What’s the Best Laptop Bag if I Don’t Want to Look Like a Nerd?

Sadly, magic solutions are more the stuff of fairy tales than fashion. Yet pretty good solutions exist. Even when it comes to the thorny question of how to carry around your laptop, a problem that has taken on new urgency as our work habits have changed, erasing that old desktop-at-work, laptop-for-home-and-travel divide.

After all, choosing a laptop bag isn’t just about finding one that fits your computer and maybe some other stuff, or even picking one that doesn’t give you backache. Like so much else, it’s really about work-life balance and how we want to present ourselves to the world.

A quick scan of many “best laptop bag” sites, for example, offers up a panoply of completely acceptable, largely nylon (read, waterproof) backpacks or zip-up shoulder bags with pretty much no style or personality at all. Remember how Kate Spade transformed what we expected from diaper bags back around the turn of the millennium? That has not happened yet with laptop bags, at least not in any affordable way, which makes me think some designer is missing a trick.

In the meantime, that means that if your goal is a bag that represents a personal point of view, you need to improvise.

Given that for most of us backpacks symbolize either school or camping in the landscape of the mind, they can be an odd accessory in office life. Thus tote bags are the obvious place to start.

Carrying around even the lightest laptop in a tote is, at a certain point, going to start to weigh on one shoulder — there’s just no way around it — but broader straps, a bag that isn’t too heavy when empty and a certain amount of structure so the laptop doesn’t slide around awkwardly inside, will help delay the pain. Then, to protect your device, look for a top that isn’t open to the elements.

Our colleagues at Wirecutter have some recommendations, including a Matt & Abbi vegan tote that would look at home in any conference room. Also good is the rectangular leather tote from Everlane, which has a nice sculptural line and fits nicely under the arm. Longchamp’s Le Pliage, in nylon with a leather close, is a classic multitasker.

If you want to splurge, Cuyana’s System Tote is awfully chic. And at the other extreme, there’s Baggu’s Duck bag, which comes in a multitude of prints.

Just factor in your priorities, and press enter.

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

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