Briefcase vs Messenger Bag – which is best?

It’s true:

The line between briefcases and messenger bags was once clear and distinct.

However, changes in customer needs have led to changes in both briefcases and messenger bags, leaving people confused.

What is the difference? Read more in this post, and check out my picks for a great briefcase or messenger bag, too!

What's best? Briefcase or messenger bag?

Briefcases – Pros and Cons

Typically, briefcases are carried by a top handle and are meant for more professional environments.

They tend to be on the larger side because they need to be big enough to carry legal documents and due to the sensitive nature of the documents typically found in a briefcase, it’s not uncommon for them to have locks or security hardware.

Because briefcases are meant to hold legal documents and be used in professional settings, they tend to be more structured than a messenger bag and keep their shape regardless of whether they’re being carried or set down.

Now that you know a little bit more about what a briefcase is, let’s take a look at its pros and cons.


  • They’re large enough to hold most documents
  • Locks and security hardware mean they’re more secure than a messenger bag
  • A variety of shapes and sizes make them suitable for all professional environments
  • Structured frame means you don’t have to worry about your documents getting crushed
  • Leather exterior means it will last for years if you take care of it


  • Despite its size, briefcases tend to only have enough room for documents and smaller items such as pens or a calculator. You’ll need a separate bag if you plan on hitting the gym later
  • You sacrifice the use of one hand, since it will always be tethered to the handle
  • The structured frame makes it ill suited for crowded public transportation

For professionals, a briefcase is a great choice. However, if you need to remain more mobile or hold larger items, it may not be for you.
How about messenger bags?

Why is a messenger bag better?

Messenger bags – Pros and Cons

Now that you know about the pros and cons of briefcases, let’s take a look at messenger bags.

First of all, the most important question: what are they?

Unlike briefcases, messenger bags were meant to be carried while out and about. Originally used by (you guessed it) messengers, they needed to be carried easily anywhere and everywhere. As a result, messenger bags tend to be smaller than a briefcase.

They also tend to be softer and more malleable, allowing them to fit in tight spaces. However, this means they won’t protect your documents as well as a briefcase will.

Messenger bags have a shoulder strap and are meant to be carried over your shoulder or chest, making them easier to carry around. While they are fine in casual settings, a messenger bag will often look out of place in a professional environment.


  • Smaller and softer, messenger bags are easy to bring with you on public transportation
  • The shoulder strap means you have the functionality of both hands
  • They fit in better in everyday situations


  • Softer body means contents aren’t well protected
  • Too casual to bring to a formal office or event

If you’re not going to high-level business meetings or going to court, a messenger bag may be the perfect choice. Just make sure that it hits the level of formality you need.

Are you interested in buying a briefcase or messenger bag but not sure where to start? Check out my top picks for both:

Top Premium Briefcase: McKlein USA Reagan Leather Attache Case

McKlein, V Series, Reagan, Top Grain Cowhide Leather, Leather 3.5' Attaché Briefcase, Black (80445)

Topping our list for best premium briefcase is the McKlein USA Reagan Leather Attache Case.

This well-made and professional briefcase is made from top-grain cowhide leather will age significantly better than the genuine leather that the Swiss Alpine is made from. It features a slim design that makes this briefcase easy to carry around along with a comfortable top carry handle.

The Mcklein USA Reagan creates a classy accessory with its gold finished hardware and even houses a three digit combination lock for maximum security.

Protective feet on the case keep it from falling over or getting dirty while additional pockets within the briefcase helps keep you organized.


  • Top-grain cowhide leather provides a high-quality, unique exterior
  • Slim design makes it easy to carry around even in crowded offices
  • Gold finished hardware keeps the USA Reagan classy
  • Three digit combination lock keeps your documents safe
  • Protective feet on the bottom keep your briefcase looking brand new
  • Interior pockets keep business essentials organized

You can read more about this great briefcase and check out all the colors over on Amazon by clicking here.

