Like stubborn lint on your knits or spilt pints on your (not so) clean leather sneakers, a misjudged move with your bag is enough to decimate your sartorial efforts in one fell swoop.
Most of us – no longer fearing a vicious ripping-apart when toting one down the pub – now understand that carrying a bag isn’t instantly emasculating. If anything, it’s the curves that overstuffed pockets add to your silhouette which make you look more like the fairer sex.
With everything from tech and gym kit to that pint of milk for the morning to lug around, a bag’s a no-brainer. What’s not, though, is how to make one look good. Get to know the major slip-ups, and how to swerve them, with this guide to fixing the worst bag blunders.
Mistake: Buying Faux Leather
We know genuine leather doesn’t come cheap. But if it’s a choice between cheap pleather and the pricier real thing, there’s only one place on the podium for longevity and style. In time, imitation leather cracks and splits at the seams, while the real thing only softens and gains character, developing its own unique patina.
So you might have to swap one of those weekends away for a decent weekender. But you’ll have a bag that could – if cared for – kick the bucket long after you do, too.
Fix: Real Leather Isn’t As Expensive As You Think
If you think your only chance of securing a genuine leather bag is to sublet your flat for a month so you can live in your bag before actually starting to carrying it around, you’ll be surprised at how affordable some of the current options are.
British high street stalwarts Marks & Spencer and John Lewis offer a wealth of classic styles that clock in at under £150, while old-school leather specialists like Italian label The Bridge, although not flashy in their branding, produce quality goods for substantially less than their designer counterparts.
Mistake: Wearing The Wrong Bag With The Wrong Outfit
Most things have a time and a place (apart from three-quarter-length shorts; they just have a place: the bin).
Bags are no different: that neon tropical print backpack might be just the vibe for a beach day, but it’ll blind your fellow commuters on an early morning train. And earn you a disciplinary with your boss. Similarly, you’re stunting on no one’s squad carting around a chocolate leather weekender with your Supreme beanie and Nike Roshes.
Add in the bewildering array of sizes, finishes and colours from brands clamouring for your hard-earned and it’s surprisingly easy to slip up.
Fix: Match Your Bag To Your Outfit
No, not literally. (Burgundy leather never really did make for a solid head-to-toe look.) But instead take the cue for your bag from your clothing.
Our advice? Keep things simple, or ditch the bag completely (that means avoiding those straight-off-the-runway ‘fashiony’ bags: if you’re not a clutch guy, you’re not a clutch guy). In short, casual bags like backpacks and barrel bags look good with off-duty outfits, while the likes of briefcases, leather holdalls and totes pair best with smarter pieces.
There are, of course, exceptions. You can wear a backpack with a suit, for example. Provided that backpack comes with a premium feel – i.e. is made from leather or leather-trimmed canvas in a subtle colour like black, navy or brown. Anything else won’t make the cut for combining with tailoring.
Mistake: Bag Too Sunken Or Stuffed
There are few less attractive words in the English language than ‘saggy’, but then what better to describe the sad, squint-inducing sight of an otherwise self-respecting gentleman carrying a near-empty bag? It’s like toting a deflated balloon. Saggy. Sad.
A bulging wrecking ball of a bag, on the other hand, isn’t the solution. A bag, may we remind the bulldozers, is intended to keep hold of your essentials, not cart around your kitchen sink.
Fix: Bulk Up Or De-junk
De-junking on a weekly basis saves your bag turning itself into a boulder. Bin those old receipts, crisp packets and business cards you’re, let’s face it, never going to use anyway. It’s tedious, yes, but not only will your bag look better, you’ll spare countless innocent shins serious pain, too.
To stave off the dreaded sag, on the other hand, try stuffing it with a jumper or lightweight jacket to help keep its shape. Sure, it sounds a little high-maintenance, but an extra layer is rarely a bad shout. And if you take pains to put shoe trees in your brogues, then why not show your (probably more expensive) bag the same love?
Mistake: Underestimating The Importance Of Colour
While the menswear press, hungry for newness, often raves about colour-pop this and neon that, worn off the runway bright and colourful bags can seem brash and are often left to gather dust by the virtue of their lack of versatility.
Nobody wants to spend an hour in the morning matching their new Saint Laurent palm tree-print rucksack to the rest of what they’re wearing, no matter how nice it is.
Fix: Basic Colours First, Crazy Stuff Later
Again, steer simple: seek out tan leather, black and navy bags, but don’t discount subtle shades like burgundy, chocolate brown, beige and military green either. Acclaimed Japanese label Porter-Yoshida’s khaki options are a signature, while brands like Master-Piece, Stighlorgan and old faithful Herschel offer a wide range of hues that’ll sit comfortably with the rest of your clobber.
If, however, you’re all about colour, then fear not: bright shades and patterns can work (and work well) when put against neutral looks, but know that they steer casual and therefore won’t ever be the every-occasion all-rounders you might need them to be.
- Ted Baker Krisbro Pebble Grain Document Holder
- The Cambridge Satchel Company Folio Bag
- Hugo Boss Signature Slim Grained-leather Briefcase
- Fjallraven No.4 Duffle Bag 30l
- Reiss Lever Leather Weekend Holdall
- Sandqvist Jordan Weekend Bag
- Herschel Supply Co Little America Backpack
- Stighlorgan Roban Grey Backpack
- A.p.c. Jamie Backpack
- Porter-yoshida & Co. Tanker Helmet Tote
- Reiss Tanner Leather Tote Bag
- River Island Tote Bag In Leather And Suede
Are there any bag blunders we’ve missed? Or do you think your shoes are more likely to wreck an outfit than what you’re carrying around?
Have your say below.