please advise

Ask Chris Black: Should an Adult Carry a Backpack?

Photo: Yimmy Yayo

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer both of those questions, and to get more of Chris’s advice, he’s now answering reader questions for us in a regular column. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

Should an adult carry around a backpack? If so, what do you recommend, and if not, what should I do to carry my stuff?

Honestly, hell no. I know they are popular and practical, but you look like a child. I have tried a few times as an adult, and have felt like someone’s overgrown little brother. The designer backpack is a plague, the opposite of a stunt. The simple canvas tote bag is the answer. No one can top the LL Bean Boat and Tote. It’s so durable, and you can embroider your initials on it like a real WASP. Mine says “FYI” because I am full of shit! :)

If you need something more office appropriate, get a cool briefcase — and I don’t mean a Goyard clout pack from StockX. I have a simple green Filson briefcase from 12 years ago that still looks amazing after years of travel. It’s in storage somewhere, but if I end up moving to Charleston to become a vintage-Saab-driving lawyer, I will definitely carry it to the office.

The Editor Briefcase from J.W. Hulme will look incredible with age and has two sizeable front pockets for personal effects. It really completes the weed-smoking liberal-arts professor look … if that’s what you are going for.

Affordable suiting for work? I know you pay for quality in suits, but I’m a very broke college student. What’s the best cheap suit that can get me through the job I need so I can later get a spicy Thom Browne number?

Jesus! You guys love to ask about suits! I wear jeans and a T-shirt most days. I only know so much, but luckily I have a deep bullpen for situations just like this one. My friend David Coggins is a true renaissance man. He can dress his ass off, fly fish, and talk about The Cure at great length. He is also a writer whose book Men and Style is a New York Times best seller (significant flex). He is the perfect man for suiting advice. I’ll let him take it away.

‘If I were a young man looking for a suit I would go to the Ralph Lauren mansion on Madison Avenue. They have a good selection of suits under a thousand dollars (though barely). [Editor’s note: We would not necessarily call these affordable.] I would also check out Sid Mashburn, whose Virgil No. 2 suit, is very smart. If you want to go down the ladder a bit, look into the Ludlow suit from J. Crew. It’s a pretty slim fit, so you’d better be trim yourself.”

“If you want to think outside the box, look for a sportcoat from L.B.M. 1911. They are entirely unstructured, made of terrific fabrics. Since you’re probably not strolling down the streets of Milan (where they have terrific stores), get strategic, get to Yoox, and see if you can get lucky at a discount. This is the type of opportunism that will serve you well later in life. My advice to any young man, however, is to get a good unstructured blue sport coat (at any of these places) because it’s the most versatile thing you can own. It works with a pair of gray dress trousers or dark jeans. Think about it.”

Speak on the shaving routine & products. Electric? Manual? Barbershop hot towel?

To be honest, I don’t own a razor. If I want a proper shave, I get it done in the shop, usually before a beach holiday so that my haggard face can get some much-needed vitamin D. Also, it’s relaxing, and there is less opportunity for me to cut myself. I do however, 100% endorse the Wahl Cordless Peanut Clipper/Trimmer. It’s cheap, dependable, and fits in your designer dopp kit perfectly. I try not to trim at home because it makes a mess. Save it for the hotel bathroom.

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Ask Chris Black: Should an Adult Carry a Backpack?