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Bag + Y chromosome = How to choose a man-bag?

A bag…for guys? And what next? Mascara?

A guy, a bag. A guy, a bag. Yep, I get it – for a lot of you (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m included here, too) it seems weird to find the two words in the same sentence.

It’s not that I’ve got nothing to carry around with me but rather that I tend to associate stylish bags with women or with the kind of guy who carries out an extensive beauty routine in front of the mirror every morning.

The fact is, it’s been a while now that I’ve been facing the dilemma of the bag: how do I carry my laptop, a bottle of water, a magazine or a weekend’s worth of stuff around with me without looking like a metrosexual bobo?

Faced with such a question I found myself clueless and I used to carry an awful laptop bag (the only one capable of protecting my MacBook from day-to-day bumps and scratches) or my sports bag (the same one that I put my actual sports gear in…you get the picture?).

Or, alternatively, I cut down what I was carrying with me to a minimum: a little wallet that didn’t deform my pockets, a sufficiently flat mobile, no bottle of water anymore, I’d drink in the public toilets instead…don’t look at me like that…I’m joking really…

You know what? Kinowear’s top secret center of Research and Development has put some thought into it, and here are the results from the BonneGueule Lab

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Man-bags: what you should stop doing now

Let’s put the cards on the table and be really open about this. A bag for a man should be:

  • Big enough to fit our stuff in it, whether that be work stuff, stuff for class or for going away for the weekend. Not too much though…otherwise you’re talking more along the lines of a suitcase. And suitcases are heavy.
  • Robust cos we’re not always as careful as girls and we want to be able to put it down anywhere…on grass, sand, even where it’s been raining.
  • Manly. Yes, manly. But, having said that, taking away nothing of its elegance. And on that note let’s just say that a document file is a work accessory and not a bag. And that every time you put on your Jan Sport rucksack (after you’ve done studying): God kills a kitten (and at Kinowear, we like kittens…).

We can, then, immediately exclude:

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The work bag.
It goes to work 5 days a week…leave it in peace at the weekend.

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The little bag that makes you look like you’re off to the job center. (For this, God kills three kittens).

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The over-the-shoulder micro-bag (practical but really inelegant when it comes to the proportions, too small and not manly – and there’s an added penalty for the skin-tight salmon-pink T-shirt…)

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Whether they admit it or not, these dudes are wearing handbags.

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The sports bag: it’s a shame to wear a nice outfit to then go and wear that with it. Not to mention the poor hygiene. 

The biggest trap is buying bags that cost around $130 from Asos or chains like Zara: the quality is really poor…but you can always re-use them once they’re full of holes to make a house for your cat. Did we mention that we really like cats?

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Alright then, but what should I look for if I want a bag worth buying?

Weekend bags

For me, it’s THE most suitable bag (sometimes called the 48hour bag). A reasonable size without being too bulky: it doesn’t interfere with your look as a whole…and you won’t struggle to put your laptop and books in it when the bell rings at the end of Friday.

Here are a few models that meet all of our criteria:

My top choice: Filson. Big American hardware in indestructible cotton. It’s what you’d wear to hunt down bears with your bare hands or to write articles on the living conditions of cats in Libya under Khadafi.

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Filson: Great hardware from Seattle (model 257)

The great thing about this bag is that, like a good pair of jeans, it shows wear over time but at the same time stays in decent condition. Me and Benoît both have one and it’s the best buy possible if you like the design.

Have a look on ebay…you’ll often find some real bargains, at less than $330 dollars sometimes! And don’t worry about going for the ones that aren’t quite new as these bags last around 15 years (that’s like 75 cat-years!!)

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Filson, indestructible
Go for model 256 if 257 is too chunky

If you have more urban tastes then go and have a look at the tanner’s – let’s forget bags from Zara (far too expensive for their quality) or at those by small designers. Prices can go up to $500 or $600 depending on the materials used. But for an item that’s going to last you, it might be a price worth paying.

Stick to simple designs. Choosing a good design for a bag is like choosing a good design for a pair of sneakers: stay away from items that look like works of art on the shelf but overwhelm an outfit once you wear them due to their intense detail. Does it look too sophisticated? If so, forget it!

The last on the matter: the color. Unless you’re the kind of guy who’s into street wear (we have no problem with that, peace out), stick to simple and natural tones: brown or black leather, beige, gray, khaki or blue canvas…

The word of the day: SIMPLICITY! (relax, here are a few illustrations of what we’re talking about)

Swedish brand Sandqvist (they ship in the EU)

Stanley & Sons an artisan product made like it would have been in the olden days – $160 (different colors available)

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Ally Capellino (around $330)

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Leon Flam, inspired by the great aviation era.

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Blue Claw Co made in America satchel and weekend bags. (from 200$)

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There’s All Saints, too, for heavier looks…
Even if none of their range is particularly interesting this season.

And there are some cheaper but less stylish solutions out there:

Recycled canvas bags

Lots of brands have given this a go: making bags by recycling the canvas used to cover lorries. It’s economical and resistant but is easier to blend into a street wear or student look than an outfit with a city vibe.

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Airlines Originals bag, sold at around $80.

Messenger bags

There are a lot of little bags that go by this name. Worn with a strap, they’re mainly associated with ‘youths’ but it’s still a decent choice.

Choose an understated messenger bag that’s big enough for what you need it for. Great example by Stanley & Sons, around $520

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 here’s one by Belstaff that’s not very understated but looks fine in this outfit.

