I’ll admit that carrying a mini bag around, regardless of your gender identity, social standing, or daily requirement was unfathomable. Of course, some people can rock clutches and/or document pouches with gusto, serving effortless elegant looks that scream, “I travel everywhere by a car that I don’t drive myself.” But for those of us that, well, need to carry things around (where said “things” in their totality equate to more than just your phone and/or platinum cards), or choose to run about town (à la myself), the concept of carrying anything smaller than what would normally be termed gigantic seems rather absurd. And it is with great (and perhaps, slightly misplaced) pride I haul around my (overflowing) PS1 to college every day now.

Since I’m at the confession stand, though, I might as well also own up to my general ignorance towards mini purses. Until recently, I was pretty much unaware that they could refer to anything aside from certain anxiety-inducing pieces from the likes of Jacquemus and Valentino. Yes, camera bags and smaller flaps have been in existence for quite some time. But in my utopia of oversized handbags, they were lesser-borns that rarely got acknowledged.

However, I’m happy to report that I couldn’t be further from the truth on both counts. Thanks to the ebbing in the hype around irrationally microscopic purses (although it isn’t, by any means, gone), we see an insurgence of smaller bags that still manage to be practical. From the Bottega Veneta Pouch and its puffy equivalents by virtually every designer under the sun to the general trend of compact half-moon hobos and the growing affinity towards tiny totes, the current direction of the handbag is the handbag world seems to be “small but spacious.”

Like it or not, the credit for this might just go to our pandemic-era purse-carrying tendencies. We have now swapped our boxy satchels and sprawling totes for convenient crossbodies, and functionality remains a top priority, especially the purses’ abilities to carry essentials like sanitizers, phones, cash, and keys. And that is what brings us to today’s question. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable that women can look “adorable and feminine” with their cute little handbags. But can men carry mini bags too? Do the pockets that traditionally held the aforementioned essentials not suffice any longer? Let’s investigate!

How it Started

Jerry Seinfeld Eurpoean Carryall

The “European Carry-all” image via Hulu

Like many big trends in fashion, the man-purse, sometimes derisively called the “murse,” began on TV. But the world wasn’t ready for Jerry Seinfeld’s “European Carry-all” and Joey Tribbiani’s compact, casual briefcase. Coming under a lot of fire and controversy on the internet, it is, in fact, likely that the storylines the two shows’ creators tried to develop revolving around the man-bag actually made men of subsequent generations more averse to the idea of carrying purses. So much, in fact, that many are uncomfortable with the idea of being seen holding their significant others’ ones too!

*Insert cringing emoji*

However, the first step towards developing the men’s bag category came with the stylization of the backpack – from ultra-blingy Chanels to tux-appropriate Tom Ford ones, there was a rucksack for everybody. And perhaps because of its apparent ubiquity, or maybe since it was more a revolution in the number of backpack options catered specifically to females, the trend didn’t elicit a noteworthy response from the men.

In the late 2010s, however, an interesting phenomenon that we noticed was the rise of the fanny pack. Traditionally, it had always been a “men’s” thing, even though Sarah Jessica Parker had donned a Gucci number boldly with a crop-top in Sex and the City. So, when it suddenly became fashionable, men with bumbags, who previously felt self-righteous for being “not fashion-conscious,” suddenly found themselves at its forefront, without materializing into haughty European aristocrats in pinstripe suits balancing ultra-slim cigarettes between two fingers. And as it turns out, when an extremely casual menswear staple evolves into a très chic wardrobe staple, maybe it isn’t so bad!

Since then, the man-bag exploded upon the fashion scene with such prominence that its trajectory has become a force to be reckoned with. Thus, we enter the phase when male celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Marc Jacobs, and Kanye West were seen hauling giant Hermès HACs and Goyard briefcases/backpacks/crossbodies across New York. Coincidentally, it was also the time men’s versions of popular female purses like the Prada Galleria and the Saint Laurent Sac de Jour began to be released.

Soon, designers realized that men weren’t always looking for a large purse to schlep around their work and gym miscellany. After all, if women could be coerced into believing that “bite-sized” purses were the thing to have, why not men? And just like that, nylon messengers by Prada, the masculine (and utilitarian) Baguette by Fendi, and the Dior Saddle Belt-bag suddenly started appearing on the arms, shoulders, and torsos of various male street-style influencers and fashion editors, ushering us into the current era of androgynous fashion.

But why has the interest towards smaller man-purses grown so monumentally in the last few years?

