Filson Original Briefcase

Legendary is a word that’s thrown around far too often. Is that snarky comment your buddy made really legendary? Really? No. But the Filson Original Briefcase just may be the closest thing to a briefcase legend that exists. Introduced in 1994 this simple bag got so many things right that it’s remained virtually unchanged for the last 27 years. In fact, having been produced for so long, there are lots of great second hand options out there, which is what I got. The older models can sometimes command more than the new ones, but I don’t think you could go wrong either way. So lets look a little closer at what makes this briefcase so great. The first thing is that crazy durable 22oz. rugged twill. Along with Filson’s Mackinaw wool, this is one of the materials they got just right. It’s got to be one of the toughest textiles in the world that’s still usable. Good luck breaking it in before 2025 though. The briefcase measures 16″ wide by 12.5″ high and 4″ deep so it’s a bit on the larger side. It features 4 stow pockets, 2 interior dividers, 1 interior slotted pocket, 2 interior utility pockets, and 1 interior patch pocket. It has an awesome removable 46″ long American sourced bridle leather shoulder strap with pad, along with handles of the same leather. Filson’s leather is great, it’s dense and heavy. A perfect match to the rugged twill but honestly too much for their lighter textiles. All the hardware is solid brass, and while the new models come with Filson branded (YKK?) zippers, this old model has wonderfully smooth Talon zippers with leather pulls. The overall design is incredibly simple: a top zipper opening with a snap-secured storm flap, exterior full length pockets on both sides, and internal organization which completely ignores technology. Looking for a special phone pocket? you won’t find it here. This is a briefcase that reached perfection upon its release, which is probably why they call it the “Original Briefcase”. In use it’s quite nice. I especially like that you have several options of security levels. You could leave the top open and unzipped to use it like a tote, or zip it closed, snap the storm flap, close the handle keeper and you have three layers before anyone can get into your bag. It’s important to note that the double snap handle keeper has been removed from the current version of the 256, yet another reason to go vintage. There is one issue though, and that’s the fact that those heavy duty tangs of the zipper will scratch the hell out of your laptop. It’s not that big a deal if you use a laptop sleeve, but it will pinstripe your Macbook Pro in no time at all if you’re not careful. But I think there’s something deeper at play here, and I’m not smart enough to articulate it, but I am foolish enough to try. Put plainly, this bag does perfectly what so many others try to do. It’s subtle enough to be used as an every day carry, big enough to be a weekend bag, appropriate for all but the most formal offices, yet looks perfectly at home in the woods. It’s not only the original briefcase, its likely all you’ll need for an entire career no matter what your field is. But if patina is your thing, you had better be prepared for the long haul. Even in the tan color this thing takes a long time to begin showing wear. Even my second hand model here has probably lived an entire lifetime of carry before I got it with little more than some dirt marks. I can’t imagine a scenario where this briefcase would fail. There’s a good reason why it’s still the yardstick many use to measure others by. So at $325 this isn’t a cheap bag. I got mine on eBay for $140, but typically they hover around $200. So lets look at a couple of options in case this isn’t quite your style:
Any of those would be a great alternative for sure, especially if you want something a bit less common. I noticed that even with all the bags I’ve reviewed over the years, I keep coming back to this one. It’s not too stuffy or formal, it’s not too tactical or wannabe Indiana Jones, its just the legendary Original Briefcase.