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  1. #1
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    A question of style

    In the Fall of 2009, I purchased a Tom Bihn SuperEgo (large briefcase), Freudian Slip and Brain Cell. I posted a thread with photos of me and my purchase here.

    I am now looking at acquiring other bags, including a backpack for business.

    I was intrigued by ScottE22's thread and video from Dec. 2013 about using a Synapse as a portable office organizer. One thing I've noticed appearing, over and over again, is a sensitivity to style in discussions. The basic philosophy on these forums is, when in doubt, choose solid black for all briefcases, backpacks, etc., in a business environment.

    Back in '09, when I was shopping for a briefcase, I posted on a forum for legal professionals who use Macintosh computers that I was wondering if there were any Tom Bihn customers there, and sure enough I found at least one. A cautionary note, though, was that I also encountered other points-to-view, including this...

    I dont think anything compares with the Tumi line. Maybe its just my
    line of legal practice but I think you send the wrong message when
    you walk into a meeting with a ballistic nylon bag.
    There was quite a pronounced preference for leather briefcases, or so I found.

    But as for other wares, in 2010 I acquired a black Bihn Side Effect, which I occasionally wear as a side hip-pack.

    But why does black (or super-expensive leather) transmit the message (to some, at least) that one is "serious" about "business"? Have others encountered this kid of sentiment? If so, how pronounced was it?

    NOTE: I am not in the legal profession.

    ADDED NOTE: there was also this message from the lawyers:

    I well remember the beat up briefcase carried by the Boston lawyer for
    the corporation, Robert Duvall (Jerome Facher) in the case against
    John Travolta (Jan Sclichtmann)'s clients--A Civil Action:
    old, worn, and, at least in that round, effectively prevailing.
    Comments?
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  2. #2
    Forum Member habanero's Avatar
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    Also not being a member of the legal profession, I can't comment directly, but I can relate this brief anecdote. In my first client-faciing position years ago at a big 5 consulting firm, I bought a ballistic nylon Tumi briefcase/laptop bag, mostly because that's what everyone else used. (The partner had a leather one, but since I wasn't a partner, I figured nylon was good enough.) It was a nice bag, though a bit heavy and a bit large on petite moi, but the one thing I remember about it is that after a year or so of use,the metal hook attachment on the strap, that attached it to the ring on the bag, wore through and broke. I took it back to the store, and they said it was no longer under warranty; not sure if they even offered to sell me a replacement strap, but I'm sure I would have been too annoyed at having the strap on a $350 bag fail after only a couple years, to consider buying a new strap.

    I never bought a Tumi bag again. (I left the big 5 shortly thereafter too, and since then have worked in casual technology environments, where my Tom Bihn gear fits right in.)

  3. #3
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    What about color?

    Is it true that "business is black"?
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  4. #4
    Forum Member Saltgirl's Avatar
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    I have worked in outsourcing/consulting in the HRIS field for 15 years. Black ballistic wheeled briefcases were the sign of the serious ladder climber. These things were bigger than my early 90s era microwave and fit half a file cabinets worth of paper. The only people who ever carried "fun" bags were the IT guys with their bike messenger style. Interestingly enough, the only bag I ever carried that ever got me noticed was a salmon fabric with brown leather trim bowling bag shaped computer satchel. All the guys wanted to get one for their wives. (Eyeroll). It cost a lot, broke 2nd time out and also was not replace/repairable.

    I'm pleased to say the healthcare field I am now in does not give a crap what my bag looks like. And 75% of my coworkers are female.

  5. #5
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    I work in finance and black is the predominate color of what I've seen. I have only seen the higher ups carry black, dark/medium blue, or dark/medium brown bags. I have seen very occasionally dark purple.

  6. #6
    Forum Member jujigatame's Avatar
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    I think style and material can make just as big an impact as color. If I came to a meeting with either the classic Halliburton briefcase in banana yellow or a soft briefcase in black ballistic that cost $20 which would you think was more serious? Kinda depends on how closely you look and pay attention to detail. Then again, does any of this have anything to do with the actual quality of work one performs? Impressions do count and different places can call for different looks, but a Hello Kitty bag doesn't make someone a lesser lawyer any more than a Tumi bag makes them a better one.

  7. #7
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    Yes, black does mean business -- in the legal world. I worked long ago at Facher's firm. The beat up bag was a cultural touchstone and a bit of fake humility. Partners felt it sent the message that they had been through years of trials. They'd leave their Rolex at home and wear cheap watches.

    I do think corporate lawyers as a culture are conservative and money/status-conscious. Leaving aside that "beat up bag" conceit, law firm bosses are big on expensive belongings. I wouldn't tell a young lawyer at one of those firms to carry a Tom Bihn bag. I'd tell them to see what their bosses carry -- probably leather briefcases, not backpacks or even ballistic bags -- and buy one. Maybe at an outlet like the one I bought.

