A Man’s Guide to Bags

Riding bicycle with satchel

Today, men’s bags are for business and leisure
Image source: Bigstock

Forget raised eyebrows and man-bag related epithets. Today, man is free to carry his stuff with impunity and style. The time of the gentleman’s bag is now. Here’s your style guide to bags for men – how to choose the right bag for the right occasion.

The backpack


Blogger Carl Thompson takes his rucksack on his outdoor fitness workout
Image source: Carl Thompson

The humble backpack has made a comeback in recent years, with many sleek, sophisticated styles now available.

A great option if you’re commuting, there’s plenty of space in which to pack your laptop or tablet, plus your lunch, plus your gym stuff. Not only does a backpack leave your hands free to grasp grab bars on buses and trains, it also spreads the load evenly across your shoulders, reducing the chances of back injury.

Wearing a rucksack to work is fine as long as your office is happy with the smart-casual look. For more formal workplaces, or for men intent on climbing the corporate ladder, sadly, no matter how sober your backpack it’s the wrong look. You want your style to say ‘CEO potential’ – a satchel or briefcase is a better choice.

The satchel


The satchel has a storied history, stretching back hundreds of years
Image source: Shutterstock

Worn over your shoulder, a satchel or messenger bag is a versatile option which, like a backpack, leaves your hands free while keeping your stuff within easy reach.

Its slim structure makes a satchel ideal for carrying work essentials like your laptop, diary and sandwiches, but it’s important not to overload it because bearing weight across your body won’t do your back any favours.

Adam Lehman of He Spoke Style is a big fan of the satchel:

“It’s not as stiff as a briefcase, and therefore doesn’t feel as antiquated or old-fashioned, yet it’s classier than a backpack.The result is far more grown-up.”

Opt for a brown leather satchel to achieve an easy sophistication that’s suitable for work and play.

The briefcase


Modern briefcases have had a style upgrade: still smart, but now sleek
Image source: Shutterstock

A briefcase is a traditional choice, some might say old fashioned. But the guys at Fashion Beans would disagree. They say today’s briefcases “are sleeker, slimmer and less boxy, which makes them ideal for the modern gentleman.”

This is a bag with a single purpose and that purpose is work. You’ll never go wrong with a black leather number but in the right environment, a brown leather briefcase, or even a canvas version is a worthy alternative.

The holdall


A brown leather holdall is the best option
Image of Craig Landale taken by Gemma Boyle: Menswear Style

Too big for everyday use, a holdall is, nevertheless, one of the most flexible bags in a man’s arsenal. It’s in the name: it ‘holds all’.

Throw in your gym kit. Use it for books and bulky items. Pack it on a Friday morning, carry it to work before jetting off for that weekend city break. Many holdalls are classed as hand luggage, so you won’t pay any airline baggage fees either.

A good quality brown leather holdall, will work for you no matter what the occasion and will literally last you a lifetime.

The tote

tote bag

Men’s style blogger Jordan Bunker carrying a tote bag.
Image credit: Matthew Pike of Buckets & Spades

A tote bag is essentially a large portable pocket. Not for everyone and certainly for leisure use only, a tote bag has some distinct advantages and doesn’t look naff under the right circumstances.

A thick canvas tote is easily folded up and kept in your satchel, making it ideal for hitting the supermarket on your way home from work. A modern man man never knows when he might need to increase his carrying capacity – that’s what a tote gives you.

How to check for quality


Pay attention to zips, fastenings, and straps when buying a new bag
Image source: Matthew Pike of Buckets & Spades

You might baulk at the cost of some of the bags out there. A leather satchel, for example costs from £100 upwards, but you do get what you pay for and a quality item could easily last a lifetime. As Above the Ankles say: “Look at it as an investment…”

Take a close look at the zips because these mechanical parts are most likely to be the first thing to fail. Avoid steel and cheap alloys because they rust or snap. Blogger Grey Fox says “brass or brass coated zips with nickel, gold or copper plating” are top of the line and built to last.

Also pay attention to the seams and handle anchor points. Choose a well constructed product and you’ll enjoy ‘bags’ of time with your new bag.

What’s your favourite bag? Do let us know via our Facebook page!

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Posted in Men's Style Inspiration.