Practical Accessories

In the modern era, men are becoming more and more aware of the importance of accessorising. Yet the typical everyday male isn’t a dandy and doesn’t want to adorn every part of him with superfluous items that serve no purpose, just for the sake of being ‘individual’.

A good bag, however, has quickly developed into a practical modern must-own, with style-conscious gent’s realising that stuffing their pockets full of keys, smartphones, loose change and wallets not only ruins their perfectly crafted silhouette, but the linings of their beloved trousers. Not only that, with the average male’s ‘daily essentials’ list expanding to include everything from umbrellas and sports supplements to notebooks and tablets, a bag is now more often than not a necessity, rather than a conscious choice.

Over previous years we have seen totes, backpacks and holdalls trend within the industry, which all have one thing in common: a large capacity that can fit in a lot of items. Great if you have to lug around your gym kit or are going away for the weekend, but not quite as important if you only need to carry a few specific work-related items each day.

With this in mind, a new smaller and more streamlined design has risen to prominence, after being spotted both on and off the runways at the spring/summer 2014 fashion weeks. Yes, the document holder (or folio) is set to become the next big accessory trend for men.

The Document Holder

Until now, the document holder has traditionally been associated with womenswear and therefore deemed too feminine – something that hasn’t been helped by the media adopting ridiculous names like the ‘man clutch’, ‘mutch’ or ‘murse’ to describe the style.

In addition, many men seem to have a hard time overcoming the thought that this type of bag isn’t particularly practical, due to the absence of a handle, putting the folio firmly in the aforementioned ‘superfluous’ category, and something only used for accessorising.

Yet for those that like to take a minimal and pared-back approach to their style (and life in general), the majority of document holders feature a clean, streamlined appearance that epitomises this ethos. It’s also much less stuffy than a briefcase, but more refined than your typical messenger bag or backpack, offering a nice balance of smart and casual.

So, if you’re looking for something that will store and protect your tablet/smartphone, keys and business documents on a daily basis, a mid-sized document holder looks undeniably professional and will add an interesting dynamic to any look, while retaining a sense of masculinity.

On The Runways: SS14

Accessories are not often the focal point of designer collections – they’re generally there to add to or accentuate an outfit – yet several SS14 showcases put the document holder front and centre, with our favourite examples coming from Dior Homme and Fendi.

In particular, Dior Homme excelled with their sleek and simple range of folios – it’s this kind of effortless simplicity that, in our eyes, makes a beautifully crafted leather document holder so desirable.

The collection oozed sophistication and class, but managed to inject an idiosyncratic twist by featuring leather folios in sumptuous tones of deep burgundy and black with a modern zip fastening.

These document holders were designed to complement the overall aesthetic and monochrome palette utilised throughout. Dior Homme also included some boxier document holder-briefcase hybrids with handles on the top and a clasp fastening, for a slightly more businesslike take on the trend:

Dior Homme Document Holders and Briefcase Hybrids on SS14 Menswear Runways

Fendi, on the other hand, gave the document holder a casual spin in its collection, which was inspired by the concept of travelling across a sun-drenched desert.

The outfits were more laid-back and relaxed compared to those seen at Dior Homme, but the folio slotted in just as seamlessly. The colours utilised throughout the collection echoed the stark, charred feel of the desert, with bleached beige, burnt orange and deep mustard yellow making up the core palette.

Some of the flat, envelope-style folios featured contained wrist handles to negate the practicality aspect, while others were even fitted with longer detachable shoulder straps that could be worn draped across the body like a messenger bag.

One key example came in vibrant yellow, black and orange snakeskin leather, demonstrating that print and pattern can also be successfully applied to this accessory:

Fendi Document Holders on SS14 Menswear Runways

Elsewhere, Raf Simons’ selection of document holders mirrored the bold clothing on show, with many coming complete with large colourful slogans printed across them for a more statement feel:

Raf Simons Document Holders on SS14 Menswear Runways

Another collection that took the folio in a slightly different direction came from Z Zegna. Their document holders were made from beautifully supple leather which was folded over and rolled up, both reducing the size of the accessory and creating an interesting shape with softer, curved edges.

Coming in smooth, textured and quilted monochrome leather, they were paired with relaxed, fuller-cut tailoring for a stylishly louche look:

Z Zegna Document Holders on SS14 Menswear Runways

Getting It Wrong: Lanvin

Of course, with any trend there are bound to be those designers that get it wrong – and in our opinion, Lanvin were a prime example this season.

