Forgive the generalization, but we’re guessing your father probably complained about the number of bags your mother had. While he used the same battered duffle man bag for everything, your mother took up prime real estate at the bottom of the wardrobe with shoppers, handbags, clutches and weekenders.
Guess what? Mother was right. You need different types of man bags depending on where you’re going, what you’re transporting and who’s going to see you along the way. The same goes for all accessories, including sneakers and watches. You need a rotation, if not a full-blown collection. Call it a man purse if you must, so long as you heed our advice.
With that in mind, we present nine types of bags for men to carry home from your next trip to the shops.
9 Essential Types of Bags For Men
Like sneakers and baseball caps, the backpack is one of those once-sloppy afterthoughts that have become considered, coveted purchases in the last decade. It’s the most versatile design on this list, but also the only man bag where you can conceivably buy three and get use from them all.
Depending on your lifestyle, it could be a smart backpack for the business-casual commuter, a rugged companion for weekend pursuits or a training buddy for your gym kit. Adopted by virtually every style tribe on the planet, your old school bag is officially an all-grown-up men’s bag style: a genuine menswear classic.
For an everyday pack or commuter bag, adjustable air mesh straps will keep things comfortable while anything but canvas will keep things dry. Look for padding to keep the contents from jamming in your back. Then it’s a case of tailoring the bag to your needs. Leather styles work best for the office, and many come with a laptop sleeve. Going to the gym? You’ll need extra compartments. Getting on the bike? Look for reflective panels.
2. Tote Bag
Sitting at the mid-point between a briefcase and a backpack on the sliding scale of formality, the tote bag is roomy enough to stow your smelly gym gear / stolen hard drive, but sleek enough that you might still get papped by a roving street style photographer. A versatile, easy-access design, this can be your beach bag, work bag and shopping bag all in one. Sadly, it’s also the only style on this list vulnerable to a “nice man purse” from at least one of your friends.
Materials, first and foremost. If you’re using it as your work bag, stick with leather and nylon. If all you want to do is rep your favorite brand while you do your shopping, then canvas is just fine.
A zipper at the top offers extra security, while internal pockets ensure you don’t have to go burrowing for your keys. Don’t discount a set of shoulder straps either: with the classic shopper style, you’re never fully hands-free.
3. Weekend Bag
You can’t roll up to your rented chateau without an obscenely good weekender stowed in the limited boot space of your Jaguar F-Type. Whatever your travel plans, a weekend man bag suggests a man of taste and leisure, not to mention practicality when it comes to packing enough underwear. Perfect for stowing a neat capsule wardrobe and travel essentials, it doesn’t have to live under the bed between trips. At the smaller end of the scale, a duffel or holdall can be used every day as a hybrid work and gym bag.
You’ll find affordable leather options for not much more than $100, but you can spend ten times that figure from designer labels that specialize in leather goods. In the spirit of matching leathers, look for one that matches the shoes or boots you wear most often.
Check the dimensions if you ever intend to use it as hand luggage and if your weekends involve a little more rough and tumble than champagne and caviar, opt for a twill or canvas version from a hardy outdoor brand.
There’s a stereotypical image of a bowler-hat-wearing British gentleman somehow carrying an umbrella, a briefcase, a newspaper and a smoking pipe all at the same time. Admittedly, it’s a bit of an outdated type of men’s bag. However, his leathery receptacle is still as relevant as ever.
A trusty briefcase is the city worker’s best friend. It’s smart, it’s practical, and if you buy a good one, there’s no reason it can’t last you a lifetime. Besides, nothing ruins that Bond-like aura quite like a bulky backpack slung over the shoulders of your suit jacket, making this sleek alternative the perfect accompaniment to tailoring.
Originally used as a means for lawyers to transport documents to and from court, briefcases were designed with work in mind. This considered, it makes sense to look for something that’s going to match your office attire. Pick a shade of leather that matches your shoes. And whatever you do, keep things simple and slick. In terms of functionality, we’ve largely moved on from bits of paper and fountain pens now, so selecting something with a laptop pocket and ample storage for a charger and hard drive would be well advised.
5. Gym Bag
Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or a spin-class first timer, it can be all too easy to dream up reasons not to go to go for a workout. Things as trivial as being unable to find matching socks, or not having sufficient battery on your phone can feel like a cue to quit. So whatever you do, don’t let a tattered, moth-bitten gym bag serve as another excuse to stay under the duvet.
A sturdy man bag is essential for getting your towel, trainers and protein from workspace to free weights in one piece. Another key tool in your fight to free the rippling abs and walnut-crushing glutes that you just know are lurking under there somewhere.
