Man Bags

The Rise of the It-Boys (and Their It-Bags)

From Johnny Weir to Jacob Elordi, charting pop-culture’s man-bag mania

What exactly is it that makes an it-girl so “it?”

In her latest music video, 360, Charli XCX, in tow with a deluge of hot internet girls to the tune of Rachel Sennott, Chloe Cherry, Richie Shazam, Gabbriette, Alex Consani, Hari Nef, Emma Chamberlain, and Julia Fox, offers some helpful pointers.

“You need to have this, like, je ne sais quoi,” Fox sheds light on the matter.

“You have to be, like, known, but at the same time unknowable,” Shazam quips. 

Ms. XCX herself is subsequently seen taking selfies inside a DMV, glam courtesy of her oh-so-stylish posse. And in the end, it’s it-girl incarnate, Chloë Sevigny, who’s seen sparking a literal dumpster fire with her lit cigarette. 

So random. And yet, so cool.

Perhaps due to this ineffable essence of it-dom, Matthew Schneier, in his seminal piece for The Cut, defines the New York it-girl as “famous for being out, famous for being young, famous for being fun, famous for being famous.”

The descriptor certainly fits XCX and her entourage. As it is, a slew of foundational it-girls, from Warholian muse Edie Sedgwick and First Lady Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy to the Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermos of our time. 

Charli XCX Video
Charli XCX and the it-girls on the set of 360, image via IMDB

But for Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles, or Jacob Elordi? Well, not so much. Nonetheless, to a specific cohort of chronically online individuals (such as myself), these men have emerged as the new breed of it-boys, gracing our screens with their powerful presence, and blessing our feeds with their puny little purses.

So, what exactly is an it-boy?

The Origins of the It-Boy Canon

For the better part of the 20th century, “it” was a mystique possessed by few and coveted by many. Be it silent film sensation Clara Bow or the styling sensibilities of Jackie O, “it” remained an indescribable force of magnetism. Though one reserved almost exclusively for the female gender, all the way up to the days of the indie-queen/socialite/girl-next-door charms of Chloë Sevigny in the 90s. 

Elton John Birkin Bag
Elton John and Marc Jacobs with their oversized Birkins.
Marc Jacobs Birkin Bag

There were those with that movie star quality, of course. As a 1957 profile of Marlon Brando in the New York Post opines, “Ordinarily, we wouldn’t put up with it. All the demands he makes. Except – well, this picture just had to have a big star. Your star – that’s the only thing that really counts at the box office.” 

For that generation, Marlon Brando and James Dean set the fashion trends—most notably, the advent of denim as a casualwear staple.

But to go so far as to attribute these men with the “it” quality would be a stretch. No, that came (with the possible exception of Elton John) much later, thanks to Olympic figure-skater and television commentator Johnny Weir.

The “James Dean Death Cult” of It-Males

Here was someone who valued beauty over the characteristic ruggedness formerly demanded of the masculine gender, who considered “clothes and handbags and sunglasses his children,” who owned 40 pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage, and bargain-hunted for John Galliano sneakers, archaic gender norms be darned.

And it was thanks to the likes of the Johnny Weirs and EJ Johnsons of pop culture’s yesteryears that subsequent influential male dressers, complete with their own swanky designer bag collections, have materialized, à la Marc Jacobs and Pharell, both with their oversized Birkins in tow, or David Beckham, A$AP Rocky, and Usher, all founding fathers of it-boyhood.

But today’s it-boys, who emerged following streetwear’s explosion onto the fashion scene circa 2018, are entirely on a different plane of existence. They don’t shy away from having a handbag to circumnavigate bulky pockets; they won’t hesitate to whip out a Kleenex, a book, or a banana from their spacious (or not-so-spacious) carryalls.

Johny Weir LV Suitcase
Weir with the Louis Vuitton Pegase Suitcase
Jacob Elordi Bottega Veneta 3 1
Elordi with the Bottega Andiamo.

In short, purses have become just as integral to the it-boy now as they are to the it-girl. And front and center to this movement has been “all six feet, five inches of Jacob Elordi, not so much a tall drink of water as the entire office water cooler,” as GQ notes, his signature “James Dean Death Cult” cap an apt signifier of the culture-defining stylish sect of men he’s quickly become a part of.

“It” is Simply a State of Mind

A stylish sect of men that’s also called, somewhat confusingly, “babygirl”.

Latest in the lineup of Gen-Z’s dubious expressions of endearment, babygirl, usually as a reference to men who are sensitive and in touch with their feminine side (and therefore, the antithesis of the toxic macho masculinity), has been used to describe Elordi and his contemporaries, like Harry Styles, Jimin from BTS, Paul Mescal, Bad Bunny, and Kendall Roy of Succession. It’s also been used in reference to Godzilla, the blue Avatar people, and… cinnamon rolls? Let us never speak of this again. 

On a slightly less baffling note, however, perhaps the babygirlification of men is merely another way of bringing the idea of an it-boy into focus. It qualifies Jacob Elordi, with his mini Fendi, Chanel, and Bottega bags, and the creator of the “barefoot boy summer” trend, or Harry Styles, with his Gucci Bamboo and the Row Margaux bags, or even Cillian Murphy, recently soft-launched as Versace’s brand ambassador on the GQ cover, with a title that doesn’t necessarily feel derivative of it-girls.

MFW Men s FW 24 Street Style Bags 9
The most fashion-forward men no longer limit themselves to boring briefcases.
MFW Men s FW 24 Street Style Bags 10

It nixes the idea of men having to conform to rigid standards of style. It permits them the liberty of short shorts and tiny handbags, which, as trend analyst and fashion consultant Rosa Moreno Laorga notes, are evolving “from being a container of belongings to a container of identities; a non-verbal language tool that serves to express aspects about the person who carries it and how they decide to carry it.” 

It allows for a little bit of mystery in a world that’s one giant endless TikTok feed.


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25 days ago

Very interesting article, daring subject, bravo !