Let’s be real: classic, throwback business pieces and accessories are back in style! Tweed jackets, thick-rimmed glasses, and monk strap shoes are all callouts to a previous era. And no accessory is more classic than the briefcase.
In a time where modern bag options have become more acceptable for the office, Daniel’s NYC (Unfortunately shut down during the pandemic) made the decision to throw it back. Thus, the Model No. 1 Briefcase was born!
The company certainly has a reputation for quality, expertly crafted goods. This bag is their flagship product and embodies everything the company believes in.
About Daniel’s NYC
A Note: It seems that Daniel’s is closing down unfortunately and we are unsure if they will be back. Maybe in the future. We’ll see.
The founder of Daniel’s NYC, Daniel Scott, was a former management consultant who was traveling and commuting nonstop. As he puts it, “I understand that professionals need a bag built for real life.”
There’s nothing showy or over-the-top about the company. They are committed to building a line of high-quality, practical, handsome products that you can use regardless of where you are in your career.
Daniel and his team committed to 3 primary tenets to help the brand succeed and grow. The first was an intentional design for the modern professional. This meant durable, intuitive, and high quality with a focus on simplicity.
The second was premium leather. Daniel and the team knew that by creating products from the best materials they could accomplish both the durability and fashionability they strove for in their brand.
Finally, they committed to expert craftsmanship. Each product is made by hand and acknowledges that to get something just right, you can’t crank it out on an assembly line. It was from these three components that the Model No. 1 Briefcase was born.
Related: You might like this Best Slim Wallets buying guide featuring the Daniels Leather Card Wallet.
First Thoughts Out Of The Box
On first open, the bag is clearly packaged for quality. The Daniel’s team is clearly committed to your bag not being damaged in transit, which is more than many companies can say.
After taking it out of the plastic, it’s clear that the bag is simple. The leather is dimpled (which I’ll get to later), but otherwise the bag is incredibly simple. Brown body, brown handles, brown shoulder strap, with worn gold clips and zipper.
What I loved most is that you can see that the bag will be able to hold a good amount without appearing or feeling bulky. Its 15.5” width gives the impression of practicality and efficiency without being an over the shoulder backpack.
Additionally, you are drawn immediately to the outside pockets which are (yet again) understated but very practical for quickly grabbing your phone, keys, wallet or anything else while on your commute.
Why The Briefcase?
Before diving into the product any further, I figured it might be helpful to understand the history of the briefcase! After all, we’ve been using similar products since the 1st century.
The Loculos is the earliest known version of what we now consider the briefcase. According to Boarding Pass NYC, the Loculous was used in the 1st-3rd centuries and was a leather document pouch fastened with bronze rings. This is likely more what we know now as a portfolio, but the fixation on leather exterior and metal fixtures has continued to this day.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution where the traditional briefcase we identify with the Donald Draper’s of the early 1900s came to be: a leather exterior stretched over a firm box frame with a single hard handle on top.
The aim of the product was to be both practical and fashionable, able to withstand a commute on a busy train platform while also looking nice enough to bring into the courtroom or doctor’s office.
The 1950s saw a resurgence in what we know as the messenger bag: a loose, canvas-type material fastened on either end by an over-the-shoulder strap that would allow you to move more easily and take the pressure off of holding a bag in your hand as you went.
What Daniel’s and many other briefcase makers have aimed to do now is a fusion of the messenger bag and traditional briefcase. There is an emphasis on over-the-shoulder comfort, while still maintaining a high-quality leather and sophisticated appearance.
Related: You might like also like briefcases by Stuart & Lau.
Simplicity With Subtle Flair
On the outside, the bag is incredibly simple and elegant. A single tone of high-quality Italian leather with matching handle and shoulder straps provides a quality minimalist appearance.
The colors that do pop, namely the metal zipper and shoulder strap clips, are a burnt gold color and draw some attention while not standing out.
While the bag seems almost too dull at first, Daniel’s does a terrific job of adding some subtle color and flair (if you are looking for it) inside the bag itself.
For those looking for absolute simplicity, you can opt for a matching brown/black lining to keep that solid color throughout. To add some more color, Daniel’s uses a navy blue base to provide a few patterned options: sailboats, foxes, or airplanes.
These may seem a bit childish, but in practice they are simple, elegant, and provide just enough flair while still committing to the classic look. The patterned lining exists in all of the bag’s storage compartments.
As a traveler myself, I opted for the airplane motif to keep me connected to those roots any time. With the rest of the bag solidly brown, the slight variation makes the interior pop a bit when you reach in to grab something.
Related: You might like this article on What to Look for In A Quality Leather Weekender Bag.
A Storage Nut’s Dream
My favorite component of this bag is the assortment of very intentional storage options. Starting from the outside in, there are 2 sets of storage compartments on the outside of the bag.
The first is a combination large zipper pocket immediately next to the main compartment of the bag, with a smaller magnetic flap pocket outside of it. The larger zipper pocket has ample room for things like a newspaper, wallet or other more bulky items while the flap pocket would be quick access for keys, headphones or other small possessions you’d need at a moment’s notice.
On the opposite side of the bag is a large pocket with a single magnet at the middle and a smaller zipper pocket outside of it. The large pocket is open (as in without a flap) and would be the best place to quickly slide something larger while on the go (think a small umbrella, wallet, etc.). The smaller zipper pocket outside of this is a great place to keep phone chargers and other small knick knacks you might need throughout the day.
In total, Daniel’s really went for storage diversity on the outside of the bag. You effectively have 4 different exterior compartments to play around with as much as you’d like and to take care of virtually every small storage need. To me, this was incredibly innovative.
