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Radley Stories

Style Notes

The Best Work Bags: How To Choose The Perfect Fashion Laptop Bags For Work

31 July 2023

We all need one. A work bag with space for all of your commuting essentials, from your lunch to your laptop. As experts in handbags, and in leather, we’ve created this guide to help you find the best work bags. 

What is a Laptop Bag?

Exactly what it sounds like. It's a bag designed to hold a laptop. While they’re most commonly used as work bags for women and men, they can also be chosen as school bags for boys and girls, or travel bags for anyone who needs to take their tech away with them. The best laptop bags will all have an interior compartment or pocket dedicated to holding a laptop, which will be padded to protect the technology from bumps or impact. 

Briefcases are well-known laptop bags for men and women but are considered to be an out-dated style, with many working professionals now opting for stylish laptop backpacks instead. 

Another alternative is a laptop sleeve, an accessory that’s soft and padded with a zip fastening. They can be carried in hand, or slipped into a large bag, such as a backpack or tote. This versatility means any bag can be transformed into one of your best work bags if there’s room to store your laptop case.

Due to advances in technology, there are always new styles emerging. With increased popularity for down-sized tech, work bags for women are now available in smaller sizes that are equipped to carry tablets. This also means that work rucksacks can be smaller and medium-sized shoulder bags are now good options to use as laptop bags.

When Was the First Laptop Bag Invented?

To understand when and how these bags were invented, we’d have to look back to the creation of the first laptop in the 1980s. This was around the same time as the first mobile phone, which shows people were beginning to look for more portable technology. However, while these early laptop models were more advanced than desktop computers, they were still bulky and heavy. Therefore, demand for laptops stayed low until slim, lightweight options reached the market.  

In 2006, Apple created the MacBook Pro, the thinnest (and fastest) laptop model yet. This eliminated the problem of carrying heavy or bulky computers on commutes. As it was much easier to carry this model, it led to a rise in the popularity of bags for laptops. 

While it isn’t known exactly when the very first laptop bag was created, it’s thought that the invention of the MacBook directly impacted their demand and sales. In response to this, designers began creating new styles that would fit and protect laptops, while also offering extra room for other essentials. 

As technology continues to develop, more and more fashion laptop bags and technology accessories have emerged. For example, around the time when the laptop was invented, women’s briefcases were popular, but with new tablet and iPad models now becoming the norm, people are choosing smaller bags with interior pockets. Designer tote bags for work or women’s backpacks that fit laptops have also become popular. New styles are released every season, designed to fit the latest technology and to also fit in with the current fashion trends.  


What Are the Different Types of Work Bags?

Laptop Bags and Sleeves

Made specifically to carry a laptop, these styles will have a padded section or interior to keep your tech safe. 

Alternatively, laptop bags usually come with two grab handles and the option of a cross body strap, unless it’s a laptop backpack for women, which will have two padded shoulder straps. Those with long straps could also be confused with cross body bags, a style that comes in a wide range of sizes. These can be used for work, but only the largest sizes will make the best work bags. Find out more in our best cross body bags guide

If they fit a laptop, work bags with compartments make a great choice and will help you keep all your items organised (think documents and chargers tucked away from your umbrella and water bottle).  


One of the earliest laptop bags. The briefcase was first a boxy, hard-shell case crafted in leather with one grab handle. They were more commonly used by men and were designed to hold the early, chunky laptop models. They also had a few interior pockets for documents, stationery and more. 

Over time, more modern briefcases have emerged – softer, less structured shapes, sometimes crafted in fabric and fitted with extra handles, such as an adjustable cross body strap. These modern adaptations are still around today, although they’re not as popular as they once were, due to the popularity for ladies’ laptop backpacks and designer tote bags for work.


Considered to be one of the best bags for commuting to work, backpacks are very popular due to their practicality and design. The two shoulder straps balance the weight the bag evenly across the shoulders, making it comfortable no matter how heavy it is, while allowing you to go hands-free. And many also come with multiple compartments or pockets. That might include a securely zipped and padded section for tech, which you’ll find in many large ladies’ laptop backpacks.

This style is also considered to be the best work bags for men. While different play into trends, with seasonal colours and decorative details, backpacks are often designed to be unisex with simple and plain designs. Find out more about them in our Backpacks in Fashion guide.


A spacious tote makes a great work bag for commuting as it fits lots inside, including a laptop. A very popular choice of fashionable laptop bag for ladies, many styles will even be equipped to carry this technology with interior padded sleeves. Most will also have extra pockets for your smaller essentials, so you can organise your keys, earphones and make-up essentials. Find out more about them and their different shapes in our Trendy Tote Bags in Fashion guide.

