PurseBlog Asks

Is Your Work Bag Not Meant to Look Chic?

Let's discuss...

They say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Easier said than done, especially when the job involves you morphing into a hyper-realistic version of a high-flying marketing executive who somehow manages to jet-set between the world’s fashion capitals.

In hindsight, this sounds suspiciously like whatever Emily does in Emily in Paris (you can see I’ve researched this exceedingly well). And the current state of my closet would only ever resemble that of Emily’s had hers been curated by an aspiring TikTok budget-influencer and not Patricia Fields, i.e., sans the Prada and the bangs. In even hinder sight, the Emily in Paris wardrobe is a fantasy for most real marketing executives; hence, the budget version is probably the only one there is. But hey, a fella can dream, right?

Now, of course, as a handbag-lover (and an ardent hate-watcher of Emily in Paris), it’s tempting to walk into my job (if you can call college a “job” in the first place) with a sleek shoulder bag in tow, à la Emily. The only snafu? Said mini-purse will barely fit my actual study materials, let alone the rest of the miscellaneous mishmash I have on my person at any point. And therein lies the problem we all face with our work bags.

Saint Laurent SDJ

The Travails of My Work Bags

You see, as much as we’re enamored with all-athleisure-everything which allows us to pull effortless, off-duty looks, the truth is that there’s a dire need in the market for a designer handbag that’s actually on-duty. When did you last see a working individual carrying a purse that looked put together? I rest my case.

Now, the discussion on expensive work bags is lengthy and heated. Some feel very strongly about conspicuous pieces in the workplace (though the sentiments vary between jobs). Others, however, prefer to rely on the quality and durability that luxury offers to bear the brunt of their daily burdens. And for the better part of this conversation, I’ve remained at a happy medium, religiously toting my Ghesquière-era Balenciaga Work and aughties-chic Proenza Schouler PS1. In theory, therefore, I shouldn’t require yet another work bag. They’re neither blindingly monogrammed nor stodgily bland; what complaint could there possibly be?

Well, the problem chiefly is my laptop. Or rather, the lack of any means to carry it thereof. Ancient and unwieldy, few dedicated gadget-compatible purses are even made to accommodate its size, much less my trusty PS1 and Work. It’s as if designers looked at an excellent handbag and said, “let’s make this a wee bit less functional for Sajid.” And, of course, my general disapproval of backpacks isn’t news anymore. Therefore, on days I must haul my laptop (with a mammoth charging cable to boot), I must relegate some of my belongings to a secondary canvas tote. And it is thus that I have joined the ranks of thousands of working individuals around the globe frustrated by their inability to find a work bag that isn’t frazzled by the weight of their belongings (I could, of course, replace my laptop, but that’s beside the point).

Sajids White Briefcase.jpg
My trusty white laptop briefcase.

What’s in Your Work Bag?

My daily carryall often resembles those featured on the most chaotic What’s in My Bag videos: filled to the brim with slightly fraying edges and a motley assortment of things thrown in for good measure. The upside of this, obviously, is the element of surprise (personally, I prefer to call it preparedness). But it also makes them quite (read: very) heavy, rendering shoulder-carrying near-impossible at times. Add to that a rather unsafe commute, and it quickly rules out the most popular open totes, such as the Louis Vuitton Neverfull or the Goyard St. Louis.

But what do I need to carry besides the laptop and its accouterments? Books come to mind, a flask for coffee, another for water (caffeine makes you thirsty, after all), and a rather large toiletry pouch of knick-knacks, where the only toiletry item is perfume. On a more general note, many of our work bags are also burdened with the responsibility of gym clothes (the fact that I’m speaking of this generally says a lot about my fitness level), an extra pair of shoes, and even more!

And having to schlep all that while looking polished and following the workplace dress code (if any) is admittedly a tall order, requiring you to either trade in on comfort, style, or even both.

Gucci Tote

What Options Do We Have?

However, many functional handbag brands have cropped up for this purpose alone. Michael Kors, despite its alleged bad rap, remains popular, especially with its Jet Set range of zipped totes. At the same time, fans swear by corporate-savvy designers like Madewell, Dagne Dover, Jemma, and Everlane, the latter allegedly boasting 12,000-people long waitlists! Cuyana is another big name in the niche, and despite essentially being a carry-on, I’ll confess I’m eyeing its Triple-Zipper Overnight Bag, which can be monogrammed too!

Most importantly, though, I’m currently on the hunt for a secure, compartmentalized carryall – though more soccer mom than cool-girl, I’ll admit—that circumvents the logistical complications of an open-tote. I am currently chasing a Coach Monogram Hamptons Briefcase on eBay, the perfect Y2K-esque logo carryall from a heritage brand! For something more luxe, though, the Gucci Jackie 1961 Tote is a fantastic alternative *adds to wishlist*.

A final consideration that pops up in the work-bag discussion is material. Should you opt for leather, its vegan alternatives, or fabric? Of course, with its sustainable ethos, vegan leather, à la Stella McCartney or Everlane, may seem preferable. But it’s important to assess their durability before taking the plunge.

If the words of Blink 182 are anything to go by, “work sucks, I know.” Or at least, college does. It is, however, the little joys – of dressing up, of carrying a handbag that sparks joy for us – that makes commuting to the workplace a pleasure. Of course, there has traditionally been a longstanding image of the frazzled work bag that runs contrary to our expectations of a luxury purse. And maybe you’re into the beater-esque aesthetic of your work-carryall. But the contrary also rings true: your office purse needn’t necessarily look like a workhorse at its wane. And this sleeker nicety of a daily hauler is what I’m on the hunt for now.

So, tell me, what does your office bag look like?


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