• Using backpacks for business started in tech sector
  • See what others in your industry and company use for bags
  • Use the bag that works best for your needs and style
There’s nothing hands-free about going to and from work. Every morning you feel like a pack mule with all the shit you gotta carry to work. Your bag is packed with your laptop, charging cables, notebook, work badge, pens and all sorts of other miscellaneous stuff. It’s gotten to the point where carrying your bag is like a daily low-sweat workout.

There’s never a time when you’re not carrying shit back and forth from work. There’s always stuff you gotta take with you. It’s unavoidable. On bad days when you’ve got a ton of things to haul, you wonder if using your airline overhead roller bag would be better. It’d make your commute less stressful.

Everyone at work is in the same boat as you. You notice that there are two camps. One group of people seems to be more traditional and uses briefcases while the other group uses backpacks.

You start to wonder which option is the better choice for your job and business image. The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you’d think. There’s more to this.

When Did Backpacks For Work Become A Thing?

Wearing backpacks to work is a trend that started in the past twenty years or so. Like many trends, it started on the west coast. More specifically, in silicon valley with the dot coms and startup culture.

Back then and still to this day, most dot coms, startups and tech companies don’t follow traditional business dress codes. During the dot com boom, the standard work dress code was khaki pants with a denim shirt. Remember those Gap commercials with people dancing in khaki pants? It was the defacto style back then and the unconventional style kept the positive vibes going. It kicked off the whole business casual trend.

This casualization of the business outfit extended beyond clothing too. Carrying a briefcase was way too traditional. It didn’t fit the mold of a startup image. It was literally and figuratively boxed in with its look. How could you think out of the box when you’re carrying one every day?

Nobody in silicon valley would be caught carrying a briefcase. Well, except maybe for lawyers, many of whom are die-hard traditionalists. The predominant bag of choice then and now is the backpack. It’s not surprising to see how it all came to be so widely accepted.

Many startup founders began their ideations while studying at universities. And like all college students, backpacks were the ideal bag to carry all your shit while you were on campus.

When these students decided to break out on their own and kickstart their venture, they kept the utility of the backpack as part of their business casual attire. Using a backpack as a briefcase substitute was not only more useful but also aligned with the office karma of startup culture.

By the 2010s, using a backpack for business spread across the working world, particularly in the US where folks along the more traditional east coast business hubs started to replace their slim briefcases with larger capacity backpacks. Oddly enough, it’s also when the whole SUV craze took hold. Come to think of it, it may have been an influence for greater acceptance into the norm.

Today, you’ll see just as many people wearing a backpack to work as those carrying a briefcase.

Modern Backpack Utility Vs Traditional Briefcase Style

Way back in the day when you were in high school or college, the answer was simple - go with a backpack ‘cause it’ll hold all your shit in one bag. Plus, it’s so easy to just sling it over one of your shoulders or wear both straps to go handsfree.

The same utility benefits of the backpack still hold true today, but the difference is that you’re not in school anymore. It’s time to grow up and be an adult in the real world where a briefcase is considered by many as the proper choice of bag.

Here are the pros and cons of each to think about.

A backpack is like the SUV of bags. It shares a lot of the same benefits and detractions so the analogy works well here.

Just like a big four-wheel drive SUV, it holds tons of stuff and can go pretty much anywhere. It’s rugged and built to take on a lot of abuse. It’s quite bulky and heavy. And because of its size and cargo capacity, you end up stuffing it will all sorts of crap and thus, it gets shitty “fuel economy” meaning, it can get tiring carrying it around.

On the other hand, the briefcase is like a small compact car. It can’t carry as much stuff or go anywhere like a large all-wheel drive SUV can. However, it’s an ideal commuter car because it’s not a gas guzzler and you’ll save money on gas. It gets great “fuel economy” because it’s lighter and easier to carry. And just like sedans, it’s got a more stylish form factor versus a boxy shape.