If you’re using your gym bag to carry stuff from work to gym to home, the first thing to consider is that you’ll want something that can accommodate your office gear and your athletic clobber comfortably. Features like drink holders can come in very handy, and some options even have different compartments or your running shoes and your sweaty clothes so you can keep the stink separate from, well, the other stink.
6. Cross-body Bag
Here’s an inconvenient truth for anyone who thinks streetwear is just pretentious hype and/or overpriced irony: the cross-body bag is probably the most practical everyday men’s bag on this list. Unless you carry a laptop or gym equipment with you, the accessory formerly known as a bumbag is perfect for what most of us actually carry around these days: phone, keys, wallet.
It’s true that, at least while they’re still fresh, the men’s across the body bag adds a flash of unexpectedness to an outfit. But now that designers like Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton are finding ways to pair them with everything from tracksuits to tailoring, the smart money is on this type of bag soon enjoying something close to the backpack’s ubiquity.
There are two things to bear in mind here: dimensions and styling. Size matters in this case because you could buy a cross-body bag not much bigger than a billfold wallet, or you could shoulder one that’s as big as a messenger bag. Work out what you want to transport and go from there. Then, the look. You can opt for loud colors and big logos and use the bag as a true fashion accessory, or keep it in the background with a pared-back monochrome option. In either case, access is key so look for easy-to-reach zippers.
7. Messenger Bag
Until recently the messenger men’s bag was still synonymous with paperboys and sloppy, middle-aged commuters. But designers right now like few things more than taking once-unstylish-but-practical items and making them cool again (see bumbags for further details).
As such, the modern messenger bag keeps its utility but adds some aesthetics. Great for transporting laptops, paperwork and the odd lunchbox – and keeping your hands free as you do it – you can now tailor this type of bag to your style. From statement branding to normcore commuter, retro sportswear to luxury leather, well, you get the message.
Adjustable straps, buckled fasteners (or at least magnetic closures), plus internal and external pockets should all come as standard in these types of bags. Waxed cotton canvas offers a rugged point of difference from the standard leather, too. Keep the style classic with a fold-over flap or go preppy with the messenger’s second cousin, the satchel.
8. Laptop Bag
Unless you’re lucky enough to own a luxury timepiece, chances are your laptop is the most expensive thing you tend to cart around with you. With that in mind, keeping it safe and secure is not to be taken lightly, making an all-singing, all-dancing laptop bag is nothing short of essential.
However, not only is a man bag a necessity for protecting your computer, it can also serve as an extension of your look. Selecting some stylish luggage to house your laptop can help to complement your outfit or even spice up a boring office outfit.
A laptop bag that’s too small for a laptop is about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. Taking this into account, it’s a smart move to know the dimensions of your computer before you go shopping. Added extras like zip compartments for chargers, places to keep documents and padded shoulder straps can all come in handy too so make sure to check the specs before you part with your cash.
9. Beach Bag
We don’t remember when the beach became a fashion show, but these days swim shorts are as tailored as your formalwear. Your accessories can’t be letting the (sea)side down, can they?
The best beach bags for men will stow everything from your sandwiches to a change of clothes and, because they’re often massive, they might be the first thing people see. For that reason, play it safe with shore-friendly color combos like navy and white.
Like a work bag, your beach bag should be able to take a few knocks and not look like it’s washed up with the rest of the flotsam. Hardy materials like canvas, vinyl or even denim come recommended because they won’t scratch when dumped on the sand. Look out for waterproof compartments if you’re planning on getting wet and volume is important, too – especially if your beach towel has the surface area of a small football field.
FAQs About Man Bags
What are men’s bags called?
Call it a man purse, a man bag, a men’s handbag, a bro sack, or even a men’s pouch if you want to feel like a marsupial. Your friends might make fun of you for carrying one, but it won’t be long before they’re asking you to stow their phone, keys, wallet, and water bottle every time you’re out together. Feel free to be petty enough to say no.
Are man bags acceptable?
Unless you want your pants to sag with the entire contents of your home every time you leave the house, we would argue that yes, man bags are acceptable. And necessary. There are plenty of stylish, masculine options if that’s of concern. But every man needs at least one of all nine bags on this list, if we do say so ourselves.
Are man bags popular?
According to a 2018 article by BBC, the man bag is on the rise, with 15% of British men buying one. While some folks consider the man bag (and all forms of male grooming, really), to be very ‘European,’ thanks to the rise of streetwear, we’ve seen an insurgence of all kinds of men carrying them. Men have things to carry, too, after all, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise.