Messenger Bag vs Briefcase – What’s The Difference?
“That’s a nice briefcase, do you always bring it to work?”
“Thanks but it’s not exactly a briefcase, it’s a messenger bag”
“Are you sure? I know someone with one just like it…”
This is an all too familiar scene for many of us who’ve owned either a briefcase or messenger bag. Sometimes we are not even sure ourselves especially when manufacturers resort to throwing in both terms such as the ‘Kattee Canvas Real Leather Messenger Bag, Leisure Briefcase’. That begs the question, is there really a difference between messenger bags or briefcases?
Well, yes, there is. That’s why we will be highlighting in detail the differences between the two. That way, you can avoid making the wrong call or giving out the wrong impression, especially if you need a “serious” briefcase for your job. You don’t want to show up with a stylish funky messenger bag. Right?
The modern day or rather rectangular briefcase has been around since the early 1850’s and has since been associated with a business, wealthy and professional look, among many other themes that fit into that criteria. They are mostly used by business people to carry important papers and more recently laptops.
A briefcase normally portrays professionalism and prosperity thus if your career or work demands, it’s best you not choose the wrong bag to avoid driving away flaky clients.
Will usually come in 3 distinct colors, mostly Black, Brown or Tan
Unlike those trendy fashion bags, briefcases are usually a lot less colorful and prefer a consistent tone.
Have an organized interior structure
To help you arrange your belongings, in a way that won’t be hard to find what you are looking for, briefcases tend to have organized compartments categorized by zippers and interior sleeves for all your work gear.
Features a solid body frame
Most briefcases are built with a sturdy build in mind, such that it doesn’t sag or take the shape of your back when carrying it. They are usually more solid although sometimes their exteriors can be padded. This allows it to sit up straight on a desk or table. This is a key difference between a briefcase vs a messenger bag.
Usually held under one hand or worn over one shoulder
Due to their rectangular nature, briefcases are best carried with one arm by the top handle or worn over one shoulder if it has a shoulder strap. An example of a briefcase with a strap that’s made of leather but still has a “frame” can be seen in our Saddleback Leather review here.
The modern messenger bags, unlike briefcases started at around 1950’s. Those days, it was used by bicycle couriers but is nowadays a fashion icon and can be seen carried by students, casual offices and pretty much anywhere where one doesn’t need to portray a professional image. You can also check out our top picks for the best men’s messenger bags here.
Below are some of the distinguishing features of messenger bags:
Have varied construction materials
Unlike briefcases, which tend to have a heavy canvas or leather build, messenger bag have more construction materials ranging from nylon, canvas to leather among others. The material are also often more water-resistant and durable than convectional backpacks.
Come with a signature front flap
One of the sure tell signs if a bag is a messenger bag is the front flap that conventionally covers the whole front of the bag. The flap usually has pockets underneath or is covering up some of the bag in a bid to improve security and bring a peace of mind to the carrier. It also gives the bag manufacturer plenty of opportunity to make their flaps unique so they can stand out from other bags.
Lacks a solid frame
Unlike briefcases, messenger bags will often take the basic form of whatever’s being carried, or even the shape of the carrier’s back. This in turn allows for a more comfortable experience since you’ll carry it over your body. When not carrying anything, the bag remains floppy and can’t stand on its own. These types of bags are also lighter than a briefcase since it has not “solid” structure to it and are almost always made from soft material. The Tumi messenger bag for men is a classic example of this.
Worn across the body
Most messenger bags come with a long adjustable shoulder strap that allows you to comfortably wear the bag across your body. The shoulder straps are ergonomically made and often come with thick shoulder pads to enhance weight distribution. The straps are also adjustable, so it doesn’t matter much if you’re tall or short, just adjust and you’re all good.
Less structured interior
You won’t find that many interior sleeves and dedicated pockets inside a messenger bag than you would in a briefcase. While some may come with special dedicated compartments such as a padded laptop place like this Berchirly messenger bag, they won’t have the level of convenience that a briefcase offers.
Come in various styles and colors
Specially designed to be a fashion icon, these men’s messenger bags come in all forms. From different colors, material, styles and design, you can always find a messenger bag to suite your casual lifestyle. Some have even functionally blended both briefcases and messenger bags in a bid to offer the best of both worlds. Or even go as so far as to look like a casual shoulder bag.
There you have it. Now you know exactly what to look for when choosing your next bag. Regardless of what name the manufacturer may give it, using the above features you can easily tell a briefcase or messenger bag apart.