Once upon a time, in an episode of the TV show Malcolm in the Middle, the oft embattled father, Hal, was heard to bemoan a particular aspect of male dress that has been an affliction on our gender for many years; he pointed out that women were spared this particular problem, whilst men were left to struggle on in great difficulty and all for the sake of one thing. Women have handbags whilst men have only a small rectangle of leather in which they have to transport their entire lives – and then proceed to sit on for much of the day.
Now, I think we can all agree that this is about as un-stylish as it is possible to get; having to reach behind you, dragging your battered wallet from a place not so far from your bum isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of sartorial elegance. But despite the fact that it has been this way for quite a few years, it does not necessarily mean we need to continue the practice.
Thankfully, with the concept of the man bag and all its varieties finally becoming an accepted part of the male wardrobe, we can banish this archaic and unfortunate method to the history books. That is not to say that we are ridding ourselves of the wallet, we are simply keeping it somewhere other than our seat cushions. However, bags are often much larger than the wallet we intend to put in them and it would be utterly ridiculous to carry one around purely for the purpose of doing so, so how might we make the best use of our man bag?
Making the Most of Your Man Bag
The first thing you need to consider is exactly what man bag you want, need or best suits your style. Assuming you already have at least one bag it might be worth investing in a couple more to augment your choices; you couldn’t for example wear a canvas backpack with your suit, or any kind of formal wear for that matter. A leather messenger or satchel will probably be your best option for work; clean, classic and unfussy, it will blend effortlessly with your shoes and belt (remember to match your leathers).
If your casual style allows, you could very easily incorporate a backpack (covered in much depth by Jonathan Bracewell in his Key Accessory piece), canvas messenger or tote bag. You might also want to consider a smaller structured holdall, or an unstructured version if your style errs on the more smart side of casual. Here the lack of a bag strap will force you to carry it by the handles, allowing your outfit to sit much straighter and neater; very important when tailoring is concerned.
Alongside this you must also think about what you want to put in your bag, where you are going and what the situation will call for: a quick trip into town? A small bag that can hold only the essentials will suffice. Going for a day out somewhere? Something larger that can hold more items will prove much more practical. Always remember the point of a bag is that it should keep your pockets and hands (according to bag choice of course) free; carrying around a bag that is much too small or far too big for your needs is quite frankly, a bit of a faux pas and will have a major effect on your whole outfit.