Let’s admit it, we’re at that point in the market where handbags don’t really come in any “new” shape. From open totes to flap bags, we’ve seen it all, and anything that doesn’t conform to our recognized shapes, whether it be an airplane-shaped duffle or a dismembered Mickey Mouse head (I’m slightly inclined to call it a structured top-handle), are surreptitiously slid under the umbrella term of “novelty bags”. In fact, the last radically different design that excited us all was probably the Loewe Puzzle, but even that occupies a grey-ish territory between a duffle, crossbody, top-handle, and satchel.

Nowadays, bag shapes have moved towards defining a silhouette rather than serving as a dish for bells and whistles – the sleek curves of the Bottega Veneta Pouch or the structured essence of the Gucci Diana prove my point. It isn’t as much about what’s on the bag itself anymore as much as it is about creating a clean aesthetic. And one particular shape of bags has benefitted so immensely from this minimalist trend that it might as well have been transformed into a new style altogether. Yes, I’m talking about the hobo, and before you consider leaving this page right now, let me tell you that the popular perception people had about the hobos of the early aughts doesn’t really exist anymore. In fact, the hobo styles of 2021 happen to be some of the season’s most desirable bags, and there isn’t one crystal-embellished, fringed, and/or studded one in sight (looking at you, Christian Louboutin Lucky L Hobo)!

Although most common handbag shapes have had a (relatively) straightforward trajectory – the flap has grown since 1955 and novelties have been “in” since the Middle Ages, the hobo has had rather humble origins. The term comes from migrant workers who came to cities on freight trains, carrying their belongings on a sack tied with a bindle stick (the kind you see on Tom & Jerry). During the Great Depression, millions more were forced into this lifestyle, and “living out of a bag” became commonplace. This style of soft, large oversized bags that literally carried people’s lives was adopted and styled as the first commercial hobo bag in 1936. Originally, it retailed for only 35 cents. In fact, the hobo was very much in line with the late 90s/early 2000s trend of “grunge” fashion, its previously derogatory meaning appropriated by its supposedly “edgy aesthetic.”

This trend continued well into the 2010s, so much that nearly every It-bag of the era had its own hobo edition, whether it was the Chloe Paddington hobo, Balenciaga Day, the Fendi Croissant, or the more affordable, but by no means less coveted, Rebecca Minkoff Nikki. Clearly, what had started off not entirely unlike simple transport sacks had blown up into one of the most maximalist displays of wealth ever (remember the Diane Von Furstenberg Stephanie?)! Chanel even went so far as to design the gigantic Coco Cabas XL, inspired by garbage bags, and if that’s not the best example of understated chic, I don’t know what is. The 2000s hobo wasn’t spared from the logo treatment either, whether it was the Louis Vuitton Multicolor Chrissie, the HUMONGOUS Suriya XL, or the Gucci GG Supreme Horsebit Chain Hobo.

But then, quite suddenly, in fact, the hobo died. It wasn’t even during the era of “the mini-er, the better”; rather, it became simply unfashionable to carry that big bulging lump of sumptuous, smooshy leather. Thus, all the Fendi Spys and Coach Editorial Zoes went back in storage, and honestly, the fashion industry as a whole sort of lost direction. Don’t get me wrong, it was a major turning point alright, with modern classics like the Saint Laurent Sac de Jour, Givenchy Antigona and Céline Luggage in their nascent stages. But as one Vogue piece puts it, “The hobo bag is full of just that: fun. Its strap is strong, its body is expandable, curvy, and carefree, sometimes with a bit of slouch. It’s made for a day of shopping—stuff a pair of vintage jeans in there!”

Indeed, the departure of the Y2K era, and that of the hobos of yore with it, creates polarized opinions – some of our PurseForm ladies continue to swear by them, while some have shifted to the other side. And it’s not like the naysayers don’t have a point. Hobos did tend to get pretty oversized, sometimes quite heavy, and turned into what most bag-users fear, a black hole (also the reason my mom has misgivings about getting one for herself).

Can the same be said of the hobos of 2021, though? Not at all! In fact, the hobo has now become one of the most flexible and versatile silhouettes on the market, coming in scores of different sizes, starting from the Prada Nylon Re-Edition Hobo on the smaller end of the size spectrum to the everyday-appropriate Gucci Jackie 1961 to the reissued Fendi Croissant, all updated takes on early-2000s styles elevated to 2021-chic! And guess what, the bag that celebs, influencers, and editors alike just can’t get enough of, the Bottega Veneta Jodie, is also a hobo!

