Opinion

Do You Have a Beater Handbag?

An ode to our tough-chic workhorses

We have all seen our fair share of distressed leather handbags. From Rebecca Minkoff’s fan-favorite MABs and MACs, to the Alexander Wang Rocco, or Chanel’s super high-end Reissue, the popularity of aged-leather is undeniable. And its appeal is easy to see too. After all, who wouldn’t love a bag that doesn’t need to be babied, can carry your daily load, and yet look stylish?

But a certain line must be drawn regarding distressed bags remaining chic. Case in point, how often have you come across a bag in such a sorry state that it appears to be “in distress” itself? Maybe one that’s hanging by the literal threads from the handles? Or its color has faded so badly, it looks fresh out of the washing machine! Perhaps it’s got a stain that bodes a happy hour gone horribly wrong?

Well, that would certainly suck.

Now, as much as we’d all love to squeal in delighted horror at the state of other people’s bags (like on this PurseForum thread), more often than not, our very own closet houses that one abominable bag we just can’t seem to get rid of. Maybe it’s got a lot of sentimental value attached to it. Or perhaps it’s your work-hauler that you wouldn’t hesitate to throw your cat in either. But it’s there, alright. And here, dear readers, lies the concept of a “beater bag.”

So, what is a beater handbag?

Once upon a time, we used to have just one bag for all our worldly needs. Functionality was all that mattered. So, owning more than one purse seemed like a luxury reserved for the elite. Fast forward about a century or so, and all of a sudden, we must have one bag for taking the kids to school and another for walking the dog at the park. And let’s not even get started about how we wouldn’t be caught dead with the same bag twice on girls’ nights out, right?

But as much as we yearn for simpler times, that’s just how sophisticated modern-day marketing has become – to the point that a pop-up advertisement you clicked on two months ago continues to chase and compel you into a purchase!

Nevertheless, even if the materialistic ways of the world have inadvertently led us to become proud owners of extensive handbag collections, few of us have the time or energy to change our purses every day. As a result, despite having closet-fulls of handbags, we end up schlepping all our essentials in one giant purse. And when you specifically set out a purse for this exact purpose – to haul all your things for the rest of its existence – without any particular regard to the health of the bag itself, we call it a beater handbag.

In other words, a bag that’s meant to withstand a lot of use!

What bags make the best beaters?

Honestly, there aren’t really any rules. It’s as diverse as the individual carrying it! Thus, something as small as a Chanel Caviar Wallet-on-Chain can be the bag (or, erm, wallet) you blindly rely on when going to parties, parks, and other messy places. Its convenience, hands-free carry, and the interlocking-C logo check all the boxes one needs for a carefree outing. It might even be a clutch like Purseforum member Rachel965 says in this thread:

“I have a Michael Kors black leather clutch kind of bag that’s like a side chick. I don’t even really like it but I keep going back to it out of convenience. Its put up with a lot of bs over the years and it still shows up to the party.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote is just as popular as a WOC. The tough coated canvas, gigantic capacity, and lightweight, not to mention worry-free colorways like Monogram print or Damier Ebene, ensure that you can carry everything but the house with you, all day, every day.

Balenciaga Green City

So, how do you specifically choose if you are searching for one? Well, first, do a quick run-through of your requirements:

  • How much do you actually need to carry?
  • What method of carrying do you find most comfy – crossbody, on-the-shoulder, or by the top handle?
  • How heavy can the bag get once loaded to the brim (because it probably will)?
  • Based on that, what material would you choose – nylon, canvas, leather, or something else?

Based on these, you could choose to purchase purses that are specifically designed to withstand the struggles of daily life – like a Longchamp Le Pliage or a Tumi. Or you could go the chic route and opt for a Balenciaga or a Vuitton. Bonus if you can score one you like on resale – you probably won’t feel as bad overusing something already broken in, especially with designer bags (more on this later).

Or do you have a slightly-scuffed early-aughts carryall accumulating dust in your closet? Maybe you needn’t spend more on a different purse – just whip your old one out and go wild! Y2K is back, after all!

Luxury or Contemporary – Which to Choose?

Given today’s fast-paced fashion world, a new brand is popping up every day, whether premiere, contemporary, or high-street. And with every new trend that appears on the horizon, each design has multiple iterations and imitations from each fashion house. As a result, one has endless options for any given silhouette when it comes to choosing brands, and the real question then becomes how much to spend on a bag that’s meant to take on years of beating.