While simple, Daniel’s developed an intuitive and useful main compartment on the bag. It is wide enough to store a portfolio stuffed with papers, a case for your over ear headphones, or even a change of clothes if you felt called to it. At the same time, its sides are also lined to optimize space.
One side features a secure laptop compartment with a Velcro strap to support the laptop from above. The other side features 3 pen slots, 2 larger spaces (for things like your glasses case, business card holder, etc.), and a key clip to hold your keys during the day.
All in all, the bag is clearly built to help you stay organized in a practical and sophisticated way. Not only is a range of storage needs met in one compact bag, but the storage itself is arranged in a way that offers maximum space and usability.
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The exact dimensions of the bag are 15.5” W x 11.5” H x 3” D. While certainly a compact bag, the storage organization provides lots of room for everything you could need in a workday.
The body of the bag, as well as the pad on the shoulder strap, is made with premium Italian leather from Vicenza, Italy, a core focus of Daniel’s in creating a durable and handsome product. This quality does not go unexperienced or overlooked.
I have been using this bag every day for a handful of months, through all sorts of conditions, and have seen absolutely no wear to the leather itself. Additionally, my laptop I carry with me daily has upheld tremendously well in a bag that doesn’t overload its slot with padding.
The shoulder strap itself is removable, which offers you the opportunity to either use it as an over the shoulder bag or traditional briefcase. Fortunately, if you’re feeling like switching it up, the exterior pockets offer ample space to store your shoulder strap.
Daniel’s focuses on 3 primary components to explain their bag: 1. that it is innovative, 2. that it is crafted from premium Italian leather, and 3. that it is handcrafted. All three of these things are quite evident, from the moment you open the box to 6 months into its use as you’ve been lugging it around.
- Premium Italian leather
- Fits 15″ laptop
- Interior slot pockets
- Exterior zippered pockets
- Removable and adjustable shoulder strap with leather shoulder pad
- 15.5” W x 11.5” H x 3” D
Expert Craftsmanship Using Italian Leather
While the term “Italian Leather” gets tossed around often to the point that it seems to have little significance to most people, Daniel’s commitment to quality cannot go without mentioning here.
As the company explains, they started their business to find a source of truly high-quality leather that would be as practical as it is beautiful.
Particularly in a briefcase, this is a critical need. You are rushing onto the train, plane or subway to get to a board meeting, and intuitively the two just don’t match.
One minute you’re getting bumped around by strangers and the next you’re sitting in a mahogany meeting room talking big numbers. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it is still important to focus on how hard a product like this is to pull off.
The Daniel’s team locked their sights on making a product you can commute with and feel confident in the handsomeness of its appearance. They nailed it, and it is due in large part to the leather that holds up incredibly well, even after being rained on. Yet it is compact and simple to the point that you walk into the room and look like you’ve got your act together. Only quality leather and an attention to detail can pull this off.
Related: You might like this article on Travel Essentials & Tips: Key Items to Pack for Your Next Trip.
The Highlights (Pros)
I’m a sucker for really efficient storage, particularly in places you don’t think you’ll find it. When I was offered the opportunity to review a briefcase, I was immediately worried about my ability to use it enough to provide a quality review because I carry a good amount of things with me. After using the bag for a few months, this could not have worked out better.
The beauty of the varied storage options is that each user can do things slightly differently. For me, I primarily use the main compartment and occasionally put my wallet or headphones in an outer compartment for quick access. For others, you may find that keeping the central compartment empty besides your laptop and glasses case while putting a bunch in the outer compartments is more useful. The point is that you have that flexibility.
I really can’t speak enough to the durability of the bag. I’ve never been one to seek out quality Italian leather for anything other than shoes, but I will going forward knowing how much it positively impacts your experience with accessories. There is no way the bag could have held up constantly to this point if it weren’t well crafted and made of high-quality material, and it did just that because of Daniel’s focus on this point.
Seemingly a small point, but the ease of use in the shoulder strap is a plus for sure. The strap is incredibly easy to adjust and take on and off of the bag. The leather pad could be secured in place a bit better, but really doesn’t slide all over like shoulder straps on most other bags would. The pad is also incredibly comfortable, thanks in large part to the use of leather as the primary surface.
Areas For Improvement (Cons)
Quite honestly, I was pretty blown away by the bag so I do not have much in the way of improvements. Anything I do have is quite small and largely personal preference.
One iteration that would be interesting to see is an increase in color options both in the base of the bag and the lining. I would not do anything crazy here with the colors, but rather maybe one or two lighter brown bags and potentially a dark gray. While I definitely like the dark brown of the bag I am using, it isn’t part of my typical color pallet.
On those same lines, I’m sure there are a few more motifs that could be used for the bag lining. I do love that each one has a navy blue base which keeps it simple and elegant. I’d be curious to know what else is possible.
Finally, as mentioned above, the shoulder pad could be a bit more secure in place. It stays on the bag itself, so there is no issue there. As with most over-the-shoulder bags, the pad slides up and down the strap a bit when not in use. I will say it stays in place quite well while you are commuting though!
I am incredibly pleased with Daniel’s NYC Model No. 01 Briefcase, to the point that they’ve turned a former classy backpack wearer into a briefcase believer. The company is doing really awesome things to make briefcases both cool and practical again, and it seems like they are hitting all of the nails on the head for major objectives.
I imagine they’ll want to think of a few ways to appeal to a larger audience (aka more colors potentially), but as a whole this is a fantastic product from a brand clearly committed to quality craftsmanship and practicality.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Global Economics, Joe moved to the Federated States of Micronesia to work at a school there. Since then, he’s been traveling the world and embracing the classy nomad style. He currently works for Union Kitchen, a company that supports the launch and growth of startup food & beverage businesses. Beyond that, he can be found hiking with his German Shepherd puppy, Payton.
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