I live in New York and lug a *lot* of crap around with me every day during my commute. I'd always dismissed backpacks as being too frumpy, or too annoying to maneuver when I'd need to take my wallet or a book out, for instance — opting instead for a cross-body bag and maybe the addition of a tote if I couldn't fit everything in bag #1. Until: the backpack of my dreams came along.
Prior to this bag, I'd finally converted to a casual bookbag that fit my laptop and the host of other items I carry on me at all times, but it still seemed so...homely-looking and often made me feel like the least pulled-together person in the room (or on the subway). I decided to take things up a notch and splurge on a bag that was both functional and made me look more like some semblance of a put-together human who also doesn't like being achy at the end of the day. I'm a big fan of eco-conscious brand Matt & Nat, and their Vignelli bag checked all necessary boxes (with the added bonus of being made from vegan leather — yay for not killing an animal to wear!). Now we're inseparable. You can wear this puppy literally anywhere and never feel dressed down because you're carrying a backpack — it's professional, it's dressy, and you can hold it in your hand if you really want to, without looking like you just left algebra class.
It's a seemingly sleek and narrow-looking bag, so I was initially worried I wouldn't successfully be able to pack all my essentials in there, but I was proven otherwise! Every day, in the main compartment I'm able to easily fit my MacBook Air (yes, it fits my laptop!), my wallet, my sunglasses case, and my makeup bag, with room to spare. It also has this cool zipper on the side that's super convenient for stuff like my phone, keys, or MetroCard, and there are two different-sized pockets inside the bag to store your smaller items. At $160, it's not exactly cheap, but it's not outrageous for a quality, long-lasting bag either — the return on investment makes the price tag more than worth it for me. My last cross-body bag was also by Matt & Nat, and I wore it for more than three years, with near-daily use. —Emmy Favilla
Get it from Matt + Nat for $160 (available in black, beige, and fig).