I catch the bus to work at 8.30am most mornings. At the stop immediately after mine, an immaculately put-together gent gets on board. His suit is flannel, his shoes leather monk-straps, his glasses tortoiseshell and his bag a beautiful sumptuously dark brown box calf briefcase with a brass hinge lock. It’s a look that turns heads.
On casual Fridays, he swaps the tailoring for jeans, a cashmere knit and enviably well-ironed shirts, the monk-straps for suede brogues, and his usual bag for a tan leather briefcase. The man can dress – that much is unquestionable.
Yes, Mr 8.32am, my fellow passenger, takes the time to swap bags to complement his look, and I can only wish I had the discipline.
While buying a bag suitable for every possible outfit you can put together is, to say the least, impractical for most of us, it’s worth investing in one or two quality bags that cover off the majority of scenarios – whether you spend most of your time in the gym or at parties drinking gin.
Bag-wise, what kind of man are you? If you haven’t asked yourself this question, chances are you’re dragging around a shabby, badly proportioned number that just isn’t completing your look like it should, or worse yet: you’re still shoving all your particulars into overfull pockets.
To help you determine which type of bag works best for you and your lifestyle, here are five styles worth considering this year.
1. The Cross-Body
After a few seasons stuck in fashion limbo, cross-body bags are making a return this year. As seen at Louis Vuitton’s autumn/winter 2015 show, zippered styles – also known as reporter bags – are the ones to keep an eye out for, and a far cry from the fold-over flap designs so reminiscent of the early noughties.
They give off a slightly more casual vibe, so you might want to think twice before pairing one with a suit. You’ll also want to make sure the strap is the right length for the bag to be carried no lower than your hipline – unless you plan on delivering someone’s post.
2. The Backpack
Another historically bland type of bag that’s having a bit of a moment, the backpack has – for several seasons now – been given the luxury treatment by a number of high-end designers.
For those of us on a budget, the good news is that this trend has already trickled down to the high street – meaning you can find buttery leather versions, complete with elegant hardware and exquisite detailing, at much more affordable price points.
If you’re looking for a design that’s up to the minute (and you’re not lugging around 500-page contracts), then consider a leaner, more discreet style in the form of the pouch – though keep in mind you won’t be able to carry anything sizeable in these slimline versions.
4. The Tote
Arguably one of the most ‘fashion’ bags alongside the folio, the tote is practical, but really shines as a statement accessory rather than something sturdy to cart your daily essentials around in.
Ideal for storing your phone, keys, a couple of notebooks and a laptop, it’s a stylish alternative to a briefcase that – admittedly – can sometimes be difficult to hold when striding through packed train stations.
Available in canvas and leather predominantly, as well as every colour and print imaginable, there’s a tote to suit every taste. Avoid excessive hardware or add-ons like charms or key chains, and let the simple design and great materials do the talking.
5. The Holdall/Duffle Bag
Hitting the gym several times a week? A mid-sized holdall or duffle bag will fit all of your kit while keeping you looking on-form.
Nothing beats leather when it comes to sophistication but textiles – including canvas, wool and performance materials – work well depending on your everyday attire.
Dimensions matter, so ask for something no larger than 55cm wide (enabling it to double up as cabin baggage for short trips away) and make sure it’s lightweight enough to be carried with ease. A detachable, padded shoulder strap should also be a priority if you find yourself lugging it around for extended periods each day.
The Right Bag For You
Whichever bag you choose, it’s worth following these guidelines:
When purchasing, keep your personal style and usual colour palette in mind. It’s important to opt for something in a hue and material that can be easily integrated with your existing wardrobe – whether that’s mostly longline white T-shirts and black nylon bombers or sharp pastel tailoring.
Although certain capacious designs offer plenty of room, you shouldn’t necessarily use every last inch of the space available. This is as much a scoliosis warning as a style diktat. Carrying heavy weights is never a good look, while over-stuffing your bag can stretch and wear out the material.
Why should you care what your gym bag looks like? Because despite holding sweaty shorts and dirty trainers, you’ll be carrying it around all day and – irrespective of its pungent contents – if it looks bad, then so do you.
Watch out for shoulder straps when you’re wearing tailoring, as they can cause unsightly creases, and have the potential to ruin the structure of your blazer or coat. Look for bags that offer both hand straps and a shoulder strap so you can switch around to keep your suits looking their best.
Certain styles, particularly handle-free folios, can be a pain to carry for extended periods of time. Even simple tasks – such as taking a call while smoking a cigarette or hailing a taxi while holding a coffee, for example – quickly become laborious, which may mean you’re better off with a more practical backpack or cross-body.
With men’s bags accounting for one fifth of the luxury handbag business (according to market intelligence firm Euromonitor), it’s clear many of us take our style of bag very seriously.
Still on the fence? Try adding one of the options above to your wardrobe and you’ll find your pockets instantly slimmer and your style upgraded.
But now we want to hear from you – are you a bag man? Will you be investing in any of these designs this season?