Bags To Build A Bolder Look

I catch the bus to work at 8.30am most mornings. At the stop immediately after mine, an immaculately put-together gent gets on board. His suit is flannel, his shoes leather monk-straps, his glasses tortoiseshell and his bag a beautiful sumptuously dark brown box calf briefcase with a brass hinge lock. It’s a look that turns heads.

On casual Fridays, he swaps the tailoring for jeans, a cashmere knit and enviably well-ironed shirts, the monk-straps for suede brogues, and his usual bag for a tan leather briefcase. The man can dress – that much is unquestionable.

Yes, Mr 8.32am, my fellow passenger, takes the time to swap bags to complement his look, and I can only wish I had the discipline.

While buying a bag suitable for every possible outfit you can put together is, to say the least, impractical for most of us, it’s worth investing in one or two quality bags that cover off the majority of scenarios – whether you spend most of your time in the gym or at parties drinking gin.

Bag-wise, what kind of man are you? If you haven’t asked yourself this question, chances are you’re dragging around a shabby, badly proportioned number that just isn’t completing your look like it should, or worse yet: you’re still shoving all your particulars into overfull pockets.

To help you determine which type of bag works best for you and your lifestyle, here are five styles worth considering this year.

1. The Cross-Body

After a few seasons stuck in fashion limbo, cross-body bags are making a return this year. As seen at Louis Vuitton’s autumn/winter 2015 show, zippered styles – also known as reporter bags – are the ones to keep an eye out for, and a far cry from the fold-over flap designs so reminiscent of the early noughties.

They give off a slightly more casual vibe, so you might want to think twice before pairing one with a suit. You’ll also want to make sure the strap is the right length for the bag to be carried no lower than your hipline – unless you plan on delivering someone’s post.

Louis Vuitton AW15 Men's Cross-Body Bags

Current Styles
  • Fred Perry Scotch Grain Flight BagFred Perry Scotch Grain Flight Bag
  • He By Mango Cross-body Strap Messenger BagHe By Mango Cross-body Strap Messenger Bag
  • He By Mango Nylon Cross-body BagHe By Mango Nylon Cross-body Bag
  • Adidas Classic BagAdidas Classic Bag
  • Tommy Hilfiger Mens Coated Canvas Darren Reporter Cross Body BagTommy Hilfiger Mens Coated Canvas Darren Reporter Cross Body Bag
  • Ted Baker Raynono Embossed Flight BagTed Baker Raynono Embossed Flight Bag
  • Tommy Hilfiger Nico – Across Body BagTommy Hilfiger Nico - Across Body Bag
  • Calvin Klein Jeans Tom Solid Reporter BagCalvin Klein Jeans Tom Solid Reporter Bag
  • Calvin Klein Jeans Across Body BagCalvin Klein Jeans Across Body Bag
  • Torres PmTorres Pm
  • TorresTorres
  • Shawnee MmShawnee Mm
2. The Backpack

Another historically bland type of bag that’s having a bit of a moment, the backpack has – for several seasons now – been given the luxury treatment by a number of high-end designers.

For those of us on a budget, the good news is that this trend has already trickled down to the high street – meaning you can find buttery leather versions, complete with elegant hardware and exquisite detailing, at much more affordable price points.

An unexpected yet luxurious way to accessorise a suit, the backpack is also the ideal finishing touch to a minimal sportswear-inspired look:

Men's Backpacks Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

CERRUTI 1881 ss15burton aw14toast ss15burton ss15mango man ss15the kooples sport ss15reiss aw13mango man august 2014pull & bear black label 2015reiss aw14zara man september 2014bally aw14
Current Styles
  • Burton Airtex RucksackBurton Airtex Rucksack
  • Asos Smart Leather BackpackAsos Smart Leather Backpack
  • Topman Tan Leather Flat Top BackpackTopman Tan Leather Flat Top Backpack
  • Rains Messenger Backpack In GreenRains Messenger Backpack In Green
  • Allsaints Sector RucksackAllsaints Sector Rucksack
  • Reiss Raza Leather Backpack BlackReiss Raza Leather Backpack Black
  • Forbes & Lewis Devon Backpack In BlackForbes & Lewis Devon Backpack In Black
  • Herschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack In BeigeHerschel Supply Co. Retreat Backpack In Beige
  • Sandqvist Hege BackpackSandqvist Hege Backpack
  • Want Les Essentiels Kastrup Leather BackpackWant Les Essentiels Kastrup Leather Backpack
  • Mismo Leather-trimmed Cotton-canvas BackpackMismo Leather-trimmed Cotton-canvas Backpack
  • Want Les Essentiels De La Vie Kastrup Leather-trimmed Organic Cotton-canvas BackpackWant Les Essentiels De La Vie Kastrup Leather-trimmed Organic Cotton-canvas Backpack
3. The Folio

Smart and unobtrusive, a leather folio is a classic that shows you mean business whether you’re suited and booted or prefer to work in jeans and a wool bomber.

If you’re looking for a design that’s up to the minute (and you’re not lugging around 500-page contracts), then consider a leaner, more discreet style in the form of the pouch – though keep in mind you won’t be able to carry anything sizeable in these slimline versions.

We mean it – as tempting as it is, stuffing a folio with junk instantly ruins its sleek and sophisticated shape.

Men's Folio Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

suitsupply ss15mango man spring 2013reiss ss15de fursac ss13reiss ss14avva ss15bally ss15ti for men spring 2015mango man ss14reiss aw14mango man spring 2015comodo square ss13
Current Styles
  • Asos Leather Document CaseAsos Leather Document Case
  • Allsaints Tribute Travel SleeveAllsaints Tribute Travel Sleeve
  • Reiss Paris Zip Document Holder BlackReiss Paris Zip Document Holder Black
  • Zara Clutch Bag With FlapZara Clutch Bag With Flap
  • Zara Dressy Envelope ClutchZara Dressy Envelope Clutch
  • Reiss Tamerin Leather Document Holder Dark BrownReiss Tamerin Leather Document Holder Dark Brown
  • River Island Brown Crossgrain Document HolderRiver Island Brown Crossgrain Document Holder
  • Ted Baker Global Clariz Metallic Gradient Suede Slim Document BagTed Baker Global Clariz Metallic Gradient Suede Slim Document Bag
  • Michael Kors Saffiano Leather Multi Zip PouchMichael Kors Saffiano Leather Multi Zip Pouch
  • Richard James Ombre Leather Zip PouchRichard James Ombre Leather Zip Pouch
  • Want Les Essentiels De La Vie Barajas Raffia-panelled Leather A4 Document HolderWant Les Essentiels De La Vie Barajas Raffia-panelled Leather A4 Document Holder
  • Lotuff Lock And Key Bridle Leather Document CaseLotuff Lock And Key Bridle Leather Document Case
4. The Tote

Arguably one of the most ‘fashion’ bags alongside the folio, the tote is practical, but really shines as a statement accessory rather than something sturdy to cart your daily essentials around in.

Ideal for storing your phone, keys, a couple of notebooks and a laptop, it’s a stylish alternative to a briefcase that – admittedly – can sometimes be difficult to hold when striding through packed train stations.

Available in canvas and leather predominantly, as well as every colour and print imaginable, there’s a tote to suit every taste. Avoid excessive hardware or add-ons like charms or key chains, and let the simple design and great materials do the talking.

Men's Tote Bags Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

bally ss15calibre ss14reiss ss15tommy hilfiger tailored ss14dunhill ss15gieves & hawkes ss15bally aw15mango man ss14mango man fall 2014reiss aw13bally aw14coach ss13
Current Styles
  • Zara Combined Shopper BagZara Combined Shopper Bag
  • Asos Leather Tote BagAsos Leather Tote Bag
  • Allsaints Thorpe Tote BagAllsaints Thorpe Tote Bag
  • Zara Sporty Shopper BagZara Sporty Shopper Bag
  • Asos Faux Leather Tote BagAsos Faux Leather Tote Bag
  • Reiss Roma Textured Tote Bag Navy/blackReiss Roma Textured Tote Bag Navy/black
  • Fred Perry Canvas Tote Bag With Zip TopFred Perry Canvas Tote Bag With Zip Top
  • Sandqvist Christian Leather Tote BagSandqvist Christian Leather Tote Bag
  • Gap Canvas ToteGap Canvas Tote
  • Aspinal Of London A Leather Tote BagAspinal Of London A Leather Tote Bag
  • Want Les Essentiels De La Vie Ohare Leather-trimmed Organic Cotton-canvas Tote BagWant Les Essentiels De La Vie Ohare Leather-trimmed Organic Cotton-canvas Tote Bag
  • Lotuff Leather Tote BagLotuff Leather Tote Bag
5. The Holdall/Duffle Bag