    But now I'm out of that world. I carry a black S25. I have carried it to meetings with other lawyers. I don't care whether they think I'm too casual or not classy enough. But I'm thinking about a WF or TS, and I'd probably buy black. A casual bag does contrast with a formal suit so I'd probably buy black just to reduce the contrast.


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  8. #8
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    Some of Bihn's backpacks and other external offerings are grey and/or silver-like colors. Would these constitute a business no-no? Is it "all-black exteriors, all the way"?
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  9. #9
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    You can carry a neon green briefcase and still be professional. It's all in how you act and carry yourself. When meeting with people for the first time, I normally carry something black. After that I can determine if I'm more comfortable continuing with black bags around them or if color is more appropriate. One of the most professional and power people I know carries a dark blue bag to all of their meetings.

  10. #10
    Forum Member adalangdon's Avatar
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    A question of style

    Black means business in law because, at least for the litigators, your court uniform is black and white with a black bag. I haven't entered practice yet but that's the reason I have black versions of pretty much every bag I foresee using in the office.

    As for the leather thing, I think it's more complicated. It depends on your firm and who you're seeing. Even in Big Law here, some senior associates trudge into office with messenger bags that look like they were used in high school. But they change bags and suit up for court and client meetings. Similarly, if you're just seeing the duty judge in the lower courts here, you could probably get away with a black, steel or grey cafe bag plus a suit if you're female. (I've seen it as an intern.) And lawyers in smaller firms generally don't have to dress up as much to see clients.

  11. #11
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    It really depends what field you're in and where you are located. If you work in the business end of a creative field you can probably get away with something besides black. If you're in a serioius field--law, banking, politics--you probably want to be more conservative and go black.

    I would take a cue from the people you deal with. If they are carrying black, it's probably not a good idea for you to carry burnt orange. Black is a neutral color for bags. Leather is also considered neutral.

    Style is also important. If everyone carries a briefcase, then carrying a Synapse might have you stand out and not in a good way.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

  12. #12
    Volunteer Moderator Ilkyway's Avatar
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    Another thing is how established you are. A slightly controversial bag in farbric or color might look missplaced by someone fresh in that field and the same bag looks more exentric or like a statement on a person who has a "name" in that same line of work.
    Pondering too much about the stile thing tough takes in my eyes two much away from the serios buiseness. If I where to enter a new line of work I would go with the masses, which means black and boxy-briefcasy in my case I would order a black Pilot to accompany my black (yes I have ONE black bag) Side Effect. But as soon as I "know the flow" and people know I am quality rather than facade I switch to aubergine.

    Ilkyway
    “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

    By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

  13. #13
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    Black, Steel, Gray, Navy are all conservative colors. Some jobs require conservative colors but, like Ilkyway pointed out, it also depends upon your tenure in the profession and your need or desire to "fit in". A black bag of reasonable quality will never stand out. Cloth (ballistic or otherwise) is accepted in everything but the most conservative circles.

    And then there is Donald Trump. He wears what he wants, says what he wants and is accepted for being different. When Donald Trump wears a rumpled suit and a red ball cap he looks perfectly comfortable. Dressing down most other candidates makes them look like they had to work at dressing down and they look uncomfortable and out of place.

    Are you comfortable in your job to wear what you want and still get the respect of your co-workers? If so, then go ahead and wear that lime green side effect with your French blue seersucker suit. You're golden if your co-workers will direct other to you by saying "Go see MtnMan for advice, he's the guy with the lime green bag" as opposed to "look at that clown" - same clothing and bags, just different attitudes.

    Ilkyway was certainly correct - you can "get away" with a lot more once you have established your reputation in a professional community.
    Last edited by ceb; 08-17-2015 at 01:50 PM. Reason: fixed one of many typos
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  14. #14
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    I never encountered any of this. Of course, my Super Ego is by far the most extravagant briefcase I've ever carried.
    Owner of: Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.

  15. #15
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    I think this is very industry specific, to be totally candid.

    If you are in a very conservative environment-- think law, banking, politics-- bags tend to be black, rectangular and hand-carried. Anywhere else, I think your decision is best driven by three questions:

    1. What is everyone else carrying?
    2. Are you meeting clients (either at home or away)?
    3. What do you like?

    As for me, I work in consulting and have two options. The sturdy, work issued, logo-ed black computer backpack for every day and a nice black briefcase for when I need to go meet with a client. I break out the briefcase MAYBE twice a year.
    A45: Burnt Orange/Steel; LCB: Black Dyneema/Wasabi Dyneema; DLBP: Coyote; 3DCOC: Iberian; SSK: Iberian; TSS: Solar & Island (4), Wasabi & Zest (3), Ultraviolet & Northwest Sky (2), Iberian (1); Travel Tray: Steel; Q-kit; Various Dyneema organizer pouches,

    Still refining my system

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