Looking for a new briefcase to try in 2021? The Stuart and Lau Cary briefcase might be just what you need. Read on for our full review.
I’ve used a lot of computer bags in my time, and to be quite honest, most of them worked really well. As my style leans casual, I found a canvas messenger bag with a padded laptop pocket was all I needed. Why would I need a briefcase?
The truth is I didn’t think I did, but I do like nice things. When Stuart and Lau offered me a chance to take their Cary Briefcase for a test drive, I couldn’t pass it up. What I found in the process was far more than I expected.
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Stuart and Lau: The Company
Founded in 2015, two friends started Stuart and Lau out of necessity. Matthew Stuart and Jimmy Lau frequently traveled back and forth between NYC and Hong Kong for business. They often found themselves in need of a durable bag that would protect their essential items.
Now, Stuart and Lau is a direct-to-consumer brand offering briefcases, weekender bags, backpacks, and wallets for urban professional men. Their bags often include smart touches like umbrella straps, magnetic keyfobs, and tons of storage.
If you’re lucky enough to check out their fall season pop-up store in NYC, you can shop through their entire catalog in person.
Any Briefcase I Wanted
I’m no fool. Stuart and Lau allowed me to choose any briefcase in their lineup, so I went big. I chose the biggest, most expensive model they have. I thought the bigger the briefcase, the better idea I could get of its quality. Plus, I get to keep this briefcase, so why not go big?
I chose The Cary Briefcase Double in Tobacco and Chocolate. The color combo fit my style, being mostly monochrome aside from the bright metal buckles and zippers. It seemed like a near-perfect match with most of my favorite watches and footwear.
I always strive for total transparency, so I should mention that I knew about this bag long before Stuart and Lau reached out. When they gave me the green light to pick out a bag, I knew exactly which one and which color I was going to choose.
One Tough Bag
When the bag arrived at my house, I was a bit nervous. It arrived with a big, gaping hole in the box. It looked like it was in the fight of its life in the back of that delivery truck. The hole was so big that I could see quite a bit of the briefcase without opening the box.
I figured this was all for nothing. I thought I’d open the box, pull out a torn, broken, and stained briefcase. I could sense the hours I’d waste in a never-ending run-around with the delivery company trying to get this briefcase replaced in time to review it.
To my surprise, the briefcase was completely intact. After I spun it around a few times to check it over for damage, I couldn’t even remember which section of the bag was exposed. If there’s one thing that impresses me, it’s ruggedness. And believe it or not, this briefcase is rugged.
Once I got over the fact that the box looked like it was in a dog fight, I allowed my first impressions to sink in.
The first thing that hit me was the leather. I’m a sucker for great leather products, and though this briefcase is mostly fabric, the leatherwork was impressive. The full-grain leather handles, straps, and small accessories are thick, supple, and immaculately finished.
They also smell really, really good. The straps are completely adjustable — as a shorter guy, I genuinely appreciate adjustability.
The next thing I noticed was the quality of the hardware. The Cary uses YKK Excella zippers, which I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to until now. They’re smooth but seem extremely durable.
The Cary also has thick metal pull tabs as well as bright metal buckles, clasps, and D-rings. Those pull tabs also feature holes perfect for securing with a small lock. In short, the hardware combination is perfect for this bag, and it inspired confidence in the build quality.
I was already impressed with the durability of the fabric, but it also looked pretty good. The finishing was spot on, with perfectly stitched seams and absolutely no loose threads.
I’m not sure if the folks at Stuart and Lau gave this bag an extra once-over before they sent it for a review, but it was seriously dialed in.
Stuart and Lau uses waterproof DuraLite fabric for the majority of this briefcase. It makes it light, durable, water and stain-resistant, and handsome. It has a tight weave that you can almost mistake for a matte leather from a distance, though it’s in no way a cheap imitation fabric.
The Cary had plenty of storage and built-in features. It’s full of individual exterior pockets, several zippered interior pockets, and plenty of fabric pockets for pens, notebooks, and other smaller items.
The interior fabric appears to be double-layered, and the seams feature a ribbed fabric for reinforcement. It also features a luggage tunnel for sliding over a telescoping suitcase handle.
Honestly, it has so many pockets and features that I felt silly for buying the bigger briefcase. While it isn’t heavy or cumbersome, the ease at which it handled my important gear made me wonder how efficient the slim or single bags are. I can only imagine that they’re equally as impressive.
