Close your eyes and go back to the early 2000s. Bush was president. Facebook was a quaint idea. Digital cameras and Four Lokos were all the rage. It was also the height of cringey menswear portmanteaus.
There were “mandals” for men’s sandals. And “meggings” for the compression tights cross-country runners wore during training. And, of course, there was the ultimate mash-up that confounded gender traditionalists of this era: the man bag. The man purse. The murse.
The idea of a man having a casual bag to throw everything in has seemed either a little too urban or a little too foreign for the everyday guy. Having it branded as an off-shoot of woman’s accessory seemed to have crippled the adoption of a carry-all bag for men, much to the disservice of our gender. So many men eschew the ease of a big ol’ tote by shoving everything in their pockets or opting for a more tactical-looking case when all you need is to lean into a man “purse” and put your hang-ups to the side.
Now, I’m not talking about a briefcase here. Or a laptop bag. I’m talking about a cavernous bag that has one, maybe two pockets max. While I can’t deny the benefits of a solid backpack or anything EDC-adjacent, it just isn’t always practical and all the little pockets seem to cause more stress in keeping things clean and tidy. It’s organization hesitation–the more I’m supposed to have a place for everything, the more time I waste double-checking pockets to ensure I didn’t forget anything. Instead, I like to opt for a bag where I can throw everything in and walk out the door without thinking too much about it.
In my opinion, a tote-style bag reigns supreme, but of course they’re not all made equal. From grocery stores to luxury department stores, tote bags are given out like candy with purchases, but if you’re really going to trust your laptop, notebooks, keys, and whatever else in one bag, make sure it’s a good one. When looking at bags, I always start with the sturdiness of the straps. A good handle will often be double-stitched or supported with a panel of leather or canvas to support anything you schlep around.
Speaking of handles, you’re going to want to go with one that can both hang comfortably off the shoulder and loosely in your hand at your side. Too long and it may drag. Too short and you’re stuck cradling your bag uncomfortably on your shoulder. Look for something that has a 6” to 9” drop. Or, better yet, find one that has an additional strap that can be used as a crossbody to free up both hands altogether.
Last but not least, materials matter here. While canvas and cotton are the usual culprits, they’re also not great against the elements or for heavy protection. If you knock the side of your Macbook off a table while it’s in a cotton tote, you’re screwed. Instead, go for a canvas weight that’s 12 ounces or higher. Or, better yet, go with a thicker duck canvas or waxed canvas if that’s more your style. Personally speaking, I find leather to be the best choice here and, due to the exposure to the elements, it will develop a nice natural patina over time.
For those who work remotely, live in a city, or travel a lot, you may already know the virtue of a good bag. But for those who may think that a good daily bag will somehow make you look effeminate, just give it a shot. The convenience of having everything from your wallet to your computer to some snacks and chapstick outweighs any sort of feelings you may have about adopting a traditionally feminine accessory into your everyday carry.
Three Men’s Bags You’ll Actually Want To Use
Rains Tote Bag: $110