Why Your Next Key Purchase Should Be A Bag

04 December 2019
Style, Fashion, Bags, Tan France
Illustration: Michael Hoeweler
Accessories are hitting their stride like never before. Take note and strap in, says style columnist Tan France

We might be living through an all-time peak in men’s accessories. Bags, in particular, are making their way into closets more and more – more than I’ve ever seen. Brands are prioritising men’s leathergoods as much as they ever have. And now, those accessory heroes are far more diverse than the offerings of briefcases, wallets and brogues of times’ past.

Really, men’s accessories have entered an era where they’re equally as impressive as women’s. And that’s saying something.

I chalk some of this up to the crossbody influence. For me, it marked a moment that we started thinking differently about menswear accessories. Suddenly, they were no longer purely about functionality. Where a briefcase might have once carried portfolios of work and chunky laptops, the modern crossbody is as much about a little style statement as it is about carrying your wallet and phone. It’s more fashion than function – the crossbody has changed everything and bred new experimentation.

Look at Jacquemus’ tiny, tiny bags – and their oversized accessories. I love the way he plays with scale and wit. It shows men that there’s diversity in style, and that the boundaries we thought were absolute can always be pushed back.

The likes of Bottega Veneta and Ferragamo have typically been seen as classic, but in this new era, they’re embracing a more genderless silhouette: all fanny packs, crossbodies and handbags.

Men have long been restricted by their wardrobe options, and accessories are the way to take a classic or easy look, and elevate it. Bags can instantly make even the simplest of looks – a tee and jeans – much more interesting. And look, I get it: the day I started wearing a crossbody was embarrassing. It felt very extra! It felt like my style was screaming out a statement.

But, lean into that accessory discomfort, and you’ll quickly realise something incredible: nobody else cares. Once you realise that you have freedom to experiment and express through your style, it will open you up to a world of creativity you never knew.

Shift your accessorising. It’s not about being extreme, it’s about being playful.

It’s not about slavishly recreating a runway look, it’s about mixing up your everyday outfits with an easy and impactful extra piece.

Personally, I prefer to steer away from the trending pieces that clog up Instagram feeds. Yes, it’s mightily beautiful, but if I see one more Dior saddle bag out in the wild, I think I’ll go nuts. So, seek out your pieces carefully, invest deliberately, and start your journey.

Every journey, however, comes with a few guidelines. So, here is one. There is never, ever, a good time to wear a messenger bag – dare I say it, not even if one is working as a messenger. They’re out of date, they kill your silhouette, and they usually come replete with nasty canvas straps and an abundance of velcro. As terrible as these are, I see messenger bags all the time paired, inexplicably, with suits! In these situations, the messenger bag reveals its magical power: making even the most luxurious, bespoke suiting look cheap. Steer clear.

With that out of the way, it’s only fair to offer up some everyday alternatives. As unexpected as it may seem, there’s no more important bag in my arsenal than my weekender. Almost every time I fly, I do so exclusively with carry-on: a backpack and a weekender. (I’ve previously eschewed the mighty benefits of skipping checked luggage, but to summarise: less waiting, fewer queues, more curated outfits.)

But day-to-day, that weekender bag really comes into its own. It will always hold two spare outfits (in case I need to do press shoots or interviews) and my gym gear (because one always ought to be prepared). My Mulberry weekender is my favourite bag, ever.

Backpacks might seem a little style-regressive, but it really comes down to the make. Embrace a leather backpack – something luxurious and sleek – and the schoolboy vibes will evaporate. Brands from Ferragamo to Paul Smith to Rains are doing brilliant takes on these.

The lesson with bags is obvious, but never hurts to restate: when you decide to carry something around, strap it in, or click it over, it should be just as thought out as everything else you’ve put together.

Strap In

Backpack, $680, Paul Smith

Weekender bag, $2375, Saint Laurent

Cross-body bag, $2280, Bottega Veneta