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ATPM 17.09
September 2011





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Accessory Review

by Frank H. Wu,

SleeveCase for MacBook Air


Function: Sleeve-style case for notebook computer.

Developer: WaterField Designs

Price: from $39 (for 13-inch MacBook Air); $103 (as tested)

Requirements: None

Trial: None

Every few years, fashion observers ask whether America is ready for the “man purse.” The accessory made appearances on the television sitcoms Seinfeld and Friends, and, more recently, the movie The Hangover, and it is invariably described as common in Europe. Pundits opine that technology will cause changes in attitudes. They believe that the need to have a laptop, tablet, smart phone, and other gadgets handy at all times will overcome male prejudices of the New World. The terminology change to “satchel” may help, too, like prunes becoming “dried plums.” Of course, many women also will be on the market for what might be called a “man purse.”

If you are willing to take up the style challenge, the WaterField SleeveCase is a first-class man purse. It is well designed and solidly built.



The basic SleeveCase is a simple product. It’s just a black ballistic nylon sleeve with light neoprene cushioning tailored for various laptops. The nylon covers the neoprene entirely.

The major decision is which configuration is best. There are four decisions after that.

First, the SleeveCase can be ordered with a horizontal or vertical orientation. Mine is horizontal. I have no strong feeling about which is better, but at 5 foot 9 inches, my sense was I would need to be taller to use the vertical orientation without banging the laptop around (or else I’d need to tighten the strap so much that the thing was just under my armpit).


SleeveCase Open

Second, the SleeveCase comes with a reinforcing strip at the bottom. It is available either in “lead indium” or brown leather. The lead indium is not actually indium, which is a soft metal used in LCD screens; it’s just more grey fabric in a tight checkerboard pattern. The brown leather is an extra $10. Mine is brown leather. I think it looks much better than the so-called indium, but if you are a stickler for matching your accessories and usually wear a black belt you’ll have a clash. (I once dated a woman who insisted men should have only hair-colored accessories. When I met her husband a few years later, I immediately looked at his shoes, and he said, “Yes, I know, I know—‘only hair colored.’”)

Third, you may add a flap. It’s envelope style, with a hook and loop closure. It’s an extra $15. I opted for the flap. I wouldn’t feel the laptop was adequately protected if the top were just exposed. The non-flap style does have a one-inch wide closure.

Fourth, you may add a strap. Actually, it’s more complicated. The pop-up menu at the online store offers “not into the strap,” d-rings only (presumably to allow attachment of your own superior alternative strap), a strap, or a suspension strap. I have the plain strap without padding. It’s like any of dozens of other nylon straps you’ve seen, easily adjustable.


Piggyback Pouch

Fifth, there is a “piggyback pouch.” It requires the strap. It’s just another bag altogether that clips onto the main SleeveCase (also with the indium bottom or the brown leather trim). The “piggyback pouch” varies depending on whether you have previously chosen the horizontal or vertical option. The former has two interior pockets, the latter only one—that’s in addition to the main space. I added the piggyback pouch.


Loaded SleeveCase With Piggyback Pouch Attached

I have been using my SleeveCase for several months. Initially, I thought I might use it either on its own or inside my messenger bag (a Mission Workshop model I recommend), and that I’d deploy the piggyback pouch sometimes, sometimes not. In practice, I use the SleeveCase as a man purse, on its own, almost always with the piggyback pouch. When I need to carry more stuff, I use my messenger bag on its own—I don’t usually put the SleeveCase into it. I stopped using my briefcase, and I rarely carry the leather portfolio I’d been using before.


SleeveCase Compared to Leather Portfolio

I’ve been able to stash a good amount into such a lightweight carrying container. There’s the 13-inch MacBook Air that is the point of it all. Then there’s an iPad. I’ll pause here to note that I’m not sure this is so smart. The iPad is in the exterior pocket, which has no closure. On my motorcycle, it could fall out. When walking, it could be stolen. My precaution is to face the SleeveCase out, with the exterior pocket against my body. It’s a choice like any other, presenting risks: if you want to convenience of having the iPad right there within reach, that necessarily means it’s exposed.

Then I have a wallet, handkerchief, business card case, Moleskine notebooks (medium and small), fountain pen, iPhone, travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and passport inside the piggyback pouch. Occasionally, I drop in my keys or in-ear headphones, but that makes the piggyback pouch bulge a bit.


Items Carried in the SleeveCase, Minus MacBook Air and iPad

There are no real disadvantages to the WaterField SleeveCase. The only significant concern is whether you really are ready to lighten your load. The SleeveCase does not offer much extra room for anything. If you are still using paper in any significant quantity or need to carry files, you’ll need a bigger bag or another bag. When I have put documents into the exterior pocket, I’ve almost always lost them; they’ve just fallen out along the way, as I’ve dashed through airports and so on.

Other than that, this bag is exactly what it looks like. Sometimes, when you’re carrying it, the piggyback pouch flops over to the wrong side.

The best aspect of the SleeveCase, however, is the best aspect of the MacBook Air. It is so ridiculously light that you’re able to keep it with you everywhere. I have not felt out of place wearing a coat and tie, at a fancy reception, with my MacBook Air right there. Nor has my wife (different woman than Ms. Hair-Colored Shoes) complained, as she would if I dared bring a backpack to wine and cheese.

Finally, a geographic aside. The WaterField company manufactures its products in San Francisco. As a resident of the great city by the Bay, I am pleased to see that light industry of a high level of craft quality continues to thrive here. It’s terrific to be able to buy local because it’s the best and not just out of pride.

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