How to Choose the Best Work Bags

When choosing any handbag, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. For example, we believe that quality and craftsmanship are so important. Because when we find a bag we love, we want it to last a lifetime. It’s why you’ll always find expert design and premium materials – such as our gold-standard leather – across our Radley London styles. But there are also a few more things to consider, including the size, straps and security. Use our tips below to help you find the best bags for commuting to work.

How big is your laptop?

Find out the dimensions of your laptop, as this will dictate the size of the bag you choose. It will need to fit inside along with other work items without being so full that you can’t fasten it. Brands should make it clear what size laptop will fit inside their designs, whether it’s a 15.6-inch laptop case or a 14-inch laptop bag. When it comes to Radley London accessories, we’ll note this in our online descriptions. Generally, our styles fit either a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop, while some bags have pockets for smaller tech like tablets, and our phone cross body bags fit any size smart phone. 

What is your commute? 

Many people commute via public transport, which means you can sit back, relax and read your book on the way into work (even if you did have to run for that train). For these commuters, security will be a huge priority. Some people feel that a cross body bag or shoulder bag – styles that come with secure zip fastenings – are the most secure as they keep your items close by. Others may prefer to carry their items in a backpack – not only is it physically more comfortable, but they all typically come with zip fastenings and perhaps even additional flaps or drawstrings that double up on security. 

Another aspect of your commute to consider is the weather. We know, English weather is so unpredictable, which is exactly why you should plan ahead (umbrellas are this way). Perhaps you walk or cycle to work? Travelling outdoors means extra requirements, which for you means all the best bags for commuting to work will be waterproof. This way, the exterior won’t get ruined, and your items inside will be protected from water damage too. One thing you should know: if you might get wet, always avoid suede. This luxurious material may make the most stylish laptop backpacks and bags, but it’s a no-go on rainy days. 

Want to learn more about leather? Find answers to questions like Where Does Leather Come From in our guide.  

How heavy will your bag be?

Are you carrying a large water bottle and gym clothes alongside your laptop? Carrying extra items will add weight to your bag, so you’ll want to make sure it has sensible straps. If it’s going to be heavy, we'd recommend a ladies’ laptop backpack rather than a tote bag for work, as the two thicker, padded back straps will distribute the weight evenly across your shoulders. 

Speaking off extra items, how would you like a bag that keeps them organised for you? We’d suggest work bags with compartments, which means having one section for your laptop and stationery, another for your lunch and book, and a third section to keep those wet umbrellas away from everything else. 


How to Carry a Laptop Bag

The best way to carry your work bag depends on the style of it. For example, if you have a laptop sleeve, the only way is to hold it in hand. However, if you have a briefcase, it will have two handles, just like a grab bag, so you can grab and go. (Find out all about this handbag style in our what is a grab bag guide.) It may also have an additional cross body bag strap, which means you can go hands-free – always a bonus when juggling your items at the train station barriers. 

We don’t need to tell you how to carry a stylish laptop backpack, but we there are a few rules of thumb that you should remember when wearing a heavy backpack on your shoulders. 

  1. Always wear it with both straps on your shoulders to prevent carrying the weight unevenly on one side of your body, which can cause pain in your back or shoulders. 

  1. Make sure you have adjusted the two shoulder straps so that the backpack sits in the right position and high on your back. 

  1. Your backpack should weigh less than 10% of your body weight. However, if you do need to carry more, then make sure it never exceeds more than 20% of your body weight. 

What Makes a Fashionable Laptop Bag for Ladies?

Beautiful, wearable colours, luxurious materials and expert quality. They’re the things we think makes a trendy laptop bag. They also happen to be details that you’ll find across each and every one of our handbags. After all, colour, quality and leather are what make up our Radley London DNA. 

Of course, everyone’s different. Some may be looking for a sustainable non-leather bag like those in our Radley Responsible range, whereas other might be searching for a timeless Black bag for work that suits a smart, professional environment. Or are you shopping for a new-in style in the colours of the season? (If that’s you, make sure to keep an eye out on Radley Stories to read all about our latest collections.)


Now you know how to find the best work bags, you might be inspired to elevate your everyday wardrobe too. From weekend women’s designer trainers to movie-star sunglasses, we have accessories for every occasion. And you can always find out more about them with our Style Notes guides, such as the one that explores everything about the best fashion trainers.