Style / February 2018

The Backpack vs. the Briefcase

Backpacks have evolved to dominate boardrooms, co-exist with formalwear and develop style as well as substance – but will the briefcase ever truly die out?

A modern interpretation of the backpack by Frank Clegg, created in luxurious VBC flannel, would look perfectly appropriate in a business meeting worn with a smart two-piece pinstripe suit and grey overcoat as it is here. Photo by Massimiliano Cervone.

Many pivotal scenes in cinema have revolved around the opening, throwing, exchanging, stealing and switching of briefcases. From James Bond’s attaché (filled with a sniper rifle, ammunition, tear gas and a throwing knife) in From Russia with Love to the mysterious contents of Jules Winnfield’s glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction, men who carry briefcases mean business in more ways than one. Such is its power, The Godfather’s Don Corleone rasps that “One lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns”. Indeed, the briefcase gets its name from the legal documents carried by lawyers.

The backpack, on the other hand, has always been a beacon of practicality, associating itself with the mud-streaked military man with his armoury, the bespectacled college kid with his books or the travelling nomad with his survival kit. Structurally speaking, the average backpack’s functioning pockets, ergonomic design and generous capacity makes the stiff, unyielding, narrow briefcase look a little dated. The briefcase requires (literal) hand-holding at all times, whereas the backpack offers the kind of hands-free flexibility that allows you to hail a cab, call your mother, adjust your tie and sign an autograph all at the same time.

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Anna Prendergast

Anna is a freelance writer and former staffer at The Rake. She is passionate about travel, well made clothes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.