Toodle-Oo, Velcro! Yes, Boys, Briefcases Are Back

Hey, fellas! Throw away those tattered messenger bags you bought during your college years, because briefcases are back in a big way.

“I wanted to look professional but not too professional, and hated the idea of carrying a briefcase around like my Dad’s boxy, old-fashioned cordovan leather one he probably got before I was even born,” said my pal Dave, 25, a curator in Brooklyn.

The new briefcase is decidedly not Dad’s boxy old case, beat down by years of commuting. Nor is it Jerry Seinfeld’s European carry-all or the frumpy slacker’s Manhattan Portage side-slung bag. Modern offerings from Coach and Jack Spade—“softer, younger and a little more hip,” said Daveare malleable, canvas or leather, with shoulder straps for versatility. There are pockets for a wallet, pens, a calculator and room for files—but also includes room for gadgets like a laptop, iPod or BlackBerry, perhaps with a built-in slit for headphone access.

“It makes me think of the Organization Man, but it’s cooler because you’re not wearing the gray-flannel suit or anything,” said freelance writer Darrell Hartman, 26, referring to sociologist William H. Whyte’s 1969 invention.

Mr. Hartman likes to sling his case over a blazer and wool trousers. “I might add a sweater vest, but that’s just me.” Sharp!

Andy Salzer, creative director of the sharp but casual men’s line Yoko Devereaux, said that he sees “the briefcase as making a comeback more in spirit than the return of the actual briefcase,” adding “There’s definitely a return to that type of formality in menswear accessories, but it’s kind of like the idea of the return of the three-piece suit: it looks great in magazines, but modern guys have a difficult time pulling it off in the present day.” What you want, Mr. Salzer said, is “the bags that speak to that kind of professionalism, but don’t make you feel you’re reliving a scene from the 80’s flick Wall Street either.”

But my friend Frampton, 31, Deputy Director of the Historic Districts Council declared himself bonkers for his briefcase, despite the inherent fashion challenges it presents. “It’s just infinitely more stylish than a tote bag and dresses up any outfit,” he said.

Toodle-Oo, Velcro! Yes, Boys, Briefcases Are Back