Defending a Man’s Bag


As student of history, I am often fascinated about how things seem to cycle in and out of favor over the years, decades, sometimes even centuries. Men have always been on the move, be it hunting, exploring, or – in a less glamorous modern vein – commuting. Look at old painting and drawing; a man always seemed to have his bag. Tied to a belt, hanging from a horse’s saddle, or slung over a shoulder; it was always there. Somewhere along the way however, the perception of a man’s bag shifted from manly explorer to effete dandy. Well, finally common sense appears to be re-emerging on the issue.

Growing up, my hero was Indiana Jones, the globetrotting archeologist. He had a bag. It made sense of course; where else would all that stuff go? It was beat up and worn out but held in there one adventure after another, filled with golden statues and grail diaries. The message was clear: a man with a bag has things to do.

As I grew up, my needs and sense of style changed. What stayed the same was the belief that, like Indy, guys with bags are cool. Years ago, when I first went to Europe and saw men walking around with great leather bags confidently thrown over a shoulder, I felt vindicated. Still, it took years for a man’s day-to-day bag to become a relatively common site in the US.

I recently surveyed a few guys, asking what they carried around on an average day. This was the average answer: wallet, phone, sunglasses, blackberry, keys, change, checkbook, day planner/notebook, newspaper, and sometimes a laptop. Some had real briefcases, which only look right when you’re going to work, and some had backpacks, which only look right when you’re in college.

The truth is men have a lot of things to lug around these days and they need a good bag; all of that stuff won’t fit in your pockets. I’m kind of an evangelist about this; there is no shame in having a cool bag to haul around all the things we need to get through the day.

You want to find at least one that looks right on you and matches what you’re doing. For all purpose needs, I’m a big fan of Jack Spade bags. The company’s founder, Andy Spade, is the husband of women’s bag maker, Kate Spade. After you’ve got your key bag, it’s time to expand your wardrobe.

If you want to go upscale and get something that will look at home in the boardroom, check out Ghurka or Mulberry. If function rather than form is your goal, true messenger bags are perfect. Two of the companies that literally created the market, Timbuk2 and Manhattan Portage, have bags in every shape, size, and color.


Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice


  1. Man bags are absolutely necessary. No one has them in Australia but in London (as a part of Europe) no one really thinks twice about having one. However, no one does man bags like Asians.

  2. Fcuk does Australians:/ I like bags. Just can’t find anything that catches my eye.