Jun 10, 2023
Men’s Handbags Increase in Popularity: A Closer Look at the Trend
Handbags are the latest men’s accessories category to experience a surge of interest, with factors like the runways, celebrity culture and gender fluidity encouraging more male consumers to experiment
Handbags are the latest men’s accessories category to experience a surge of interest, with factors like the runways, celebrity culture and gender fluidity encouraging more male consumers to experiment with their style.
The men’s handbag category has long been driven by traditional styles such as briefcases and messenger bags, but over the last few years, many retailers have seen an increase in interest in handbag styles like totes, camera bags and some others that have typically dominated the women’s bag category.
“The rise in men’s handbags really took off with the boom in popularity of crossbody bags during the streetwear era,” said Daniel Todd, buying director at Mr Porter. “More recently, there has been an evolution in menswear beyond gender norms, which has changed how men look at accessories, even jewelry and watches. Spearheaded by the big fashion houses like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Jacquemus, men’s bags have expanded from traditional shapes and options adhering to strict masculine dress codes to flashy, fun and imaginative styles.”
Buyers at retailers like Mr Porter, Farfetch, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue noted they first saw this rise in interest in the men’s handbag category roughly five years ago. But recent runway shows like Pharrell Williams’ Louis Vuitton debut and celebrities such as Harry Styles, Jacob Elordi and Luka Sabbat have helped encourage more men to experiment within the handbag category.
According to data from Circana’s fashion accessories analyst Beth Goldstein, interest in men’s handbags increased 7 percent year-over-year, with crossbody bags reigning as the fastest-growing category. Data from Lyst also showed an increase in searches among different men’s handbag styles. The fashion technology company saw an increase in searches of 71 percent for men’s belt bags, 61 percent for men’s messenger bags, 54 percent for men’s tote bags and 31 percent for men’s backpacks over a three-month period.
The retailers see men’s handbags as a key accessories category, one that has evolved from its streetwear roots to blend into classic menswear.
“We’re very much at a sweet spot in menswear,” said Luke Raymond, senior menswear editor at Farfetch. “When streetwear happened, there was this streetwear versus traditional dichotomy within menswear and I think we’ve moved beyond that now to a place where menswear acknowledges its history in a traditional sense, but also streetwear is a part of that history. That has encouraged men in line with social media and pop culture to be more experimental and braver and to look toward ready-to-wear categories and brands they haven’t thought about before, but also accessories and non-apparel categories as well. That rise in handbags has come via that direction.”
Among the retailers, brands such as Dior, Jacquemus, Amiri, Lemaire, Loewe and JW Anderson have been some of the most popular brands for men’s handbags, while bag types such as totes, weekenders and crossbodies have dominated sales.
While the men’s handbag category hasn’t yet reached the same sales volume as other men’s accessories, the continued rise in customer interest indicates to retailers that it has potential to become a leading segment.
“For the longest time, sneakers and footwear have been the de facto status symbol for men,” said Jian DeLeon, men’s fashion director at Nordstrom. “But that sort of grail culture has also influenced how men shop the rest of their wardrobe. If they’re wearing covetable sneakers and clothes, shouldn’t their bags be just as aspirational?”
Two trends are leading this rise in men’s handbag. The first is male customers gravitating toward handbag styles designed in luxurious materials, such as high-quality fabrics or leathers. This includes styles such as the Jaquemus Le Gadju crossbody, Loewe Ibiza Basket bag and Saint Laurent’s Takeaway Leather Tote Bag.
The second trend is growing interest in softer material bags, which are seen as a contrast to the traditional utilitarian styles that have long dominated the men’s handbag category. Popular styles are designed in slouchy leather and raffia materials, with bag types like crossbodies, hobo bags and smaller styles resonating with consumers. Multiple retailers highlighted the Lemaire Croissant Bag as one of the most popular styles within this trend, as well as small bag styles from Jacquemus.
“Handbags will continue to serve as vital accessories in men’s wardrobes,” said Reginald Christian, men’s fashion market manager at Saks Fifth Avenue. “Men feel increasingly more comfortable carrying a handbag as it fulfills both practical and stylish requirements, complementing their overall appearance. While men may not acquire new bags as frequently as women, they still seek out new styles that can enhance their wardrobe with functionality and style.”
A growing area of opportunity retailers are seeing is traditional women’s handbags translating over to the menswear category, which has been a trend spearheaded by celebrities like Styles and Elordi, who frequently accessorize with women’s styles from brands including Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Burberry.
“We’re seeing men open up more to different [handbag] types,” Raymond said. “So, Harry Styles wearing a Gucci Jackie — which is definitely more of a feminine, womenswear shape — we’re seeing that, not as a key volume driver, but definitely as something to watch in the bag space for men. It’s womenswear styles not even being translated for men, but just being sold to men. What brands have tried to do in the past has been to masculinize a womenswear bag, whereas now, I think they’re just opening them up to cross gender, which is much better.”
Given the vast range and ample opportunity in the men’s handbag category, retailers’ interest is expected to increase as more male customers become open to experimenting with their style.
“Now is the time that men — not even just men that like fashion, just men in general — are opening up to fashion,” Raymond continued. “They’re being a little bit more experimental, and not just in the sense of trying a whacky high-fashion thing. It’s just less conservative. It’s only going to get bigger for men’s bags. I don’t see it as a flash in the pan; I see this as the beginning of something that will probably establish itself as a key category within menswear.”
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