A morning last September, Maynard Villaflores (18 years old), set his alarm to 5:55 am. Snoozing wasn’t an option. New Yorker Telfar, which sells unisex handbags in limited quantities, dropped its handbags online at 6:05 a.m. “Within two seconds the bags [would] go out,” stated Mr. Villaflores. He is a social media manager in Portland. He picked up a mini-olive number that he wears across his chest. “The rush of [hype] around dropping reminds us of buying Jordans,” we said.
Mr. Villaflores does not think that bags are the same as kicks. In the past decade, sneakers have been a passion of men. Some are proud to wear them, others view them as investments. Rare models are selling for dizzying sums online, on StockX, and at an auction. Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototype was purchased by Sotheby’s in August for $1.8million. “Sneakers helped to break the stigma” that fashion is primarily feminine due to its streetwear and sports connotations, Jian DeLeon, Nordstrom’s men’s fashion chief, stated. “Now, it is acceptable for men to obsess a lot over accessories.” Recently, another accessory that inspires sneaker-level enthusiasm has been cross-body bags. They cling like a baby monkey to the torso. The bags, which are sold by Fendi (Prada) and Stussy (Stussy), convey as much intelligence and style as a pair of new Salomons.
Cross-body bags — especially the fun-size rectangular varieties–have become wardrobe staples among Gen-Z urbanites. Specific hype bag models correspond to certain style tribes. Haute-streetwear models have Off White’s yellow straps. Social media sophisticates may own Bottega Veneta’s woven Leather Cassette pouches. Outdoorsy folks often wear a durable Arc’Teryx pack. Mr. DeLeon stated that in the past, you could “walk down a street and your neck might break looking at someone’s sneakers.” They were “a symbol of status, instantly recognizable.” Men wear the “If I know, you know!” badge on their chests and feet.
NPD Group reports that U.S. Handbag Sales increased nearly 700% over 2018 to men’s and women’s unisex bags in 2021. Euromonitor International market research estimates that the global luxury bags and small leather goods market could reach $12.3 million in 2022. The market for sneakers is larger than that of bags, at approximately $30 billion, according to the NPD Group. However, Benjamin Schneider, Euromonitor’s senior fashion analyst, said that bags are “definitely amongst the fastest growing, if not the fastest-growing [menswear] segment.” “There’s enormous potential.”
Streetwear’s infiltration of luxury industries is responsible for men’s bag popularity. It’s true that hipsters used fanny packs from mass-market companies like American Apparel in an ironic nod towards the dorky 1980s. Supreme, a skateboard-rooted brand, was the first to release rectangular, beefier satchels, giving men the option of carrying bags more prominently. These bags were being worn higher than normal so that they could be carried cross-body, according to Bruce Pask. Kim Jones (the artistic director of Dior Men) made the bags a status symbol, creating a men’s edition of the iconic Saddle bag in 2018. Perhaps for the very first time, there was a “truly luxurious statement bag” for men. Jacquemus brand and 1017 Alyx 9SM brand fueled the excitement by releasing their own bags and passing them on to athletes and celebrities such as Russell Westbrook or A$AP Rocky.
It is appropriate that men’s backpacks are being described as the “new sneaker.” In the past, the media referred to sneakers often as “handbags by men,” meaning that they were the ultimate fashion status symbols. Designers of women’s bags constantly strive to create the next “It”, as they are the gateway product that draws customers into a brand’s world. Mr. Schneider stated that bags are “the main reason people shop in stores.” They’re cash cows, and that’s crucial. According to Sanford C. Bernstein’s investment research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, handbag sales made up about 40% of luxury brands’ annual revenue in 2018.
Yet, brands have not pushed men’s handbags sooner, even if they are so lucrative. Handbags are a topic that has been difficult for men in the past. Men used leather pouches with leather straps to hang from their belts. But, after the popularity of pockets in the 1660s, there was less demand. Bags were ridiculed as feminine and fussy in the 20th century. A man with a bag became a prime-time joke in the 1990s. Joey was seen carrying his handbag on “Friends,” and Chandler commented that he looked just like Joey. Jerry Seinfeld was also seen with his “murse,” crying that it was European. “I’m a fancy boy!”). Particularly offensive is the expression “man bag”, which was acknowledged by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. The Oxford English dictionary acknowledged “man bag” as a term in 2006.
Mr. Pask believes we are now in a “postman bag” era. The change in attitude towards the accessory is consistent with men’s growing acceptance of other feminine accessories, such as jewelry or nail polish. We are “in a very permissive moment in fashion where…we’ve moved past that need [to masculinize] things,” he stated.
Cross-body bags make it easy to carry your everyday essentials. They promote clean, elegant lines. They also foster organization. Corey Fonville 31 said that keeping your stuff in your pockets makes it seem chaotic. Baltimore-based musician Corey says his black North Face sling is “so practical”.
For first-time buyers, be cautious about loud logos or patterns. Nordstrom Nordstrom’s Mister DeLeon recommends choosing a design that you won’t forget. The perfect everyday bag features zipped interior pockets to compartmentalize belongings. It’s large enough for daily essentials like keys, wallets, keys, or hand sanitizer. Mr. Maynard’s bag includes a small spray bottle of perfume and a disposable camera. For Mr. Fonville (who often travels for business), it’s his passport. Alan Schneider, a middle-school educator in Milwaukee, keeps it in his black Louis Vuitton crossbody. He said that it made his life “much easier”.
Christian Dixon, a London accountant has 15 designer bags. A nylon Prada will be his go-to bag for running errands. He may also opt for the brighter red Bottega Veneta Cassette for when he is out and about. He’s searching for a Hermes Birkin, or Hermes Kelly, to increase his collection. These bags, which were traditionally worn by women, have recently been adopted by men, particularly in their larger, bag-like forms. A Birkin can be sold at auction for six figures depending on its style. Mr. Dixon said that those bags were the best investment. They can hold their value for a lifetime and are easy to keep. It is possible that these Louis Vuitton handbags will fetch the same price at auction within a decade as those of Nike.