The design house bravely applied bold colours and patterns to their SS14 accessory collection, but the small and boxy document holders sent down the runway were just too feminine to appeal to the everyday male. In fact, several of these designs were reminiscent of women’s make-up bags.

Even the slightly larger, flatter envelope-style folios were too small and looked like female clutch purses rather than masculine document holders:

Lanvin Document Holders on SS14 Menswear Runways

Looking Forward: SS15 Collections

The document holder trend looks set to pick up steam as we move into 2015, if the SS15 collections are anything to go by.

The highlight of London Collections: Men, fashion powerhouse Burberry Prorsum included document holders in a plethora of vivid colours, complete with graffiti-esque text, within their Bruce Chatwin-inspired showcase:

Document Holder On Burberry Prorsum SS15 Menswear Runways

Other key examples included Prada’s triangular-shaped document holders, which offered a contrast to the traditional envelop style, as well as Emporio Armani’s sleek and sophisticated black leather versions, which were paired with sharp tailoring and sports luxe pieces:

Document Holders On The Prada and Emporio Armani SS15 Menswear Runways

Press & Public Reaction

As recently highlighted on FashionBeans, this is a trend that has quickly gathered pace after the document holder was snapped tucked under the arm of many of the stylish gents at various fashion shows over the past few months.

Interestingly, these men weren’t models or celebrity attendees just waiting to be photographed at said event – they were normal, fashion-conscious men like you and I – which is often an indicator of the success and popularity of a trend:

Men's Street Style Photographs - Document Holders/Folios

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But it’s not only street style photographers and online fashion bloggers who are backing the folio as an alternative to more traditional bags – the fashion press has also been lapping it up.

One of the biggest advocates has been Men’s Health. Although not traditionally viewed as a fashion bible, the impact of the folio has not gone unnoticed by the publication, which recently featured an article titled ‘Six of the Best Document Holders’ that included a neon orange Ted Baker folio, camouflage print Givenchy version and striped canvas design from the Wooyoungmi x Mr Porter capsule collection.

Elsewhere, The Guardian road tested a selection of products from British brand Holdall & Co. – who stock a wide range of classic leather folios – with very favourable results, while Topman’s online team proclaimed tan leather document holders as the ideal accessory for “the man with timeless style and indulgent taste”.

London’s Evening Standard supplement, ES Magazine, also recently included a piece on document holders, labelling them as the accessory of choice for SS14. The author very much supported the use of folios as an alternative to carrying individual items such as keys, wallets, smartphones etc. in your pocket, which can create an ugly bump in the trouser leg.

However, as GQ magazine rightly point out, if any document holder can conceivably be classed as a men’s clutch (‘mutch’) or purse (‘murse’) then the offending item should be immediately vetoed. Folios and document holders are designed to be sleek yet sizeable; anything smaller than A4 should be avoided at all costs.

Modern Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Document Holders/Folio Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

ramsey aw13massimo dutti pre fall 2014massimo dutti november 2013de fursac ss13avva ss14he by mango aw13gant rugger ss13ti for men ss14CERRUTI 1881 ss13sanahunt ss13reiss aw142reiss ss143
Key Pieces
  • French Connection Charlie Document HolderFrench Connection Charlie Document Holder
  • Comme Des Garcons Wallet Blue Super Fluoro Ipad HolderComme Des Garcons Wallet Blue Super Fluoro Ipad Holder
  • Paul Smith Mens Leather Envelope Document HolderPaul Smith Mens Leather Envelope Document Holder
  • Smith & Canova Mens Leather Folio BrownSmith & Canova Mens Leather Folio Brown
  • Ted Baker Loma Leather Document BagTed Baker Loma Leather Document Bag
  • Robertson Jessel Underarm FolioRobertson Jessel Underarm Folio
  • Wooyoungmi Striped Canvas Document HolderWooyoungmi Striped Canvas Document Holder
  • Liberty London Black Liberty London Document HolderLiberty London Black Liberty London Document Holder
  • Dries Van Noten Zip Top PouchDries Van Noten Zip Top Pouch
Final Thought

A trend that is set to continue through AW14 – if collections from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and Lanvin are anything to go by – and well into 2015, the document holder may not have handles, but it certainly seems to have legs!

A chic and refined alternative to stuffy briefcases, sloppy backpacks and bulky holdalls, the folio is perfect for men who take a minimal and streamlined approach to their personal style.

But what do you think – is the document holder practical enough to work as an everyday bag? Or has the line between masculine and feminine been blurred too much here for you? Perhaps a bag without handles seems redundant?

As always, we are interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions below…