3 December 2022

History of the Male Handbag – 7 Past and Present Versions of the Man-Bag

This original article was first published here: History of the Male Handbag – 7 Past and Present Versions of the Man-Bag

Everywhere you look these days, you’ll see guys sporting gorgeous “man-bags” and purses. Men’s backpacks, briefcases, and duffel bags are still on trend, but the cross-body and top-handle handbags have more recently made their way onto the men’s fashion scene.

When you investigate, it’s an interesting journey as to how we got here. History reveals that purses may have been a guy’s thing all along. Here are seven examples of man-bags throughout history.

1. The Modern-Day Male Handbag

The statistics show that USA men’s purse sales leaped by 700% during 2021, compared with 2018 numbers. But why has this niche taken off?

Freedom of expression and gender fluidity have certainly played their parts. Men’s fashion has begun to adopt many women’s fashion items, such as heels, skirts, makeup, and nail polish. Handbags clearly factor into this agenda as well.

Carl friedrik tote

Carl Friedrik tote bag

Bags and purses have also defined fashion houses for ages. They make up a significant amount of these establishments’ annual income. So why wouldn’t fashion brands want to be able to expand into the men’s market in fresh ways?

Quality handbags last a long time as well. This makes them an excellent fashion investment. If you know how to repair a purse like a pro, you can up-cycle your purses for years and years.

2. Girdle Pouches

In the Middle Ages, bags became more of a fashion accessory. Men and women carried waist pouches to contain coins and other valuables. Men stopped carrying these when pockets were invented towards the end of the period.

3. Sweet Bags and Satchels

Bags came back in the Renaissance with the sweet bag trend. These ornate pouches were used to carry nice-smelling goodies to ward off the foul odors of the times. They became a symbol of wealth and status.

The satchel was also created around this time. It was used mainly by schoolchildren, however.

The industrial revolution and rail travel called for heavier-duty bags. Men’s briefcases and carpet bags were developed around the 1850s.

5. Military Bags

The first and second world wars called for military innovations, such as the knapsack and bread bag. These have served as inspiration for modern backpacks and belt bags.

6. 20th Century Bags

By this time, most of the bag designs we have today had already been conceived. Then, the 80s saw a moderation of the Middle Age girth pouch in the moon bag, and fitness and duffel bags also became a thing. These were touted by men and women. The 90s saw a dip in men’s bag fashion, and around this time, it became “unmanly” for men to carry smaller bags.

weekend bag

7. Turn of the Millennium and the “Metrosexual” Man

Around 2009, cross-body bags hit the scene and were worn more and more by men. Later, hipsters started to carry stylish totes.

The movement towards men sporting more feminine-appearing satchels began when streetwear found its way into luxury fashion in the 2010s. Normally, fashion was defined by labels and taken to the streets. At this stage, the opposite started to occur.

Moon bags reappeared on the scene as belt bags, and the “man-bag” was created and accepted. Louis Vuitton’s 2017 partnership with Supreme saw massive shifts in men’s fashion. This set the scene for what we have going on today.

Final Thoughts

The pervasiveness of the feminine bag design in menswear, and its subsequent sales, suggest this trend will be around for a while. Celebrities are toting the style left and right, and with the niche being worth a pretty penny, fashion houses are sure to try to keep it in the limelight.

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