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What is the Difference between an Attache Case and a Briefcase?

BY Buffalo Jackson Insight
BY Amanda Uher

Revised 9/17

For the most part, an attache case and a briefcase are practically interchangeable. (Some even combine the terms for an “attache briefcase.”) But when you compare an attache case and a briefcase side by side, they do have unique histories and some distinctive qualities.

Briefcase & Attache Case: A History

The word attache was coined by the French, referring to an administrative member of an ambassador's staff. Ambassadors and their staff, or attaches, carried their papers and documents in slim cases that became known as the attache case.

Conversely, the word briefcase has its roots in the legal field. A brief is a summary of facts and legal positions supporting arguments in judicial proceedings. Lawyers carried their briefs in a case — thus, the briefcase.

Briefcase & Attache Case Features

Anattache case is a small, thin suitcase that opens into two distinct compartments that are usually symmetrical. Additionally, attache cases typically boast a leather or metal exterior and a slim profile for easy hauling. Historically, anattache case would not include a shoulder strap, but current models often include one.

On the other hand, a briefcase is a flat, rectangular container that opens into one primary compartment which then has a “lid” that may have pockets or gussets that expand to an attache case, allowing for more robust storage functionality. Like an attache case, a briefcase from the old days would not include a shoulder strap, but now they often feature one to suit modern professionals. Be sure to read our blog for an expert buying guide on the best briefcases for men.

Briefcase & Attache Case Uses

If you’re looking for a functional, stylish, and French-inspired piece to tote around your papers, documents, and laptop, anattache case would be a perfect fit. We also recommend briefcases for carrying office supplies such as books, paper, and laptops — and they usually offer more storage space for larger items that would be tough to squeeze into anattache case. Explore our collection of rugged, stylish leather briefcases to find a bag that meets your workday needs, or check out our recommendations on the top three best men’s work bags to assess your options.

When you compare anattache case and a briefcase, or even an attache briefcase, the differences are subtle. But, depending on your style preference or your functionality needs, those slight differences could end upmaking an impact.

Browse other styles of workplace bags with our collection of leather messenger bags, or shop our tech accessories for more office essentials that keep you on-task and ready to roll on any new adventure.

 


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