When I say bag I don't quite mean a literal handbag, I mean bags that we as men actually neeur busy, day-to-day lives that will suit out style and will actually be useful for us. So often I see guys in suits with the same tattered old backpack that they used to take hiking with them many years ago (granted I've been guilty of this myself!) and it just puts a mark on their style and it just doesn't look good.
Aside from style, it's good to have a bag that is fit for the purpose and the situation you're in. It’s very annoying when you’re trying to stuff your gym trainers into your laptop bag or letting your laptop stew in the stench of your gym clothes while you’re on your way to the office. It’s also not great when you have to walk or travel long distances and you have a heavy bag hanging from your shoulder or you have to carry it in one hand – giving you a kind of side hunch hobble walk.
A good bag is important for both convenience and style, and a real gent knows the difference between them. What’s great about bags is that they can really add to your look when you’re trying to either look smart and cool, or if you’re trying to look quirky. Whatever your style is there is definitely a bag, a colour and a shape that’s perfect for you to really show people who you are.
So, let’s have a look at some of the bags you can use and what situations they’re best used for. For simplicity, I’m going to break these down into 5 main groups and then go into the various styles and details of each one.
These come in many shapes, sizes and styles and also come under many different names. They can also be called satchels, shoulder bags and cross body bags, and I’m certain that some specific brands market them under different names too.
The good thing about messenger bags is they tend to look quite stylish, and they are very versatile and can be used for a few different needs. For the general population of the standard man, they tend to be used for work or everyday social situations. I’ve had many of these bags over the years and this is exactly what I used them for. It will very much depend on your job or “office mood” but you probably want to make sure the messenger back that you’re using for work is clean and not frayed and tattered, and it’s not a whacky colour – this will give you the impression of being more professional and serious but at the same time a little bit casual. For the most serious look, men will go for a briefcase, but the messenger bags allows for that smart but casual, modern-man-on-the-go look.
Again, another very versatile accessory, the holdall bag is a must have for any man no matter what life you live, and I’ve also had my fair share of these in my time. The clue is really in the name – hold all. These are bags for when you need to go away for a weekend or you’re going to the gym or playing football before/after work and you need to take your kit with you. Similarly if you’re making lunch at home and you want to take some food and snacks with you to the office. If you’re heading out for some dinner or drinks or a date after work and you need a change of clothes. Trips and daily life, these will always be useful for you and it’s something you definitely need to get.
When you buy a holdall bag, make sure it’s appropriate for what you need it for, some are bigger than others and some are designed differently. If you only need it to carry a little extra clothing for a weekend trip or to take a few extra bits to the office, then a smaller, smarter bag is absolutely fine. Some companies call these 24-hour bags or 48-hour bags or weekenders; whatever it is, they’re very useful items.
If you’re going to be going away for longer trips say overseas and you need a few different changes of clothes, maybe a couple of pairs of shoes, a laptop, a gift for a friend you’re visiting, then a larger holdall is going to be better for you. Just bear in mind if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking through airports or around cities and you’ve loaded it down, either get one with a good shoulder strap or go for a small suitcase with wheels.
One note to make on taking these bags on board a plane, the cost of checking a bag in on a flight is getting more and more expensive and overhead storage space in cabins are becoming more and more cramped. Can you fit your weekender under the seat in front of you so you don’t have to scramble for it when everyone’s rushing to get off? This is something I learned when I was travelling back and forth between London and Edinburgh for work, it was easier to quickly zip off the plane that to worry about finding my bag on a busy plane.
A long-standing server of people the world over, the backpack is an absolutely brilliant invention. I’ve had so many backpacks in my life I can’t even remember them all – from tiny little ones that I’ve taken to festivals, the beach, day trips, to an enormous backpacker style beast that I took with me on various trips where I went to find myself in various countries.
The fact is a backpack is one of the most practical ways to carry things from A to B and for this reason, they’re really good to have. But as with the other styles we’ve already talked about, make sure you match your backpack to the use it’s intended for. Don’t use your smart work backpack to carry your dirty gym clothes in (I’ve been guilty of this) and don’t take your work backpack on a hike. Also make sure it’s size appropriate for the job and also for you. As a guy who’s 5’8 I can look quite swamped wearing a large backpack, so I tend to choose medium to smaller sized options.
If you’re going to be using outdoors regularly, have you checked that it’s waterproof? Does the laptop slot fit your laptop? If you’re going to be taking it on the train or bus during rush hour, does it stick out too far? Does the colour and style match what you’re wearing? I guarantee you’ve been through a few backpacks in your life, they’re incredibly useful, so get one that works for you.
As the name suggests, these have one main purpose, and that is obviously to carry your laptop. However I see a lot of people using their laptop bag as a kind of mini messenger back and shoving it full of other things and making it bulge out – don’t do this. If you need to be compact and tidy and you’re travelling a lot for work maybe or you do a lot of freelance writing in coffee shops, a laptop bag is probably all you need. Just make sure you don’t put more in it than a laptop, documents, a notebook, a mouse or a cable. If you start to cram it full of things then you’re going to ruin the bag, you might break your laptop, and you’re just going to look a bit dishevelled.
A laptop bag or even just a laptop sleeve is a good way to show you’re prepared and ready for business and you’re not carrying around any extra baggage (literally!)
A few options:
This one is a little more flexible as it’s really going to depend how much travelling you do and what kind of travelling. It’s also going to depend on your budget and whether or not you’re baller enough to splash out on the checked baggage option on the plane.
This is only going to be from personal experience from a guy who’s done an awful lot of travelling in his life – but you’re going to want something sturdy, ideally with 4 wheels, that isn’t too bulky but has a decent capacity. If you’re going to use it as a carry-on option, does it meet the required maximum size for most airlines? Some airlines charge a phenomenal amount of money for excess baggage and last minute checked bags so please do make sure yours meets the right specifications.
A hint here as well, it’s good to not get something that really outlandish in colour because it’s going to make you look like a more well put together gent, but make sure you can distinguish yours from the rest, and make sure others can do the same! I’ve had my bag go missing after a flight multiple times and trust me it’s very annoying. So make sure yours isn’t getting mixed up or someone else picks it up by mistake. Throw a unique tag on it or some identifying addition (I used to attached a bit of coloured ribbon to the handle of my plain black suitcases).
I personally don’t like: the man purse
Let me be clear here, this is a personal preference only – I’m not saying these are good or bad, I’m just saying I don’t like them and I don’t think they look good. If you are going to go with a small, across the body bag that resembles a purse or woman’s handbag, and you can pull it off, then much respect to you. I also believe that people of different cultures will find these suitable whereas others won’t. I just personally think they’re a bit of an in-between, nothing type bag that pretty much only carry what you can fit in your pockets or a small messenger bag anyway. But that’s just my opinion!
Use only at the right time: bum bags/fanny packs
These have a fair amount of stigma attached to them and for the most part I’ll agree. They’re not the most stylish item and they don’t carry a lot of stuff before they look absolutely ridiculous. However, there are times when actually they might be quite useful. A festival for example, for carrying your water, plasters, snacks, tickets, phone, whatever. In the same way if you’re backpacking somewhere hot and you go for a walk around a city or a jungle path, again can be quite useful – especially when trying to avoid pickpockets. I’ve seen some guys use these at the gym to carry their chalk or gloves or supplements because some gyms don’t like people having bags on the gym floor with them, again that’s fair. But please, whatever you do, do not use this to go to work or go out for an evening or god forbid, a date!