I had a pretty solid idea that this would be a good looking briefcase, so I wasn’t overly surprised that I instantly loved the look. It’s professional, but it’s not a stiff.
It looks great with plenty of different outfits, and I’d be proud to take it to an important business meeting. It holds its shape amazingly well for a primarily-fabric briefcase, and the metal hardware looks incredible as the only source of contrast.
I think most guys will agree. Considering that you can choose colors like blue, green, and black, you’ll find a bag that fits your style.
Using The Stuart and Lau Cary Briefcase
As a freelance writer, I work almost entirely from home. Plus, if you consider the current state of the world, there just haven’t been as many reasons to take a briefcase on the road as there used to be.
With that said, the last several weeks were quite busy for my family. I found myself packing The Cary on a number of occasions, taking my work on the road with me. I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what it’s capable of at this point.
Loading The Cary
I’m kind of old-school, so I carry around a thick leather portfolio with a legal pad inside for jotting down ideas. I’m also unjustifiably terrified of running out of paper, so I usually carry at least one spare legal pad.
On top of that, I keep my leather field notes and passport holder, my 16-year-old iPod, some headphones, plenty of pens, a mouse, my glasses, and a 15-inch laptop inside The Cary. Because I hate keeping things in my pockets, I often throw my front-pocket wallet and keys in as well.
For particularly long days (and there were some), I keep a 420-page collection of Jack London stories in the outermost pocket. I mention this because I normally keep a book in my truck, but The Cary allowed me to bring it along wherever I went.
On more than one occasion, I spent more time than I’d like to admit wondering if I forgot it — it was hiding at the bottom of the pocket.
The Cary handles all of this gear with ease. In fact, there’s room to carry a travel monitor and keyboard if you’re so inclined.
Shouldering The Cary
While I already liked the look and feel of the leather handles and carry strap, they really came in handy (no pun intended) when I loaded The Cary with gear.
The adjustable shoulder pad offers barely any cushioning at all, but its wide profile and thick leather distribute the weight better than any of my messenger bags.
In hand, the rolled leather handles make carrying the heft very comfortable. I can only imagine I’d come to appreciate both of these features even more if I loaded The Cary to its actual capacity.
A Hidden Surprise
There’s one other really cool feature that actually took me weeks to find. Stuart and Lau include a spare bag inside The Cary.
While I imagine by the shape and size you’re supposed to use it to protect The Cary during particularly inclement weather, it works just as well as a reusable shopping bag. We can’t use plastic bags where I live, so I really appreciate this extra touch.
And, it stows away so well that I didn’t even realize it was there.
Let’s call it like it is: The Cary isn’t cheap. While I loved the look of this briefcase before Stuart and Lau even knew my name, I wasn’t rushing out to spend $350-plus on a briefcase when my messenger bag was doing the trick. I didn’t think I needed it.
I was wrong. There, I said it.
The Cary is a great briefcase. The quality, attention to detail, ruggedness, and sheer capacity make it an outstanding choice. Mine arrived on my doorstep with a big, gaping hole in the front of the box, yet it shows absolutely no sign of wear. That’s a big deal for me.
One of my two complaints about The Cary has more to do with my gluttony than the briefcase itself. I don’t need a briefcase this big. I sometimes feel silly when I open a compartment that’s barely half-full of gear.
I have a feeling The Cary Single would be the sweet spot for me. With that said, there are a lot of guys who might love The Cary Double’s capacity.
My other complaint about The Cary is a simple one. Stuart and Lau includes a very handsome leather keyfob with a magnet intended to cling to the interior of The Cary. With today’s bulky car keys, this key fob doesn’t do a particularly good job of holding those keys in place.
It’s a great thought, and the leather fob looks impressive; I’m just not sure it’s practical for holding much more than a house key.
I’m sure I gushed over The Cary a bit more than I expected to, but this briefcase deserves high praise. The fit and finish, the leather, the hardware, and the functionality are really impressive.
While I didn’t think I needed an expensive briefcase, I honestly feel it’s a good value, if not a smart investment for your style and career.
If you’re wondering if you need The Cary, the answer lies in more questions: Do you carry a lot of gear? Do you need lots of organization? Do you want a briefcase that looks professional without looking uptight?
If you’re answering yes to those questions, you won’t second guess investing in The Cary Briefcase from Stuart and Lau.