Beggar’s bags

There are some fairly cheap adapted versions in military stores. Since it’s quite a small bag it’s really important to choose a VERY manly one of the right size: big canvasses and leather straps are therefore what you should look out for. Tartan patterns or bags with leather that’s too shiny are to be avoided…far too feminine!

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Big enough and the design’s rough enough.
Model in French military canvas by L’Atelier Matière à Réflexion

And now, how should you wear your man-bag?

Well in your hand or over your shoulder. Personally I find that wearing it with the shoulder strap (with the strap going diagonally across your chest) looks too student-y, or feminine if the bag’s too small (even if you don’t have much choice in the latter when it comes to messenger bags or beggar’s bags).

Here are a few examples of bags integrated into outfits:

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Bag by an unknown brand but it works well.

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Burberry Prorsum
(way out of topic: A man recently stole a Burberry $130,000 alligator trench coat by putting it on and walking out of Hong Kong store)

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And the return of the good old Filson

One more thing… The guys on Reddit at r/malefashionadvice (which I recommend you visit) has wrote avery extensive piece on man-bags. You absolutely have to check it out, here is the link: MFA Bag Guide 2.0. They basically provide for each type of bags discussed above much more pictures and brand recommandations including pricing info.

See for instance this album of messenger bags they’ve put together

 

I can’t say I love all the bags featured out there (there are so many). On the other hand, in this post, I only featured bags I really liked and would recommend.

 

There you go, I think that’s enough to start you off. It’s true that the man-bag is no easy topic cos it’s not ‘accepted’ everywhere (even the most manly bags can come across as effeminate for those not tuned into fashion).

But it’s clearly a practice that’s going to become more popular as men become more conscious of their appearance. Start looking for a nice manly bag now: your look will become more elegant and your lifestyle much easier!

I’ll leave you there, it’s 8.23am: I’m going to have to go to bed…I’ve got to go and see to my pony later…

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  • What kind of bag do you carry on a daily basis?

  • Greg Haney

    Shoutouts for Filson and Saddleback.

    I use the Filson Padded Computer Briefcase in Navy as my daily laptop commuter bag. The gold zippers and dark brown leather against the blue twill cotton is just fantastic. Also was able to buy it New from Brooks Brothers during a 40% off sale last December. If you are patient, that kind of price for this bag is phenomenal.

    For traveling I take my Saddleback leather Classic Briefcase in New Tobacco. Honestly, just look at it and tell me it can’t handle anything, anywhere, anytime. Put this on and your “Man Points” raise by a factor of ten. Also bought on Dave’s Deals for a more reasonable price too.

    Disclaimer: Both bags are heavy even when empty, so understand that these options (and others similar) aren’t for the weak.

  • kreisler

    Ernest Alexander Hudson messenger bag. It’s a beast. 🙂

  • Thanks for your comment

  • Hi Greg,
    thanks a lot for this very usefull comment. You’re totally right, some bags are already heavy even when empty. I found it to be especially true for leather bags.

  • Link to Sandqvist is broken (probably missing http).

  • Hi Stefan,
    Thanks I fixed it.

  • Hey “The Future”.
    Thanks for your comment, imo the backpack at work is indeed no such a great choice, but you’ll soon be able to dress up your style.

  • xue

    What would you recommend for backpacks? I’m going to be a college student soon. So far, I’ve been looking into Swiss Army salt and pepper vintage backpacks.

  • Hi Xue,
    I really like the look of these backpacks with this strong military inspiration. However if you feel like going for something simpler, I like Herschel too and you can pick something with a bit of color.
    Hope that helps. Nicolas

  • Hi Cris, Thanks for your comment.

  • Ben Dekker

    I really like the Travelteq ones! Florentine Vacchetta leather, vegetable tanned so no chemicals and handmade in Italy bag by bag. Furthermore i think a guy should not use a messenger strap with a bag thats kind of businesslike.

  • Hi Ben, thanks a lot for your comment. I really like travelTeq too but couldn’t find the name.
    I agree with you for a very practical reason: messenger straps will totally ruin the shoulders of your suits. Dont do this : http://masterklass.org/media/fck/Pursuit-of-Happyness,-The.jpg

  • Hi Hanna, thanks a lot for your comment, I didn’t know these two brands but they indeed seem to be a good deal. Saddleback style may be a bit too rough for dressed up outfits but will definitely work great in a workwear style. Buffalo has more simple styles that are cheap too.
    My favorites:
    http://www.saddlebackleather.com/roundsatchel?sc=8&category=301406
    http://buffalojackson.com/roosevelt-camel-leather-laptop-bag.html

  • Hi Xue, go ahead I’m sure it’ll look great. No reason to be afraid of the green color, it’s quite muted (I mean it’s not bright as Ninja Turtle) and therefore you won’t have to care wether it’ll look weird or not.

  • Geetika Walia

    Man bags definitely give a stylish edge to any man. I guess, there is a cliche that bags are meant only for women, but it’s proven wrong by more and more men taking and flaunting stylish bags.

    Geetika | geetikawalia.wordpress.com

  • Hi Geetika, thanks for your comment.

  • Hey,
    I really like their look too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Voice

    https://scontent-b-fra.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc3/t1.0-9/306075_491427124231503_2047765520_n.jpg

    Mouton leatherworks Indonesia
    Canvas with leather patches
    2 year warranty
    30 euros
    I mentioned here before Indonesian street wear
    May be a good value
    Sad they don’t ship to Europe

  • That’s very cheap for a good look, are thinking about buying one ?

  • Voice

    Sure, why not? As soon as I find a way to get it shipped to Europe (

  • I know there are some proxy services (but mainly focused on Japan), you may want to have a look at that.

  • Voice
  • Cheap option, looks all right.