History of the Man Bag

Posted on April 26, 2012 by Gift Ideas

History of man bag

In ‘The One with Joey’s Bag’ part of Season 5 of the hit TV comedy Friends, Rachel convinces Joey to start carrying a ‘man bag’ much to the amusement of the other characters, but the often ridiculed ‘man bag’ is not new.

Men have been using bags to carry their belongings for centuries. In fact the bag was in use far earlier than pockets in clothes were even invented.

Mummy Man Bag?

The oldest known bag in existence belonged to a man. When a well-preserved natural mummy was found of ‘Otzi the Iceman’ who lived around 5,300 years ago, he had with him a bag sewn onto his belt which contained a whole host of useful items – a drill, flint flake, bone awl and dried fungus. So the modern man might prefer to carry around an iPad and sandwich instead, but a bag is still useful and there is no reason for men to not get involved in the fashion.

In early history men used bags, usually made of unadorned leather, to transport their coins, documents, bibles, holy relics, keys and combs. For men and women, pouch style bags were usually hung from the waist, making it quite easy for pickpockets to grab them. Men’s bags fell out of favour in the 19th Century as pockets came into use in general men’s clothing. Women however continued to favour bags which enabled them to carry more everyday items than pockets without spoiling the line of their dress.


The man’s bag was revived by designers across Europe in the 1970s and became widely available during the 90s. An alternative to rucksacks and briefcases were the messenger or organizer bags. It makes sense for the modern man to need a bag, what with the rise of the personal laptop computer, kindle, mobile phone and with more men taking care of their appearance.

Luxury brands such as Prada, Mulberry and Bottega Veneta offer high-end man bags in the best quality leather, with plenty of handy compartments. Cheaper options can be found by many brands though, as more and more designers realise the demand for the modern man bag.

Whilst women are more hung up on looks, men pride themselves on finding the best quality, most practical bag on the market. The bag that will make their life easier, be just big enough for the essentials, but not cause a stir. A nice satchel is always a good option, and women like nothing better than a man with a nice man bag.

Emma Waight is a freelance fashion writer for www.clothes.org.uk. Follow Clothes for mens clothing news and style advice.

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