The best briefcases 2021: cases for the smartly attired and casually dressed

Keep your laptop safe and work documents secure with our selection of the best briefcases

The best briefcases

The term ‘briefcase’ originates from when lawyers used them to transport their documents – or brief documents – to court with them. 

These days, briefcases are large enough to safely store a laptop, important work files, stationary and even a packed lunch or travelling gear if your job involves a bit of jet-setting.

While there are certain requirements for the internal design of a briefcase, there’s definitely some style freedom when it comes to its external appearance.

The design you are probably most aware of is the attache case. These hard, boxy cases with a single hinged handle and twin latches with combination locks offer a classic look, but could look out of place if you don’t wear a suit for the 9-5.

Thankfully, there are many alternatives for those who need a briefcase but don’t work in law or finance. These come from fashion and high street brands alike, and often include storage for a laptop, plus documents and accessories of various shapes and sizes.

Our list features a range of the best briefcases - from black and brown leather to black and metal attache cases - so you should have no trouble finding one to suit your budget, job and workplace.

1. Aspinal of London Attaché Case

A superior quality briefcase for the deepest of pockets

Best for: Making a statement
Material: Wood, calf leather, suede
Type: Traditional attaché
Reasons to buy
+Made from luxury materials+Plenty of compartments
Reasons to avoid
-Must be looked after carefully 

This briefcase is rather posh, with it’s cobalt blue suede interior, wooden frame and external calf leather finish. Aspinal of London boasts about the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that has gone into creating this briefcase, which makes us think the price is justified. 

The case features a pouch for your laptop, pen holders, business card holders and a section to store important files or meeting notes. There’s even a lock on the outside, perfect if you happen to be transporting the UK’s nuclear codes. 

2. Polo Ralph Lauren pebble-grain leather briefcase

A compact and stylish briefcase with dedicated laptop sleeve and storage pockets

Best for: More relaxed than attaché
Material: Leather
Type: Hand-held with optional shoulder strap
Reasons to buy
+Designer brand+Integrated laptop sleeve
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most formal

This compact briefcase by Ralph Lauren features a detachable strap for wearing over the shoulder, and includes a matching leather luggage tag. Inside, there is a dedicated sleeve for safely storing your laptop, plus two other pockets. The pebble grain finish of the leather should help protect the bag against scratches and scuffing.

3. Ted Baker Giiza Document Bag

Stylish document bag with the silhouette of a briefcase and handy shoulder strap

Best for: Affordable style
Material: Polyurethane
Type: Document bag with shoulder strap
Reasons to buy
+Classic good looks+Tough polyurethane construction+Removable shoulder strap
Reasons to avoid
-Not leather

Made from polyurethane instead of leather, this briefcase by Ted Baker features dual contrasting handles, plus a detachable shoulder strap. A pair of zippers open the entire top half of the bag, making it easy to slip a laptop, tablet or documents inside.

4. Hidesign Bleaklow 01 Briefcase

Designed to carry everything, this practical briefcase has numerous pockets for keeping everything in its place

Best for: Classic design
Material: Leather
Type: Briefcase with buckle
Reasons to buy
+Subtle but stylish+Several pockets, one for a tablet
Reasons to avoid
-Could be too small for some

This compact leather briefcase has a neat buckle fastener and an attractive cotton lining. Inside, there are three interior pockets; one zipped, one for housing a tablet, and one slip pocket. There is also another slip pocket in the flap and one in the rear, giving plenty of storage space.

5. Aspinal of London Executive Briefcase

A stylish and elegant envelope style briefcase

Best for: Superior style
Material: Calf leather, suede
Type: Laptop briefcase
Reasons to buy
+Crocodile effect leather+Requires a key for opening
Reasons to avoid
- No shoulder strap 

This executive briefcase is kind of a hybrid of our first two picks. It’s slightly more rigid than the parker but not as highflying as the wooden, leather bound briefcase, which could make it the ideal choice for, well… executives. 

It features three internal main pockets, including one for a laptop and one for business documents. Thanks to the crocodile skin finish, it’s more of a fashion piece than the others, too, making it the perfect accessory to a well cut suit and polished shoes. 

