Brief cases range in style from soft sided to hard sided and nylon to top grain leather. They range in price from the CalPak Negotiators Soft Brief Case at around $20.dollars (waterproof polyester, big main compartment, adjustable shoulder strap, definitely not my first choice) to a Pratesi Italian Leather Brief Case for $570 dollars (three interior compartments with the center one being designed for the ubiquitous laptop and an interior light for those late nights at the office). Actually I saw one briefcase for $1500 dollars but I didn’t look at that one long enough to see the brand name, sorry, the thing was just too pricey for an entry level manager.
Brief case basics are fairly simple concepts.
1. Quality material that will stay looking good no matter how many times it gets caught in the elevator door or kicked under the conference room table. This could mean a variety of materials but most quality briefcases are either nylon or leather. Leather cases may be either full-grain which keeps a nice natural finish, or top grain which can scratch easier than full grain leathers. You can look at briefcases in a catalog or on the internet and get a good idea of the durability and visual appeal of its material from the description and the picture but I personally prefer to touch the case
2. Compartments There should be an adequate number for separating the materials inside; but not so many as to create confusion when a business woman is looking for what she needs in a stressful moment. Successful business women I talked to were divided on how many compartments were ideal, but no less than two was considered important.
3. Straps or Carry Handles Straps and carry handles must be secured in a failsafe manner as nothing shouts incompetent like having your briefcase crash to the floor, pop open and spill contents to the far corners of the lobby when you are meeting important clients. It is important that shoulder straps be padded and preferably with the more modern gel inserts. The foam inserts were a huge improvement over unpadded straps but the gel ones are much superior to the foam ones. (Actually it is a rare briefcase that has those cushy padded shoulder straps.)
The first thing I thought about when I got that Bachelor’s in Business Degree was a briefcase. Now that may have been putting the cart before the horse, and it certainly was putting the case before the job. But when I thought of the business women I know, the cases that came to mind were the “woman’s” briefcase that looked more like a diaper bag (too much pastel color and a flowery print panel on the front), and the “man’s” style briefcase that looked like it belonged to an undertaker. I wanted one that was classy, stylish, not too severe and not too “girlish”.
There was a trend away from formal briefcases for a few years and women carried important files in everything from oversize purses to book bags intended for the library. A close watch on the business world shows the trend is moving back toward a more business dress style with classy suits, smart shoes and formal briefcases. There are far more choices now than in the past when women simply borrowed the “man’s” briefcase style.
Leather tree offers a Women’s Executive Portfolio bag for $350 that has a plethora of compartments, organizers, and features. Its advertising claims it “embodies executive elegance” and I agree. It shouts professional at the first glance, sleek but not small, classy but not pretentious. It has enough compartments to get lost in though; and that could be a problem. It depends on just what you need to carry with you. Having too many compartments can encourage you to take to much stuff that you don’t need and lead to an impression of messiness. (I like the look though) I would vote this one high on the list of most desirable cases.
The Tumi Business Satchel ($395) has a classy look, leather top handles, detachable shoulder strap, zipper closures, bottom feet and a wide stance. Inside there are two compartments, one fan fold section for files and the padded computer section with the foam pad to protect your laptop. There are pockets for the essentials of a business day including pen, business cards, and cell phone. Executive management level women like the look, size and organization of this bag. My concern is there is no padding on the shoulder straps. Put in a couple of important files, assorted essential stuff, a cell phone, and that all important laptop computer and this thing is going to need some padding on the shoulder straps.
Mowen Leather offers the “Lily Briefcase” for women ($264) in a choice of colors. The case is full grain dyed cowhide with nylon stitching and lining in a wide base style, with a roomy center compartment and two zippered dividers. The case is not ostentatious or oversized and is probably a good choice for entry level business management. I personally do not care for the look of this case simply because it looks like an oversize purse to me.
The Barrot Ladies Classic ($330) has semi soft sides and a curved profile without sacrificing the all business look. There are two main compartments with a zippered side pocket and a zippered pocket in the center divider. The handles are attached with metal brackets and there is an adjustable shoulder strap. No padding on these shoulder straps either. I thought this one looked decidedly business like though it may be a little small.
I really like the classic look, the sturdy construction, and the feel of the Tumi Formula-T Turbo Compartment Brief.($595) It has a wide base and little rubber feet so it stands up well on its own. It has good width and is easy to look into. It’s light and easy to carry, still no padded shoulder strap, but a nice ergonomic handle. It fairly shouts serious business and the only thing there is to fuss about is, it only comes in one colorÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦.but black is a good color for a briefcase so I would give my two thumbs up for this one. It may be just a little expensive for an entry level business woman but as the middle level management positions become available this is the case to carry into that position.
The laptop computer age has changed the look and requirements for briefcases. If you carry a laptop computer to work you will want a briefcase that is specifically designed to protect it and secure your files at the same time. The cases with a central compartment that is foam padded are much bulkier than traditional brief cases but they are the safest for your computer.
Color is a bigger concern for women than for men because of the variety of colors women’s business clothing can come in. Generally speaking bright colors in a briefcase would not be a good idea. I did see some brief cases for women that were a bright red or intense blue. They were truly beautiful standing alone but I could not imagine having an entire business wardrobe that would all look good with such bright colors. If you can afford a “wardrobe of briefcases” the bright red or the intensely blue cases would be a fun addition; other wise they do not seem to be too practical.
Your first briefcase should make a statement of style, seriousness, and impending success. It should not be so small that it cramps your style nor so large that it is ostentatious or hard to handle. Shopping for the case takes the proper planning and should be done with a sense of celebration. You should plan on spending $250 to $650 for a good quality case that will see you through the first years of your career. Go shopping for that all important first briefcase as a graduation present to yourself as soon as that Bachelors in Business Administration degree hits your hand.