So, like everything else in fashion, the hobo has undergone a popularity curve. We’ve seen super showy ones as well as ones that are pretty incognito, and we’ve had ones that could fit a body in it as well as those that can barely hold your phone. And now, we’ve reached that point where it’s a classic; it strikes a perfect balance: not as small as a Baguette, but not as huge as a tote, and yet it’s conveniently shoulder-carried like a Baguette while being spacious like a tote. Hobos have become more accommodating than most bag-shapes out there, and it’s already in the midst of a major comeback. In hindsight, it probably never left our minds in the first place. Why else would fashionistas have continued to debate about it for all this time?

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Sandy
Sandy
4 months ago

I really like the Gucci Jackie but I have not made the purchase. Maybe I am not a hobo person, ha!

Mel
Mel
4 months ago

I just got a coach suede hobo at the thrift store and it’s such a cute and trendy size I’m so so so excited! Reminds me of a baguette
& It’s perfect for fall

Lune
Lune
4 months ago
Reply to  Mel

This purse exactly has the slouch I have been looking for.

Mel
Mel
4 months ago
Reply to  Lune

I think it’s called the soho 🙂 there’s a lot on eBay and Poshmark!

psny15
psny15
4 months ago

Nope never was and never will be a hobo person

Gayle
Gayle
4 months ago
Reply to  psny15

Me too. Sorry but this is my most hated style (along with the drawstring bucket/backpack such a hassle to open and close the bag takes to much time—flap zip and magnetic closure are the easiest styles for me). I dont like the way it slouch in the middle and everything inside gets jumbled up if you dont use a bag organizer. And the handles also looks stretched out if the bag is full. Sold a bunch of old bags in this style.

peony5*
peony5*
4 months ago
Reply to  Gayle

the nature of the smaller bag is minimalist. The larger size is relaxed and casual. You’re meant to use it for shopping, not the office. So I have to disagree there. I am a big fan of the minimalist Gucci hobo in the Tom Ford era.

Lia
Lia
4 months ago

Saw a leather, yes leather Gucci hobo with bamboo handle in one of a famous thrift chain here in Japan.
My niece is a die-for Gucci fan and got it for her. I looked at it and fell in love..such a cutie, will use it a few times before I turn it over to her😁!

peony5*
peony5*
4 months ago
Reply to  Lia

Lucky niece!

Brandy
Brandy
4 months ago

Love a hobo bag recently got the LV graceful I think it’s so practical and great for everyday!

Tana
Tana
4 months ago

Yes I am. I like large hobo and sometimes I used it as a bodyshield 😀

Heather Tweedy
Heather Tweedy
4 months ago

I love the big-bag hobo style. I think they make a great alternative to a standard tote for travel or work. For midsize to smaller bags, I prefer a boxier look.

Kathrine
Kathrine
4 months ago
Reply to  Heather Tweedy

Hobos are my go-to for travel since I prefer open top totes for work which aren’t ideal for travel. I’m currently traveling with my Rebecca Minkoff Michelle hobo. Last time I traveled I carried an old Coach hobo.

Hobo
Hobo
4 months ago

I used to really despise the hobo shape. I had one and, as others mentioned, felt things got jumbled and I preferred a cleaner silhouette. For me I think the key is having the hobo be the right size and accessibility so it’s functional and doesn’t come off too “messy”. I bought a Bottega veneta small Campana and it’s the perfect size and slouch, and with the magnetic closure stays very accessible (I found zippers ideally required w2 hands w hobos to hold the fabric and pull it down the curve).

I’m Team Hobo!

peony5*
peony5*
4 months ago
Reply to  Hobo

Your comment is bang on!

Hobo
Hobo
4 months ago
Reply to  peony5*

😘

lalarey
lalarey
4 months ago

I have a Gucci Jackie and a Rebecca Minkoff Nikki and there’s no comparison, I ADORE my Nikki, and i never wear the Jackie, i’ve only worn it like twice. Probably should sell!

Last edited 4 months ago by lalarey
thefashionableteacher
thefashionableteacher
4 months ago

I own a couple of the first versions of the Jackie bag and one Coach hobo. I love the Jackie bags because they have a bit of structure. I rarely carry the Coach. I feel like my stuff is in a trash bag.

While I like the look, I find that the hobo to not be functional.

Mari
Mari
4 months ago

I love a good hobo shoulder bag. I bought a brown Prada one years ago and literally wore it out. I’m in the market for a similar one, but so far no luck.

Shelby
Shelby
4 months ago

I don’t even want to tell you how many Nikkis and mini Nikkis I have, it’s a great bag with enough interior pockets to keep me organized.
Now about you, I LOVE the way you write! Always very interesting and engaging.