6. Coach Metropolitan Slim Soft Leather Briefcase

A casual yet professional soft leather briefcase for smart casual dress codes

Best for: The smart casual look
Material: Leather
Type: Shoulder briefcase
Reasons to buy
+Space for a tablet and laptop+Shoulder strap for easy carrying
Reasons to avoid
-Too casual for smart dress codes

Probably the most casual briefcase in our list, you can dress this one up or down. It has a light tan soft leather exterior, which gives it that relaxed appearance. 

It’s all business inside, though, with a laptop pocket, and a couple of compartments for work documents and various work necessities. There’s a front pocket for slipping in bits and bobs that require easy access and a shoulder strap for convenient wear – perfect if you’re a commuter. You can even detach the strap once you’re in the office for a smarter approach to carrying your work gear. 

7. John Lewis Elevate Briefcase

A streamlined briefcase, designed for purpose

Best for: Laptops
Material: Nylon and leather
Type: Soft shell briefcase
Reasons to buy
+Space for a large laptop+Simple design
Reasons to avoid
-Not as plush as others 

If you’re looking for a briefcase that’s a little more streamlined, this laptop bag style item could be the one. It’s got a smart external appearance which features a synthetic black material contrasting against leather buckles and straps, which keeps it smart yet casual at the same time. 

The designers have given the wearer the option to open the whole bag to access their laptop or they can just open the top part if they want to access documents from the external pocket inside. The shoulder strap is removable, too, great for transitioning between on the go and being in and out of meetings. 

8. Alumaxx Laptop Attache Case

A secure attache case for secret agents… or office workers

Best for: Heavy duty organiser
Material: Aluminium
Type: Hard shell attache
Reasons to buy
+Secure case for valuables+Lots of pockets to keep things organised
Reasons to avoid
-Don’t forget the keycode 

This James Bond-esqe attache case is the one that hides the weapons. Or just your laptop and a couple of pens. Even so, the aluminium exterior should look pretty cool and it’s all padded and secure inside so you can be confident things won’t get broken or go awol. 

With compartments to put pens, business cards, notepads and even you charger, this is great one for those who feel utmost satisfaction in seeing everything orderly. The case features two exterior locks for complete security, so you can be confident that no one’s going to slip it open and steal those important documents.  

9. Tassia Attache Briefcase

A pocket-friendly attache for smart up and coming business people

Best for: Value
Material: Synthetic
Type: Traditional attache
Reasons to buy
+Looks professional+Slots for pens, cards, tablets etc
Reasons to avoid
-Not real leather 

If you fancy yourself an attache suitcase but can’t afford to let go of the equivalent of a month’s rent, this leather look suitcase may take your fancy. Yes,  it lacks the finesse of Aspinal of London, but it does everything you need it to, including looking smart and featuring handy places to pop pens, business cards and notepads. 

The interior is also large enough to fit a substantially sized laptop and there’s two locks for keeping all of your work gear safe. If you’re rising through the ranks and looking to impress, you can’t really go wrong with this one – and the price won’t break the bank, too. 

10. Hidesign Parker Leather Briefcase

A smart leather parker case for a more relaxed way to carry your work gear

Best for: The relaxed professional
Material: Wood, calf leather, suede
Type: Parker briefcase
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of room for work paraphernalia+Features an external pocket for easy to access items 
Reasons to avoid
-Soft leather will require care 

This parker briefcase is professional without being over the top, which makes us think it’s the ideal bag for the everyday office worker. It’s made from a dark brown leather and features several inside pockets for laptops, work documents and even a padded pocket for a tablet- ideal for working men on the go. 

Thanks to the shoulder strap, you can wear this briefcase bag securely, even when running for the train and if you want to quickly access your phone or wallet, there’s a zipped external pocket, too. 

11. Top Grain Cowhide Leather Attaché Briefcase

Classic briefcase design with coded locks and plenty of sleeves and pockets

Best for: Luxury looks without breaking the bank
Material: Leather
Type: Attaché briefcase
Reasons to buy
+Classy attaché design+Numerous pockets of various sizes+Locking system
Reasons to avoid
-Too large for some

This classic attache briefcase features a three-digit locking system for each of its two latches, keeping your documents safe. Input your code (which can be set to whatever you like) and pop the latches to reveal a large storage space with pockets and sleeves of various sizes. There is space for documents and a laptop or tablet, plus smaller pockets for business cards, pens and accessories.

Four metal feet protect the leather when rested on the ground, while the pig skin lining ensures no damage will come to whatever you store inside.