Let’s take a moment to reflect on the state of men’s fashion: a (distinctly un-cringeworthy) pink velvet tux at the Oscars! Goldman Sachs bankers set free from neckties! Made-to-measure tailoring accessible from your phone! We are living in a golden age of menswear. We’ve seen suits loosen up, sneakers on equal footing with derbies, and denim gone bespoke. The latest evolution to hit the men’s department? The next generation of men’s bags.
All of the recent developments in menswear reflect shifts in how we live our lives. This is especially apparent in the bags we use to transport all of the modern essentials, from laptops and tablets to ear-buds and battery packs. According to market research from NPD Group, 25 percent of fashion accessories’ growth in the first 10 months of last year is owed to fanny packs alone. “‘Waist bags’ as we now call them,” an NPD analyst told The Wall Street Journal, “are the fastest growing segment in the men’s accessories market.”
While fanny packs, a novelty that can veer into laughable territory, are a style move best reserved for advanced fashionphiles, they’re indicative of a surge in options beyond the briefcase. Ladies have long enjoyed the benefits of having a diverse stable of bags: a big tote for running around town, a mid-size option for work, something compact for going out. Now guys are getting to enjoy an equally broad variety of decidedly masculine accessories.
Where man-bag was once a dirty word (and one we’re still not especially fond of), the fact is that men’s bags have never been better. We’ve rounded up 12 of the best pieces to build a wardrobe of bags for every occasion: the modern briefcase, the tote, the cross-body, and the handheld.
The Modern Briefcase
Porter-Yoshida & Co.
Much in the way that the most modern tailoring eschews stiff formality in favor of unstructured silhouettes, the best new briefcases are set apart by their softer, more casual form. This bag from the cult Japanese brand Porter ($370) renders a classic silhouette in flexible, utilitarian nylon — stylish and practical in equal measure.
Virgil Abloh, that wizard of streetwear, has injected Louis Vuitton with a hefty dose of hypebeast cool since taking the reins as creative director of menswear. Even a traditional briefcase, like this one inspired by vintage steamer bags ($3,850), is hip enough to give the most conservative office attire a frisson of edginess.
Moore & Giles
While appearances count for a lot, at least when it comes to what you’re wearing, sometimes what’s inside is equally important. Such is the case with Moore & Giles’ tech briefcase ($720), equipped with an integrated battery pack and charging port. The outside, made from a buttery-soft Japanese glove leather, is equally impressive.
This handsome carry-all ($2,690), in olive canvas with luxe leather and brass accents, is a bag MVP. Like a refined L.L. Bean tote, its generous size means it can schlep everything from your gym gear to files to everything required for a weekend away. And, it’ll do it all with exceeding elegance .
Daniel Lee, Bottega Veneta’s recently-appointed creative director, is giving the brand’s exquisitely-crafted wares a jolt of freshness. As in this tote ($9,500), which supersizes Bottega Veneta’s signature woven leather to bold, graphic proportions . It’s a timeless style that makes a brilliant alternative to a briefcase.
Who says a hard-working bag can’t look good? A stylish riff on utility-minded tool bags, this tote ($1,150) offers an array of functional details: ample storage pockets, expandable side zips, and adjustable straps to attach to a suitcase or accommodate a beach blanket. It’s an ideal bag for running errands or heading off on outdoor pursuits.
Unlike a traditional messenger bag, which tends to be bigger and bulkier, this kind of reporter’s bag ($1,750) is slim enough to be worn under a coat. As the name implies, it’s sized to hold all the essentials for a man on the go — notepad and tape recorder not required.
If you are going to dip your toe into the white-hot waters of fanny-packs, opt for something with elevated materials and a sleek silhouette. Smythson’s take on the bag du jour ($795) is appealingly grownup, with cross-grained leather and palladium hardware. Pro tip: sling it over your shoulder or strap it across your chest– just don’t actually wear it on your back side.
For those times when you don’t need a full-size bag but don’t want to bulk up your pockets, this crossbody ($595) is perfectly proportioned to hold the basics: phone, book, water bottle, etc. While it may sound an awful lot like a purse, its solid brass hardware and naturally patinated leather has an air of Indiana Jones swagger. Plus, aren’t we past feeling insecure about our masculinity?
Somewhere between a wallet and a portfolio, a versatile pouch will leave you wondering what you’ve been doing without one for so long. With a cheeky nod to the Yankees (apologies Red Sox fans), Gucci’s pouch ($1,100) provides organization inside a larger bag, in addition to being a chic vessel for transporting documents.
Large enough to hold an iPad, notebook, change, and keys, this understated pouch is an impressive multitasker. The superlative calfskin and minimalist design make Hermés’ leather folder ($1,400) polished enough to bring to the boardroom without sacrificing the functionality that will make it invaluable for everyday.
Legend has it that Valextra’s founder designed this bag ($1,690) after observing a taxi driver who kept his valuables in a small box — a stylish yet practical solution to one man’s storage needs. Sculptural and discreet, it’s the perfect size for heading out to drinks or dinner after work.