Men have historically had an awkward relationship with bags. The clash between masculinity and a need for practicality has led men to choose between a rock and a hard place: unsightly overstuffed pockets, or a style-compromising backpack. For years many men have looked on their female counterparts in envy; they have a purse, clutch, side bag or tote for any occasion. The truth is, men want to wear purses; they just don’t know it yet.
Luckily for many, 2019 is going to see a major shift in the norm when it comes to what bags are on trend in menswear. Since 2015, influencers such as A$AP Rocky have been quietly pushing the boundaries of what bags a man can be seen wearing, and still be looked upon favourably by the fashionable elite. At the time, the word ‘murse’ was used by many reporters to describe what he carried, but the rapper insisted that ‘this is a purse’, making it clear he had no shame in wearing the women’s bag from Parisian leather goods brand Goyard.
Other progressive stylists in the hip-hop community have been expanding their accessory repertoire over the past couple of years too, as the snowball created in 2015 started to pick up speed. Young Thug, infamous for dabbling in womenswear, wore a digital Chanel Le Boy purse on stage in 2017, whilst Tyler the Creator wore a baby blue purse, also from Chanel, around his neck at Coachella 2018. These are two examples of men who have plunged headfirst into wearing women’s bags, but some have begun their venture into the realm of the purse more subtly. Take Jaden Smith, who wore the Supreme x Louis Vuitton Danube PPM to the GQ Men of the Year 2017 awards. This pouch is an excellent example of the slow transformation men’s side bags are taking from fanny packs to full on purses. One could label the Danube PPM a purse, by definition, and yet it is still coveted by male fashionistas worldwide. Now global fashion houses are making purse-like bags for men, could we see them finally become a normalised accessory for the everyday male?
It’s not only in the hip-hop world that men are branching out into women’s bags – Ansel Elgort, the 24-year-old ‘Baby Driver’ star, confessed last year to wearing his girlfriend Violetta Komyshan’s accessories. “We share handbags—I wear handbags now,” he said. “Purses are really cool, or like the ones you put over your shoulder. You can put your camera in there, your phone, your wallet. Sometimes if I’m wearing tight pants I don’t want to put anything in my pocket. Or sometimes it falls out of my pocket. So we share those now.” It appears he is a man of his word too – not only did he carry a black leather Prada handbag to Prada’s NY show May last year, but he looked great doing so.
Still to come this year, we have an onslaught of luxury bags, even purses, marketed directly to us males. Virgil Abloh’s iridescent LV Keepall has been dubbed the hottest accessory of SS19, whilst over in Milan, Fendi’s collaboration with Japanese luggage specialists Porter includes never seen before menswear versions of the Italian fashion house’s Baguette and Peekaboo purses. These have been designed appropriately for men in a flashy sportswear-esque nylon, but they’ll also come in a luscious fur, ready to complement the fall outfit of any daring gentlemen looking for a practical yet stylish side bag.
As pointed out by Highsnobiety senior staff writer Lia McGarrigle, akin to how sneakers have arguably replaced handbags as the biggest status symbol in women’s fashion, we may soon see the opposite shift happen in menswear. Luxury fashion is an ever-changing scene, and at its core, it is a business. Bags are one of the largest sources of income for many couture houses – if they can be equally marketed to men as they are to women, there are millions to be made. By the end of this year, a man sporting a purse could be a far more common sight than one could have imagined a decade ago.