Hitting the gym several times a week? A mid-sized holdall or duffle bag will fit all of your kit while keeping you looking on-form.

Nothing beats leather when it comes to sophistication but textiles – including canvas, wool and performance materials – work well depending on your everyday attire.

Dimensions matter, so ask for something no larger than 55cm wide (enabling it to double up as cabin baggage for short trips away) and make sure it’s lightweight enough to be carried with ease. A detachable, padded shoulder strap should also be a priority if you find yourself lugging it around for extended periods each day.

Men's Holdalls and Duffle Bags Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

the kooples sport ss15massimo dutti ss15suitsupply ss15gieves & hawkes aw14mango man ss15daks ss15mango man spring 2015massimo dutti march 2015ted baker ss15banana republic aw15michael kors aw15smalto ss15
Current Styles
  • Collezione Leather HoldallCollezione Leather Holdall
  • Brics Life Clipper Medium Holdall OliveBrics Life Clipper Medium Holdall Olive
  • Barbour Leather Travel Explorer HoldallBarbour Leather Travel Explorer Holdall
  • Next Signature Brown Oily Leather HoldallNext Signature Brown Oily Leather Holdall
  • Ted Baker Fastben Smart Nylon HoldallTed Baker Fastben Smart Nylon Holdall
  • Allsaints Thorpe HoldallAllsaints Thorpe Holdall
  • Rains Holdall Bag In GreenRains Holdall Bag In Green
  • Ted Baker Alaskaa Contrast Handle HoldallTed Baker Alaskaa Contrast Handle Holdall
  • Reiss Hines Leather Weekend Holdall BlackReiss Hines Leather Weekend Holdall Black
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Leather-trimmed Canvas HoldallPolo Ralph Lauren Leather-trimmed Canvas Holdall
  • Mulberry Clipper Leather Holdall BagMulberry Clipper Leather Holdall Bag
  • J.crew Montague Washed-leather Weekend BagJ.crew Montague Washed-leather Weekend Bag
The Right Bag For You

Whichever bag you choose, it’s worth following these guidelines:

When purchasing, keep your personal style and usual colour palette in mind. It’s important to opt for something in a hue and material that can be easily integrated with your existing wardrobe – whether that’s mostly longline white T-shirts and black nylon bombers or sharp pastel tailoring.

Although certain capacious designs offer plenty of room, you shouldn’t necessarily use every last inch of the space available. This is as much a scoliosis warning as a style diktat. Carrying heavy weights is never a good look, while over-stuffing your bag can stretch and wear out the material.

Why should you care what your gym bag looks like? Because despite holding sweaty shorts and dirty trainers, you’ll be carrying it around all day and – irrespective of its pungent contents – if it looks bad, then so do you.

Watch out for shoulder straps when you’re wearing tailoring, as they can cause unsightly creases, and have the potential to ruin the structure of your blazer or coat. Look for bags that offer both hand straps and a shoulder strap so you can switch around to keep your suits looking their best.

Certain styles, particularly handle-free folios, can be a pain to carry for extended periods of time. Even simple tasks – such as taking a call while smoking a cigarette or hailing a taxi while holding a coffee, for example – quickly become laborious, which may mean you’re better off with a more practical backpack or cross-body.

Final Word

With men’s bags accounting for one fifth of the luxury handbag business (according to market intelligence firm Euromonitor), it’s clear many of us take our style of bag very seriously.

Still on the fence? Try adding one of the options above to your wardrobe and you’ll find your pockets instantly slimmer and your style upgraded.

But now we want to hear from you – are you a bag man? Will you be investing in any of these designs this season?

Comment below to let us know.