Then, there’s a new category of bags that are trying to span both sides. This is just like how there are “crossover” vehicles that look like SUVs but drive, handle and have fuel efficiency more like cars. These hybrid bags look like backpacks, but are more simplified in design with a sleeker form factor than traditional sporty backpacks.

Which Bag Is Better For You?

This is a question that’s been on your mind for some time now. And, you’re not exactly sure which is the better choice for your situation. You are debating which kind of bag to use for your working situation and personal brand image at work.

On one hand, you have the supreme utility of a cavernous backpack with pockets galore. On the other hand, you have a more traditional soft or hard briefcase that is svelte and more business-oriented. You like the idea of a bigger and more utilitarian backpack but you also like the slim form factor and style of the briefcase.

Both kinds of bags can work. Hell, even your grocery bag can do the job just fine too. But, you want to choose the right one. You gotta make a smart decision on this.

The simple and straightforward answer is that you need to consider several factors. These are the four main factors to consider.

What Did You Need To Carry?

This is the biggest and main factor to consider. If your job requires you to take a lot of shit to and from work daily because of all the fires you gotta put out, then it’s probably not going to be easy to squeeze all of that into a briefcase. However, if you’ve only got a few things like a laptop and some paperwork, a slimmer briefcase can be perfect.

You only want to use a bag just large enough to carry your daily necessities and nothing more. Otherwise, you may end up stuffing the bag with everything you own. If you can’t fit everything easily into a briefcase, then consider smaller to mid-sized backpacks.

What’s The Industry Dress Code?

Some industries, like the startup tech industry, are more progressive than conservative old-school ones. It’s common for people working at a dot com in silicon valley with kick-ass work perks to show up to work wearing jeans and a hoodie. While those that work in finance on Wall Street are still donning business suits.

Find out where your industry falls in that spectrum. This will be a factor in deciding which kind of bag to use for work. If it leans more toward conservative, then a briefcase is better. If it’s more progressive, then backpacks will fit in just fine.

What’s Your Job Type?

While this is not a hard rule, the type of job you have can also influence your bag decision. For example, many but not all folks that work as lawyers tend to favor briefcases over backpacks. The opposite holds true for people that work as fitness instructors.

The type of job you have does influence the kind of bag you’ll want to use - to some degree. Don’t accept it as a mandate, but more as another guiding factor. You don’t necessarily have to follow the crowd. You can add your own twist and style to create a little bit of happiness for yourself.

What’s Your Company Culture?

This is perhaps the most influential factor in your bag decision. Your company culture dictates a lot about how people behave, dress and work together. Hopefully, it’s not a toxic work environment but a decent one.

If your company is ultra-conservative with all the top brass wearing business suits, then you can bet that the company culture will follow this same pattern with employees wearing and behaving likewise. In this case, the briefcase wins out.

If your company is on the other end of the spectrum, then the opposite will hold true. So, if the dress code is business casual or jeans and tees, then backpacks are totally doable.

The key here is to take a look around at what your peers use for their bags and use that as an additional deciding factor.

Go With What Fits Your Style & Situation

It wasn’t too long ago when using a backpack for work was considered a bit weird. Now, it’s a different story. With the casualization of the business dress code, backpacks have become more acceptable and even normal in some cases.

Deciding on which type of bag to use for work can be a toss-up sometimes, especially if your factors don’t clearly dictate one over the other. In these instances, it’s pretty safe to go with what would work best for you and your look.

If your job and company culture is more conservative but not totally old-school traditional, then maybe try using a hybrid business backpack that is sleeker with subdued color hues and patterns.

Or, if you just don’t give a fuck about what others think about your work bag and want to stand out with a unique professional image, then bag it up with a colorful backpack to carry your stuff in sporty style.

In the end, it’s more about what works for your needs and style and less about what others think about it. So, don’t overthink it. Go with what will make your office life easier.

Feel Better,

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