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Ask Chris Black: Can You Find Some Understated Briefcases for a Soon-to-Be Public Defender?

Photo-Illustration: Phillip Warner Patton

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or the 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? If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, Chris Black is here to answer it in a regular column.

This fall, after I take (and hopefully pass) the Florida bar exam, I’m going to start work as a public defender in Miami, after living in New York for 12 years. I’m wondering what I can use to carry files to and from court? While backpacks can be chic and useful, there’s no good way to wear a backpack while wearing a suit, so I think I need a briefcase. I want something understated that will last a while, and because public defender offices are underfunded, I can’t afford to spend a ton. Plus, in my opinion, it would be kind of a weird look for a public defender to roll into court strapped with a nylon Prada number.

You are going to pass! I hope you have some linen suits ready for those Miami summers. As I have said before, a backpack will not work for an adult man, especially one who spends his time in court. Let’s find some practical, cool, and understated options to keep all those files in order.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Uniqlo came to the table with a logo-free, waterproof, briefcase-style bag for $50! It’s a truly affordable option that doesn’t look cheap, and has shoulder — and even backpack — straps that you can use depending on how heavy your load is. (I would not suggest not using the latter.)

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Even the mention of the Prada nylon proves you are more advanced than some readers. If you like the look of nylon, Filson has introduced a series of leather-trimmed ballistic-nylon bags that are a bit more modern than the waxed canvas ones they are known for. This is equipped with lots of pockets and even a trolly strap to work with your rolling luggage if you take the show on the road. The olive color is a nice change from the usual black or brown. The sale price shown reflects the 30 percent discount Bloomingdale’s will automatically apply when you add the briefcase to your cart (but know there is a $13 shipping fee).

$173
Photo-Illustration: Retailer

My favorite equestrian brand Barbour makes a waxed leather and cotton briefcase that will look really great after five years of use. A back zipper that allows for easy access is a nice touch. And it’s tartan-lined, just like the jackets!

Do you have any table lamp recommendations?

As we all work from home, a task lamp is undoubtedly a vital accent piece. Sometimes the glow of the laptop screen isn’t enough.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

The perfect marriage of form and function, the Ventosa LED Lamp can attach to your table (or any smooth surface) with a suction cup. Designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and introduced back in 1962, it is timeless, practical, and chic.

$149
Photo-Illustration: Retailer

The Matin table lamp, produced by HAY and designed by Inga Sempé, is sophisticated — the pleated cotton shade makes it look like something straight out of a dimly lit cocktail bar in Firenze. Go with red or green; both are a nice pop of color without being overpowering.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

The Setago Portable Table Lamp is charming. Designed by Jaime Hayón, its name is an amalgamation of the Spanish word for mushroom (seta), which alludes to its shape, and the English word for go (go), which alludes to its portable nature. It produces a lovely, soft, even light, and is equipped with a dimmer so you can adjust that light as you prefer. And it’s rechargeable, too.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Old reliable Ikea has a great affordable option: The Forsa, with its adjustable arm and shade, is a classic style of table lamp. It’s made of powder-coated steel and comes with an LED bulb.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

Bi-Rite Studio is an excellent store in Brooklyn with a few good vintage options in its collection. One is this ’70s Hebi-style snake lamp in blue that can twist and turn. That tactile element makes it super versatile, and the color is just cool. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, Bi-Rite Studio also has a tubular steel-and-glass table lamp that is powder coated in a popping shade of orange; its shape is so unusual, you won’t get tired of looking at it.

Photo-Illustration: Retailer

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Noguchi Akari 1N, a certified piece of art that is also a perfectly functional lamp. Since Isamu Noguchi designed it in the early ’50s, it has been made at the same manufacturer in Japan. The shade is crafted from treated handmade washi paper and bamboo ribbing, and supported by a metal frame.

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Ask Chris: Can You Suggest Briefcases for a Public Defender?