Top Budget Briefcase: Alpine Swiss Expandable Leather Briefcase

Alpine Swiss Expandable Leather Attache Briefcase Dual Combination Locks

Coming in as our top pick for a budget briefcase is the Alpine Swiss Expandable Leather Briefcase!

A product from the popular Alpine Swiss brand, this briefcase is a perfect beginner bag for the professional on a budget. It measures at 19” x 14” x 4” when expanded, a neat feature that allows you to enlarge your briefcase or make it slimmer, depending on the situation.

The Alpine Swiss Expandable Leather Briefcase houses a combination lock which is handy in case you need to set it down somewhere unattended.

The briefcase also features four protective metal feet on the bottom so you can set it down without worrying about it scuffing. Inside, you’ll find expanding file folders and an organizer pocket.


  • Expandable attache means you can fit more business essentials
  • The combination lock keeps your belongings secure
  • Four metal feet protects your briefcase from scuffing
  • Expanding folders and organizer pocket help keep your items organized
  • Comfortable handle reduces strain on your hand
  • One year warranty protects against defects


  • The briefcase is made of genuine leather, so it won’t last as long as finer leathers

Need to look professional on a budget? Go get one for yourself over on Amazon by clicking here.

What are the benefits of a briefcase over a messenger bag?

Top Premium Messenger Bag: Jack&Chris Genuine Leather Messenger Bag

Jack&Chris Men's Genuine Leather Briefcase Messenger Bag Attache Case 14' Laptop, MB005B

The Jack&Chris Men’s Genuine Leather Briefcase Messenger Bag is our top pick due to its high-quality build and versatility as both a messenger bag and a briefcase!

The shoulder strap is removable, allowing you to use it as a briefcase. Although it may not fit in in all professional environments, it’s professional design will fit in in most spaces. It’s made with high-quality handmade cowhide grain leather with a sturdy top handle and a padded adjustable shoulder strap.

The Jack&Chris Men’s Genuine Leather Briefcase Messenger Bag features a main pocket, a front zipper pocket, an inner zipper pocket, and a padded laptop sleeve that can fit any laptops up to 15.6”. There’s even an attachment for your suitcase, making it easier to transport while traveling.


  • Versatility as a briefcase and a messenger bag adds extra utility
  • Handmade cowhide grain leather means this messenger bag will last you a long time
  • Sturdy top handle and padded shoulder strap make this easy to transport
  • Multiple pockets help keep all your items organized
  • Padded laptop sleeve keeps your laptop safe
  • Suitcase attachment makes this ideal for traveling


  • A lack of organizational pockets can make it difficult to find certain items

You can read more about this great back over on Amazon by clicking here.

Looking for more great leather bags? Check out my post all about leather messenger bags and caring for them here.

Top Budget Messenger Bag: Newhey Mens Messenger Bag

Mens Messenger Bag 15.6 Inch Waterproof Vintage Genuine Leather Waxed Canvas Briefcase Large Satchel Shoulder Bag Rugged Leather Computer Laptop Bag, Brown

The Newhey Mens Messenger Bag is our top pick for the best budget messenger bag!

The Men’s Messenger Bag is made of a crazy horse cowhide leather and canvas blend, making it water-resistant and durable. Both the shoulder strap and the handle are padded to ease fatigue while on the move and the bag is double secured with magnetic snaps and a full-body zipper.

A common concern with messenger bags is organization, but not with the Newhey Mens Messenger Bag! It features 5 outer pockets, 4 inner pockets, and a padded laptop sleeve which will fit laptops up to 15.6”.


  • The water-resistant exterior makes sure your personal belongings stay nice and dry
  • Padded shoulder straps and handle make carrying a breeze
  • Magnetic snaps and zipper means your belongings stay safe and sound
  • 5 exterior pockets mean your essentials are within arms reach
  • 4 inner pockets keep your belongings organized
  • Padded laptop sleeve keeps your laptop or tablet safe


  • The magnetic snaps can pop open with general everyday use

If you need to carry your stuff but don’t have the cash, check out this awesome and stylish bag over on Amazon

Which do you prefer, a briefcase or a messenger bag? Leave a comment and let us know!

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