And look out for a design with several compartments, you don’t want the sun to disappear whilst you’re still rummaging around for your Ray-Bans. 

Mr Busy 

Everyone from Burberry to Saint Laurent to Hardy Amies showcased models carrying super-sized totes for their Spring/Summer 2014 collections. 

A tote or a holdall is ideal for busy on-the-go guys heading straight to the gym after work or for overnight stays. The difference? Totes are basically open bags with one huge compartment and a popper fastening, holdalls on the other hand have zip closures and are generally more structured. 

Both often come with shoulder straps for easy carrying. These are bags of manly proportions, perfect for flexing your muscles. Key brands to consider include Strathberry of Scotland, Mulberry and Paul Smith.

"The modern day briefcase"
"The modern day briefcase"

The final word 

There’s no denying buying a good work bag is expensive business (especially compared to your freebie work backpack), but remember you’ll be using it daily so consider the cost per wear rather than the upfront outlay. 

In the long run, it’s far better to spend a bit more for a bag that will withstand the test of time than a cheaper alternative that will need replacing quickly.

"A tote is ideal for busy on-the-go guys"
"A tote is ideal for busy on-the-go guys"


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