Style News

Style Notes: The Man Bag Revolution

Style Notes: The Man Bag Revolution

A deep-dive into the pockets of one of modern style's greatest evolutions: the 'man bag'.

Before the vice-like grip of binary Victorian dress codes took hold, when the only acceptable bag for a man to carry was a briefcase, it was commonplace for men to carry a bag or pouch with them wherever they went for all of their Renaissance man essentials (coins, stylus, crusts of bread, herbs and spices, and the odd religious relic). Parallels can easily be drawn with today’s hands-free equivalent – the polymath creatives of the London fashion scene cart their modern man essentials (smart phone, keys, contactless, vape) around in a bum bag strapped to their chests. Whilst the contents have changed, we have more in common with our Medieval forebears than we think – we value convenience, easy access to our personal effects and a bit of stylish flair. And it makes perfect sense – so why, for so long, did we shun an accessory that clearly has both functional and aesthetic benefits?

A black Valentino logo strap backpack and a black and white Kenzo Paris logo backpack
A black Valentino logo strap backpack and a black and white Kenzo Paris logo backpack

You don’t have to cast your mind back that far to get to a time when ‘man bags’ were a thing to be mocked. Consider the derision with which Joey is treated in ‘The One With Joey’s Bag’ Friends episode, or, in 2009, the casual scorn that The Hangover’s Phil (played by Bradley Cooper) piles on Alan’s satchel, dubbing it a ‘man purse’, simultaneously emasculating Alan and overlooking the advantageous qualities of the accessory in question. Bags for men were regarded as a joke.

A Kenzo Tiger embroidered belt bag
A Kenzo Tiger embroidered belt bag

Luckily for us, we live in enlightened times, and fashion and society are breaking down the restrictive boundaries of gender conformity, one wardrobe staple at a time. Whilst dresses for men might not be the norm (yet – although kudos to Jaden and Kanye for the kilts), bags are. Fast forward a decade and fashion’s mood has progressed, chiming perfectly with a cultural shift that has seen society challenge preconceived ideas of normality and celebrate our individuality. The man bag is a symbol of progress with a shoulder strap and interior pockets.

An Alexander McQueen top handle leather bag
An Alexander McQueen top handle leather bag

The term ‘man bag’ is now obsolete and will soon fade into memory, much like pantaloons, VCRs and Liberty X. We can now just call it a ‘bag’, without the need for a gender-specific prefix. Like you would never call a woman’s bag a ‘woman bag’, or your trainers ‘man trainers’. A man wearing a bag is now as unremarkable as rain in Wales and delays on the London underground. They are vying with sneakers for the title of ‘accessory of the moment’ and the popularity of both is a sign of the times – people’s lives are more relaxed, dress-codes more casual and the lines between genders are more blurred than ever as we rally against an archaic set of rules for which we no longer have any use.