Let’s face it, fellas, the men’s briefcase has come a long way since the Roman loculus way back in the third century. If you’ve ever wondered about the history behind your favorite briefcase, laptop bag, satchel, backpack, portfolio or any other case used for keeping your most important items secure, Dalys 1895 is here to take you on a trip through the evolution of the men’s briefcase over the course of nearly 2,000 years. So, grab your favorite briefcase or bag and let’s go.

Loculus, Bag of Legionnaires

As the ancient Romans were busy creating and maintaining their great republic, the higher echelons of educated Romans, including politicians, lawyers and the like, needed a way to carry their important documents. So the first-known briefcase, called the loculus, was born out of necessity. Even the Legionnaires, the Roman soldiers, carried these bags to hold provisions in battle. The loculus could be held by a handle like a modern briefcase, however it most resembles a contemporary messenger bag. While no original Roman loculus is known to still exist, other designers have attempted to reconstruct it based on ancient designs

Loculus, Bag of Legionnaires

The Rise of Men’s Bags and the First Man-Purse

For the first thousand years, the briefcase was more of a satchel, that resembled more a drawstring pouch. This was typically made from animal hide or leather, and used by everyone from noblemen to commoners to carry their coinage. In English, this was called a ‘bowgett’, which we derive our current financial term ‘budget’ from (and the Irish word ‘bolg’) and was worn on the hip. Budgets were ubiquitous for men, and around the 1300s came the first man-purses, which were more akin to a small satchel kept inside one’s shirt. The satchel was so popular, that schoolchildren carried their own satchels, which resembled something of an early shoulder bag or backpack.

The Rise of Men’s Bags and the First Man-Purse

Pockets Killed the Man-Purse

In the 1600s, pockets were invented, and with their advent came the collapse of the ‘budget’ market. At that time, you could now carry all manners of items, from papers to coin to whatever you could fill your pockets with, without the need of an extraneous bag (although men’s bags were still extremely useful and popular). By the 18th century, aristocrats were among those still carrying man-purses. Social elites throughout the Victorian Age had exquisitely crafted purses that incorporated embossed gold and silver, inlaid jewels, and fine goatskin or leather to carry their precious monies. These men’s purses were also a sign of the time’s rigid class status.

Pockets Killed the Man-Purse

New Materials for a New Age

The dawn of the Industrial Age and the fiercely charged American workplace transformed in the early 20th century, which would change men’s fashion forever. The advent of mass-production, cheap yet colorful dyes, and the use of metal to design and craft men’s bags and, in particular, the modern men’s briefcase. By mid-20th-century, the male worker drone that ran the daily rat race had embodied, and by proxy promoted, the business-professional style that defined the style of the briefcase, which became synonymous with business or success.

New Materials for a New Age

Modern Style for Modern Men

After the turn of the new century, laptops usurped the need to carry tons of documents around in your briefcase or bag, when you could have everything in one place, in one simple laptop bag. Of course, in the last 15 years, men’s bags are still as utilitarian as ever, only they are much more stylish and well-suited for more contemporary menswear. Sleek and compact is the name of the men’s handbag game these days, as we become more and more mobile, doing business from our phones and tablets. Our digital lifestyles affect how we adapt, and new men’s bags and briefcases attest to that. There are many state-of-the-art men’s designer bags to choose from, including hand-crafted leather, nylon, waxed canvas and more by world-class designers like Hook & Albert, Fred Perry, and Jack Spade.

Modern Style for Modern Men

 

As the men’s designer bags market recently passed $2 billion a year, that’s a lot of men’s bags and briefcases out there. What’s your favorite style of men’s bag or briefcase?