Not all that long ago, there was a time when designer handbags were considered a women's-only domain. Although it was acceptable for a man to take a purpose-built briefcase to work or a backpack to university, anything more ‘garish’ (like a bag with a unique style, small size, bright coloring or an obvious brand label) was guaranteed to earn a man ridicule.
In fact, in 1999, a man wearing a handbag was such a laughable statement that it was the subject of an entire episode of the TV show Friends (Joey dared to walk around with a cross-body bag, and his friends wouldn’t let him live it down). In 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary coined the term ‘man bag’, underscoring the idea that bags were inherently feminine.
Fast forward to 2022, and this barrier is no longer in place. Men’s designer bags are everywhere. They are on runways, on the street, in fashion magazines, and in the stores of every major fashion retailer, like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent. From small purses to bumbags, there is no longer a men’s bag style that is off-limits. Bag style and practicality have merged, and bags are not one of the fastest-growing trends in men’s fashion.
Here are some of the reasons designer bags are becoming more popular for men:
‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Fashion Rules Are Breaking Down
One of the most exciting things about modern fashion is that it is no longer confined to antiquated gender limitations. As gender fluidity rises, menswear is increasingly adopting more traditionally feminine items like designer bags, jewelry, nail polish and even skirts. The notion that bags are effeminate - or that this is a bad thing - is dissipating, along with other gender-based fashion boundaries. These days, it is considered trendy for a man to walk around with a tote bag, handbag, bumbag or cross-body bag. The lines between what is considered masculine and feminine - and what is acceptable for each gender to wear - are breaking down, and this is opening up a much more level, diverse and inspiring fashion playground.
The Rise of Luxury Streetwear
Streetwear is a style of casual clothing that became popular in the 1990s, and has been growing and becoming more ‘mainstream’ ever since. Emerging from subversive countercultures like skate, surf and hip-hop, streetwear is now ubiquitous and has been adopted by luxury brands. The rise of streetwear has opened up fashion to a demographic that was previously barred from showing an interest in fashion - men.
Streetwear consists of casual clothes like T-shirts, hoodies, sneakers and bags, but the driving force behind it is its sense of casual cool, its spirit and its authenticity. The rise of the popularity of men’s bags owes a lot to streetwear and its adoption into luxury fashion. Streetwear influencers wear their bags loud and proud across their chests. Not only do bags free up hands and pockets, which promotes clean lines and gives clothes a crisp aesthetic, but they offer an up-front display of style and status. Popular brands like Louis Vuitton have keyed into this trend and taken cues from streetwear influencers, and now offer vast ranges of men’s bags to suit every style and purpose. If you would like to learn more about these kinds of designer bags, I’ve found LV has some pretty epic men’s leather bags to choose from. From cross-body bags to satchels and totes, new bag designs are flooding every sector of the men's bag market. Portable, functional, fashionable and cool, bags have become a vital addition to any outfit.
Bags Are Just Plain Practical
Another reason for the popularity of designer bags among men is the fact that they are extremely practical. No one wants their pant or jacket pockets sagging under the weight of their wallet, keys and phone, and now men have more choice than ever when it comes to selecting a vessel for their stuff. Thanks to the breakdown of gender barriers, men can now use bags as both a practical tool and a fashion statement.
Any observant fashion followers will have noticed the growing number of menswear bags being sold by leading fashion designers. This year, pretty much every male model and influencer at Paris, New York and Milan Fashion Week was carrying a designer bag. Although men’s bags used to be limited to subdued briefcases and backpacks, the floodgates have now opened and there are countless styles, brands, shapes and sizes available. This is offering men (and people of all genders) more opportunity than ever before to explore fashion and represent their personality and style.
Men’s Bags Are One of the Fastest Growing Trends
Bags have been a staple of luxury women’s fashion for decades - and menswear labels are finally catching up. The huge rise in men's bag sales confirms that it is more than a passing microtrend, and the limitations of menswear are continuing to break down. Men are more willing than ever to carry around bags and to use them as a status symbol and a fashion statement, and the fashion environment is finally breaking free of tired, gender-based constraints.