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From Satchels to Briefcases: The Evolution and Progression of Fashion and Professional Carry-Ons

From Satchels to Briefcases: The Evolution and Progression of Fashion and Professional Carry-Ons

We may now associate briefcases with business professionals, lawyers, and secret agents racing against time to save the world. Still, these must-have accessories have a history as rich and varied as the people who carry them. This journey takes us through time, allowing us to see how briefcases have weaved their way into the fabric of societal standards regarding professional carry-alls' fashion and functionality.

The Humble Beginnings

Perhaps the earliest version of a briefcase can be traced back to the ancient Roman period, where records pointed to what was known as a sarcina. This was a simple leather satchel used by Roman soldiers to carry their personal belongings on long marches. While these rudimentary bags were practical, they lacked the stylistic touch that would follow generations later.

The Middle Ages and the Birth of the Satchel

In the Middle Ages, leather satchels, with their distinctive front flap and fastening, became a common sight. Sarkels were often sported by scholars and apprentices to carry their supplies. These satchels laid the foundation for functional, portable storage that didn't compromise on fashion. However, in their quest for convenience and fashion, they sometimes failed in terms of durability and security.

The Industrial Revolution and the Birth of the Briefcase

With the industrialization of the 19th century, the need for a more professional carry-on emerged. As more people were entering professional fields, the briefcase – typically constructed of leather and featuring a rectangular shape – became the go-to option. It offered a sleek, sophisticated aesthetic that signaled success and ambition. However, it wasn’t perfect yet: early versions were heavy and not welcoming to carrying more sizable or awkward items.

The Evolution of the Briefcase

The evolution of the briefcase saw the triumphs and follies of designs such as attached handles, internal compartments, and even the combination lock. The briefcase saw its heyday in the mid-20th century, embodying the professional working persona. However, it fell slightly out of favor during the late 20th century with the arrival of more casual business attire and flexible work arrangements. But, like all fashion statements, it didn’t disappear entirely.

Modern Day Variations

In the 21st century, the briefcase has successfully reinvented itself with a variety of designs, catering to a more diverse range of professionals. Updated designs, such as the messenger bag and the laptop bag, have catered to technological advancement and changing work practices. However, not all iterations have been successful. The briefcase backpack, for instance, was less welcomed due to its casual appearance in the corporate environment.


From a simple Roman satchel to the stylish and sophisticated briefcases we see today, professional carry-ons have evolved alongside our society and fashion norms. Their successes and failures are a testament to their ability to persist and adapt. To those dashed designs that missed the mark, we salute you for pushing the envelope of innovation. To those who stay, here's to continue being the quintessential accessory for the ambitious, the successful, and the driven.

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