Ashley Olsen Hermes Kelly
Mary-Kate Olsen With Her Well-Loved Kelly Bag

And the truth is, there isn’t a clear answer as to which one you should opt for. Many buyers tend to prefer contemporary brands, such as the Michael Kors Jet Set range of totes, which have become popular due to their large capacities, organization options, choices for zipped or open interiors, and durable Saffiano leather. The reasoning behind going the affordable luxury route is obvious, too – one needn’t feel the urge to be as careful with a relatively inexpensive purse as much as something that costs several thousand dollars. Plus, once they wear out after two to three years of consecutive use, they can be easily and affordably replaced. And all this while, your more pricey pieces can be safely tucked away in your closets, only to be whipped out when you feel fancy.

On the other hand, we have those (like me) who prefer to use a high-end purse for extensive periods of time. We’ve discussed the concept of getting cost-per-wear at length before, and that’s the primary reasoning one uses to justify spending large sums of money on handbags. It is also widely accepted now that designer purses provide some semblance of better quality compared to their high-street counterparts. And with our busy work schedules that require us to be at the top of our style-game all the time (as well as to save us the embarrassment of our purse publicly falling apart), buying a luxury carryall is, at the very least, an investment in our personal style, if not sound financial advice.

Hermes Box Kelly Bag

The Most Popular Workhorse Bags

Just like that, we’re back to the subject of Balenciagas. I simply can’t stop harping about BBags recently and for a good reason. Very few bags are meant to look chic-er with age and use! So, for bag-lovers worldwide, the Balenciaga City has become notorious as a reliable “beater” that users can turn to for style! And these aren’t my words either; if you need some distressed BBag style inspo, turn to Mary Kate Olsen’s wine-splotched pistachio City, that W Magazine profiled as, “The version she’s carrying today was originally mint green, but it’s so dingy, covered with stains, pen marks, and even a chewed-up piece of gum, that it looks almost grey.”

Mary Kate Olsen City Bag

Besides Balenciaga, a few other bags that reportedly wear like iron are Marc Jacobs’ and Givenchy’s older designs – the Stam, the Pandora, and the Nightingale. All come in multiple colorways, sizes, and distressed as well as smooth and grained leather options that can cater exactly to your needs and right now are quite affordable on resale. Snap ‘em up before the next hottest archival revival!

But perhaps the biggest advantage of using a luxury bag as a beater is the opportunity of getting it repaired at the brand’s bag spa. No wonder Ms. Birkin loves to stomp on her Birkin, emblazon it with stickers, charms, and prayer beads, or use it as a cat-bed. At the same time, Mary Kate Olsen, famous for her style, bashes around her vintage box Kelly like “the overstuffed briefcase of a used-car salesman.” They can simply send it back to the Hermès Spa and, for a price, get them back good as new!

Givenchy Nightengale

Beater bags are all about comfort and convenience. It signals that you already have enough to do in life, so your purse is the last thing you want to be stressed about. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be stylish. Rather, using a designer bag to death exudes a sense of confidence to the wearer – that you’re not afraid to use your precious carryall and are not the person to pamper and pet.

To put it rather romantically, every dent, every scratch on your purse is reminiscent of something in your life – perhaps a good time with family, a dreary work day, or a fun trip with friends. And these little sentiments add tremendous value to the bags we originally purchased merely for their functionality or aesthetics. As Vogue writer Liana Satenstein says, “relax – take pride in your beat-up handbags,” it’s about time that we got over our obsession with spotless, clean, and pristine bags and actually start enjoying them for what they are – objects of our happiness.

As for me, while I’m on the hunt for a Balenciaga, my current beater is my Proenza Schouler PS1, which withstands not only the weight of my books and other daily miscellany but also the harsh tropical climate, unpredictable rain, and even mold, and still manages to gain admiring glances. True, it’s gotten a little tanned, and there is a slight dark stain on the back from that time I wore an all-black denim outfit. But these give it more character, and I love it all the more!

So, what about you? Do you have a beater handbag? Share your stories with us!

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CShell
CShell
2 years ago

Sajid Bin Mohammad has the best writing on this website. Always a creative angle and interesting topics.

