The Rise of the Man Bag

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Photo credit: Valerie Cheatham


Women have been carrying around handbags for centuries, yet men are still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon themselves. The answer to jam-packed pockets and free hands is right in front of our eyes, but men still fear acquiring the dreaded “purse-stigma”.

Most of us have had the problem—too many items to carry with just our two hands. Whenever you go out at night you need any number of things ranging from your cell phone to your Chapstick. Cramming all these items in your pockets results in keys painfully sticking you in the leg or square fades in your favorite jeans from an overstuffed wallet. The answer is so plainly simple, but to some it seems like a death sentence.

Men back in the 1950’s were so fearful of the status a purse brought with it that they would refuse to hold their wives’ bags anywhere in public view. Today, the masculinity crisis in America has sort of died down once guys started wearing pink shirts and realized they weren’t transformed into some kind of sub-human being. But that took a while, so men carrying bags may take a while, too.

The word ‘purse’ itself carries with it a feminine connotation that men are fearful of being attributed with. Luckily, for those who fear the word purse, the industry has created a plethora of names for you to feel more comfortable with while you’re selecting something to carry your stuff around in. There is the satchel, the messenger bag, the shoulder bag or the fashion forward tote.

The manlier of bags are the duffle, the backpack or the classic briefcase. The key to maintaining that masculinity is to avoid loud designs or patterns and have a wider strap. Leather and canvas fabrics tend to give bags a more rugged look, securing your manhood while keeping you stylish.

In truth, these could all be simple issues about styles and trends or perhaps a small window into a much bigger issue regarding social constructs of gender in our country. When something as trivial as carrying a bag around your shoulder becomes a threat to one’s masculinity, it couldn’t have been on very solid ground to begin with.

Some say that guys need to man up and realize there is nothing emasculating about a bag. In fact, it exudes a confidence in yourself that you are a man regardless of what you wear or carry.

Thousands of men have already realized this and been able to enjoy the convenience and comfort of sporting a man bag. If you are on the fence yourself, just remember there are plenty of awesome guys who have paved a path for you: Kanye West, LeBron James, Indiana Jones and Chewbacca, to name a few.

With the “purse-stigma” surrounding the man bag being lifted, the only question left is: Are you man enough?