Chris1011
Chris1011
4 months ago

I adore hobo and other open-top bags!! As long as you keep them in proportion to your body size — meaning not GIGANTIC or micro! — they are so functional. I have a couple of Vuitton bags (Delightful, Neverfull, etc) that I consistently turn to. I prefer ones like the updated Odeon with an outside pocket to house the smart phone and either an interior zipper pocket or at least D-rings to attach/secure a small wallet (think Vuitton key pouch or mini pochette accessoires). I HATE having to fiddle with a flap closure when I’m in a hurry, such as checking out of a store or using public transit. That’s a main reason I’ve sold my Chanel flap bags — they’re too fussy to open and close.

Last edited 4 months ago by Chris1011
azure5*
azure5*
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris1011

I’m tall and slim and wear a range of sizes except the micro or fiddly small.
If you’re not so tall you can bump up your height with platform shoes, like Jessica Simpson et al did in the noughties. Otherwise you risk the bag wearing you.

Cecchetti
Cecchetti
4 months ago
Reply to  azure5*

Yes
my hobo is an Hermes navy blue Tsako bag.
I love it but I’m 152cm and could almost fit inside it!

Chris1011
Chris1011
4 months ago

Yes, my Delightful is DA, as are a few other of my LV bags. Originally, when they introduced DA (~2006?), I thought I’d NEVER wear a light-colored purse! I’m a klutz and typicaly don’t baby my bags. But I soon fell in love with that white & blue theme and light weight for summertime — it just SPELLS warm weather to me! — and have a number of accessoires and bags in DA. I used DE for work bags, including Neverful and a Delightful that I eventually sold when work didn’t call any longer.

Benita
Benita
4 months ago

Great article. I do like a good hobo. Years ago I purchased the Dooney and Bourke Annalise (mainly because Gwyneth Paltrow looked great in the advert carrying it). It turns out I loved it. It was square-ish on the bottom and had a good size pocket in the front where I kept my Blackberry (yep) and my keys. The top seemed to turn in on itself making it more secure The branding was almost non existent (unlike her QVC cousin) and the leather was both pebbled and soft as butter. Loved her

Benita
Benita
4 months ago

She had a good run but when QVC was selling that gaudy looking version with a metal plate and a cheap lock on it I could not bring myself to wear it. I like the leather Jackie she does not scream but whispers GUCCI

Jujube
Jujube
4 months ago

I love the hobo bags that I have in my personal collection—-Bottega Veneta does hobos very well in my opinion.

I never considered hobo bags ‘trendy/not trendy. (It’s a a bag shape?)

Tania K
Tania K
4 months ago

Im a big bag gal myself…but being a vintage Coachie rehabber means most of the bags I get are smaller than average.
Love my Mulberry Mitzy and her little sister Rosie.
Am looking for my first Gucci bag and have fallen in love with the Gucci Diamente Jackie…now to find one in my price range.
Its hard having champaigne tastes on a Beer income.

gail c
gail c
4 months ago

I’m probably not in the majority, but I love hobos, esp one that hugs the body. And on the larger size. I know this wont be for everyone either, but I have been searching for this Roger Vivier for years and found one in pristine condition on eBay!

gail c
gail c
4 months ago
Reply to  gail c

here is photo

gail c
gail c
4 months ago

Here it is

RachelM73
RachelM73
4 months ago

I love the oversized, slouchy suede hobos. They remind me of the 70’s. The Row ones look beautiful but ridiculously priced. So I’m scouring Etsy for a small seller who makes that style bag. I have a bad neck so wouldn’t use it often so I’m not willing to pay more than £100 for it. Most of my bags are crossbody amd light, belt bags – or top handles I hold if going out (which is never these days thank you Covid as I’m clinically vulnerable£.
Any bag you carry on one shoulder doesn’t work for me as it causes pain. In fact I’ve been using mostly waist bags over the summer – soooo comfortable. I’m dreading them becoming as unfashionable as they were after the 90’s craze for them. I’ll have to somehow continue to rock mine because they’re back savers!
As for hobos – I love the aesthetic but practicality wise they’re not for me.

CreoleCabat
CreoleCabat
4 months ago

I usually go for the more formal looking bags, like those that have a chain or top-handle. So in order to give myself a bit more of a relaxed aesthetic, I started looking for hobos in quality leather, since a plain shape needs something to make it stand out. My three Bottega hobos fit the bill perfectly and I have two Dooney Logo Locks (with the matching coin purses) in pebbled leather that actually have some organization inside.

Pacific18
Pacific18
4 months ago

Not really a fan of the Hobo style, but if I had to get one, it would probably be the Bottega Mini Jodie.

Amazona
Amazona
4 months ago

I never gave up my hobos. Trends come and go but there’s no reason to throw out a bag style that’s functional and easy to carry!

Sandra
Sandra
24 days ago

What do you think about Tod’s Mercer hobo bag?
It’s pretty good about the quality

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