Myla
Myla
2 years ago
Reply to  CShell

Yaaaas! Agreed! 🙂

Olivia Penzey
Olivia Penzey
2 years ago
Reply to  CShell

Agreed! Always happy to see articles from Sajid.

LP lover
LP lover
2 years ago

I’m one of those Le Pliage beater fans. I have them in all sizes and purchased 3 new and maybe 10 used. Groceries, soccer games, travel, beach, overnighter. They’re especially key for the summer when I don’t need to be precious about slinging them on with sunscreen arms/hands.

Klara
Klara
2 years ago
Reply to  LP lover

ditto on love for LP. Now you inspired me on the summer usage. I need to get some lighter colored ones!

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
2 years ago
Reply to  LP lover

Le Pliage is a definitely a great and versatile product. I have some that are over 20 years old and still going. Great for the beach!

Tana
Tana
2 years ago

Yes, Mulberry Alexa. She is dead and I still using her corpse haha

Yazi
Yazi
2 years ago

My most hardworking bag would bea black Givenchy Antigona. I reach for it so often because of the structured style and tough leather. But if you mean “beater” as in loaded with stuff for travel, that would be Kipling’s durable and waterproof bags.

Kaly
Kaly
2 years ago

My Gucci Sukey Boston bag! She can hold SOOO much, take a licking and keep on ticking!

Bir
Bir
2 years ago

thing is my bag if seen by anyone really could be considered this term… beater.. but i just see it as my warrior bag i love it it hangs on me just perfectly.,so to me its not a beater because i think its not a kind term, its the bag i just love 35cm birkin clemence smooth and soft floppy perfect., black phw. PERFECT my Hermes SA said send it in for spa but i just could not change a thing on it.

Bir
Bir
2 years ago

how does one send you pictures

Vlad Dusil
Admin
Vlad Dusil
2 years ago
Reply to  Bir

You can attach images to your comment using the little icon bottom right in the comment box!

Sferics
Sferics
2 years ago

Prada nylon does the job for me. I have x-body bag and a backpack, both vintage, both black, both cool 🙂

lisa
lisa
1 year ago
Reply to  Sferics

I also have a vintage Prada nylon crossbody that has become my beater bag! So durable, spacious, and on-trend! I’m keeping an eye out for a backpack at a good price, too…

Prior to that, I was using a Phillip Lim Mini Pashli because the textured leather is incredibly durable. When I want to be a little more low-key, I have a thrifted vintage Coach leather crossbody that’s perfect.

Julia
Julia
2 years ago

Did you ask for the permission of the person who’s writing you plagiarized half this article off of? Parts of this article were word for word what someone in the bag community wrote in her instagram stories.

Laura W
Laura W
1 year ago
Reply to  Julia

Theres always one

Julia
Julia
2 years ago

You need to ask for permission first. You’ve already published this article without asking her permission to use her content.

Candee
Candee
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia

This is only true if the author posts that permission needs to be obtained prior to use. Otherwise, this is not true as long as the author is properly quoted.

Julia
Julia
1 year ago
Reply to  Candee

So stealing intellectual property and making money off of it is okay in your mind’s eye? I don’t think you’re understanding what you’re saying. Purse blog is a large bag journalism website, the last thing that should be happening is for journalists to steal content because it denigrates the quality of their content.

Gayle
Gayle
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia

No need to ask for permission!! As long as author is properly credited and quoted…did you ask permission when lets say you were writing your thesis???

Julia
Julia
1 year ago
Reply to  Gayle

Of course I did (for my masters degree, I’m not going for a phd)! You always do preliminary search of articles and parallel research in any academic setting. Plagiarism is one of the biggest Nonos in academia… unless you’re okay with never graduating.

Tiffany
Tiffany
2 years ago

My beater is a Proenza Schouler PS1 mini. I take it to concerts, stuff it in my backpack when I travel… It looks pretty much the same after all this time.

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
2 years ago

Right now my Louis Vuitton Cabas Zippé in Monogram Eclipse is by far my most used and most indestructible bag.

Cher
Cher
2 years ago

Omg that exact Givenchy studded Nightingale was my beater bag, so good for travelling too!

