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The briefcase is dead. Long live the man purse!


The newly revamped Wall Street Journal helps its aging readers get with it.

Searching unsuccessfully for a briefcase for her husband, hapless New York reader G.N. seeks counsel from Journal fashion reporter Teri Agins:

I had a really hard time trying to find anything, let alone something that I liked. Are briefcases ‘out of style’ now, especially since laptop cases have become more popular?”

Agins bears the bad news gracefully: Madame, the briefcase is dead.

Demand for hard-sided briefcases has plummeted in the past 20 years. And while leather-goods specialists such as Levenger, Tumi and Hartmann still offer a limited selection of classic briefcases and attachés, they say such cases are now purchased mainly by men over 50 years old. Crouch & Fitzgerald, which has been selling all kinds of business cases since 1839, says it currently stocks only about 14 boxy attachés, down from 100 about 15 years ago.

What’s taken their place among most of the 49-and-under guy crowd? Why, “laptop-friendly” cases, Agins euphemistically tells us; “soft-sided,” “multipurpose” bags. Messenger bags.

Why won’t she just come out and say it? Something with a strap. Laptops are just too darn heavy to be carried in a case that doesn’t have one.

Alas, Agins doesn’t single out the strap, and won’t use the “P” word. But we will. We know what she’s really talking about.

If the Wall Street Journal is truly looking for a faster-paced format to match its newly slimmed-down page size, it might offer readers a quicker, less circuitous summary: “Lady, ditch the briefcase. Get your man a purse.