Style Sin #15 – Wearing a Backpack over a Suit


Soldiers wear backpacks to keep their hands free for combat.

Hikers wear backpacks to evenly distribute weight over long journeys.

Children wear backpacks to keep from losing their schoolwork.

Able-bodied, grown businessmen — without exception — should carry their belongings in a professional briefcase.

mens suit jacket backpack

men’s suit jacket backpack

Maintaining a professional image

Clothing, style and grooming are the three pillars of the professional image.

A man who wisely spends time, effort and money in classic menswear  and who abides by simple style guidelines and who takes pride in grooming himself will certainly convey an image of a man who will put forth greater effort in greater tasks in the professional world.

It is very important to maintain an image that displays professionalism. From the suits, the blazer jackets, the ties, the dress shirts, the trousers, to the shoes on your feet, careful attention to maintaining a professional image will help your career. And what you use to carry your work is no exception.

A Man's Guide To Style

Why a backpack undermines the professional image

Backpacks are associated with schoolchildren and mountaineers. Neither of those are seen around the office very much, making a backpack a surefire way to look out of place.

They ruin the lines of a good suit as well, with the straps draping awkwardly over the lapels and breaking up the smooth visual impression of the jacket. Their clunky, rounded shape lacks a clean design that compliments the streamline clothing you wear to work.

Backpacks damage your clothing

The straps stress the clothing fabric and overtime your clothing will start to wear and tear. If a man invests in well-made and well-tailored clothing, then consideration should be had to avoid anything that will damage a man’s costly clothes.

A backpack is no exception.  All of the weight of the backpack is carried on your shoulders.  As you naturally move about while wearing a backpack, the straps and clothing underneath shift and twist with every step you take.

The result is not immediately apparent, but you can count on the life of your clothing investments to be shortened by the wear and tear of weighted straps.

Delicate suit fabric

Suit fabric is delicate. A backpack will ruin your expensive investment

Briefcases are the best option for a professional man

Men use briefcases.  This is the grown-up version of a backpack.  A briefcase is a timeless accessory to any man’s professional image.  There are hundreds of different styles and many colors and materials to choose from.

There are thin briefcases for papers and files, there are briefcases large enough to fit a laptop or any other personal electronic device.

You do not have to spend hundreds of dollars on a handmade briefcase. Check your local second-hand shop to pick up a briefcase for cheap. Whatever kind of briefcase you get, it will save you money and will build your professional image.

How to use a briefcase to build your professional image

Using a briefcase is professional and mature.  The clean lines of the briefcase will compliment the clean lines of your professional clothing.  A leather briefcase is simple in design and will not be distracting as a backpack would be.

Use these three guidelines to help you build your professional image:

1) Briefcases are like any other leather accessory. It is best to coordinate with your dress shoes: black with black, brown with brown are expected. Burgundy shoes?

If you have a complimenting-colored briefcase, then use it. If not, then a dark brown briefcase with burgundy shoes looks better than a black briefcase.

2) Stick with simple, conservative leathers.  I know not many of you will run out and buy a snakeskin briefcase. You shouldn’t. A man’s briefcase will take a beating over its lifetime, it will be exposed to the elements, it will be scooted along the floor, it will be dropped.

The tougher the leather, the better. Calfskin is not suggested as it is too soft. Most manufacturers use cowhide because of the toughness of the leather.

3) Streamlined design is best. As mentioned before, a briefcase is an accessory tool. Your briefcase should not distract anyone’s attention. Avoid briefcases with straps, loops, and huge pockets. A firm and clean-lined briefcase will help you look professional.

Sharp-looking leather briefcases

An example of three sharp-looking briefcases. Remember to coordinate the leather of your briefcase with the leather of your dress shoe

Closing thoughts

A backpack ruins your clothing and damages your professional image. A man using a backpack while wearing a suit is a sad example of how one accessory tool can destroy an image of professionalism. We live in a judgmental world and we think with our eyes.

Do your best to minimize any flaws with which people can form opinions; save the backpack for when you go hiking or hunting. Instead use a briefcase — whether it is a handmade leather briefcase or a hand-me-down — you can count on feeling, looking and being professional.

Questions? Comments? We would love to hear from you. Share your opinions in the comment box below.