Klara
Klara
2 years ago

I particularly favor bags requiring no extra pampering and immersing in my life. With that, my “beaters” are mostly LV totes: Hamstead Damier Azur for warmer times and Totally and All-In (monogram) for others. Another one is Gucci Ophidia tote (very ideal dimensions, light weight and pack flat, though not as sturdy since it’s fabric. I simply can’t let her go because mine had the beige trim and no green/red stripe, also much softer than newer ones)

They have been going strong, around the world, through life changes, with me for 10+ years. (All-In is younger but I know she’ll stay active forever as well!) Still everyday favorites.

By the way, I like leather bags but I give high praise for LV coated canvas. They take some unkind criticisms for being “not leather”. Fact is, they protect my belongings through rain, beach or overhead bins like no other. I take other bags maybe on dinner dates or meetings but these coated canvas ones live with me and they are my confidants.

wied
wied
2 years ago

my alma epi in mm, i wore it since i gave birth to my first born, now she is already 21 yo.

Gayle
Gayle
2 years ago

My beater bag used to be a small coach tote in green and black big c monogram canvas. Hand me down from my mom. Was my go to bag for 5 years. It withstood plenty of rain. Had stains already and there were small holes in the corner that grew bigger so eventually had to let it go.

Adele
Adele
2 years ago

Feeling nostalgic seeing that Nightingale. P.S. The Stam was by Marc Jacobs, not Givenchy.

Donna
Donna
2 years ago

My beater is my large Marc Jacobs Antonia in a bronze – brown color. Holds everything perfect for work. Still looks good.

Avisha
Avisha
2 years ago

My Louis Vuitton Neverfull, the poor bag has gone through a lot lol

psny15
psny15
2 years ago

Two Chanels, two Pradas and two Goyards – had one for over 20 years

Katie
Katie
2 years ago

You just have to have a large collection to spread the west and tear around, am I right? Only kidding. My good bags are for using. I didn’t spend that much money for them to sit in the closet!

That being said, I do have bags I’m less concerned about for situations like travel, theme parks, bad weather days, beach/pool situations with more than a couple children and/or animals involved, etc. where my bag might get wet or experience more than a normal amount of wear.

lalarey
lalarey
2 years ago

I don’t like to think of her as a beater, but she is def my no-fuss workhorse- it’s my paraty. I know she can withstand a bit of rain, she is a very tough old girl, and I realize she’s totally dated but I have always loved her shape and i will love her until she falls apart (which, after 10 years, she has yet to do).

lalarey
lalarey
2 years ago

chloe paraty

Ash
Ash
2 years ago

My beater bag is a LV Speedy 30 bandoliere monogram idylle in encre. I use it whenever I don’t want to baby a bag. Although canvas, it wears like iron, and it is so soft and comfortable and conforms to my body when wearing on shoulder or crossbody

lalarey
lalarey
1 year ago
Reply to  Ash

my speedy is my “rain bag”. it fits SO much and keeps it all safe!

Deedee
Deedee
1 year ago
Reply to  lalarey

Absolutely, me too. My speedy b 25 in damier ebene goes everywhere with me, and I live in Ireland where it always rains. Best beater ever ❤️

Alyse
Alyse
2 years ago

My LV NF in MM Monogram! Commonly my 9-5 bag, she’s sat in her dust bag for the most part of the last two years while I’ve been working from home during the pandemic. Now I’m both a cool mom (not a regular mom) and have my own health issues that see me up at the hospital for regular treatment and she’s truly back, lugging ALL THE THINGS!

Emily K.
Emily K.
2 years ago

My Prada black backpack is mine, gets me thru all types of weather and fits a ton and always looks new!

Jerri R
Jerri R
2 years ago

My beater bag is a black Chanel GST. I prefer the look of a well-used luxury bag, such as Mary Kate Olsen’s beat-up Kelly.

Gabriella
Gabriella
2 years ago

My sac de jour souple, small size!

Sherri B
Sherri B
1 year ago

Prada zippered nylon tote is my workhorse. I carry it to work almost every day, has been stuffed under the seat on planes and travelled all over the world with me and is still in fantastic condition.

Mrs Bond
Mrs Bond
1 year ago

My Givenchy Antigona has basically become my travel handbag. It takes everything and the kitchen sink discreetly all while maintaining structure. Every mark on it has a travel memory for me and i love that