Fendi Men s Baguette Pouch

Well, They Can Be Pretty Functional

Deep pockets are an attractive thing to possess, no doubt. But just because you have pockets doesn’t mean you need to use them, right? Having grown up watching my dad’s trousers resembling Mary Poppins’ carpet-bag (you can guess that he isn’t very open to the man-purse), I’d always wondered if pants were meant to look like that. However, the mini men’s purse essentially circumnavigates this destruction of form and silhouette by housing your pile of keys, wallet, phone, and other knick-knacks. And the best part about them is that they are often more organized too. Imagine blindly digging into your hind pocket in a crowded setting to find that one key amidst a veritable mosh-pit of keys. Or having something of value get pickpocketed because you didn’t even realize something is missing from your pockets’ black hole. Yeah, I rest my case.

But They Are Also Chic!

This part is pretty subjective, after all. Everyone has different tastes – some women feel entirely comfortable using their pockets solely. Some men love to drag everything but the kitchen sink in humongous Spidermen backpacks (can you guess whom I’m referencing here?). But it’s obvious that if a mini bag saves you from appearing sloppy, you look more put-together and, as a result, feel much better too! They might not go with everything – a super formal tuxedo at a black-tie event isn’t exactly ideal grounds for taking your bright yellow Fendi Baguette Messenger out for a spin (unless, of course, you’re into it. We’re not judging.) But with the right summer outfit, it has the potential to make you look like the most dapper person in the building! And if logos are your thing, a Dior logo Saddle or a Louis Vuitton Petite Malle can add some much-needed oomph to any formal, casual, or normcore aesthetic that you’re looking to serve.

Fashion Isn’t So Gendered Anymore

What do Gucci, Hermès, Chanel, and Telfar have in common? They’re all taking handbags towards a very androgynous (not to mention, very stylish) future. Actively taking steps to overcome gender barriers, these designers dress men in bold colors, prints, and purses that traditionally have been limited to the women’s department. Harry Styles’ casting as the masculine face of the Gucci Jackie and Korean popstar G-Dragon’s role as the ambassador for the Chanel Gabrielle strongly attest to that. And even when it comes to “conservative” heritage houses like Hermès, their bigger sizes like the HAC and the Birkin 45s and 50s aren’t the only ones that are of interest to gentlemen. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Birkins in the smaller sizes are increasingly gaining male attention, so women now have a new competitor to face in their quests to obtain their “holy grails.” And who could forget Telfar’s mini tote on Ashton Sanders for the 2019 Met Gala – a clear sign of how a purse dresses up anyone and everyone regardless of their gender.

Thanks to celebrities, influencers, and fashion editors, the man-bag has become more popular and less stigmatized now than it was ever before. But the mini purse as an accessory is still largely limited to the female gender. The pandemic era (which, let’s hope, is on its way to being behind us) has shown us that loads of things matter in life and need to be taken seriously. But fashion, perhaps, isn’t quite one of them, or at least, not always. And that’s why flaunting a mini purse is a whimsical nod to carrying an accessory just for the fun of it. Experimenting with one’s style and changing up your aesthetic once in a while couldn’t hurt. And the joy of having settled into a look that suits you well…is honestly amazing.

My favorite mini-bag look from Day 3 of Paris Fashion Week.

Is this all an excuse to convince me to get a mini purse? Maybe. But at least I’ll feel more fashionably progressive if I end up with one now that I’ve found men’s minis are actually a thing. And a very major thing at that, as HighSnobiety says, “Looking to flex? A hard-to-get pair of kicks will impress a lot more than an off-the-rack Alexander Wang bag. It’s not crazy to think the opposite could soon become true for men.”

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psny15
psny15
1 month ago

I think people should wear whatever they want – the main picture with the blue scarf and bag looks fantastic 💙

Sandy
Sandy
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

Agree completely!

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
1 month ago

I read the title of this post and rolled my eyes so hard. Everyone should wear whatever they want. I don’t see what someone’s sex or gender identity has to do with whether or not they can wear a small-sized bag. Ridiculous.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

Sure but I wouldn’t carry it in Texas! Lol
Think you better think about where you are and situation. Hahaha

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

Of course, no one should literally place themselves in a situation that could result in harm. But I lived in Oklahoma for years and carried all sorts of bags… it was never an issue. And you quickly realize that the best way to fight discrimination and prejudice is not assimilation, but self-realization.

Gina
Gina
1 month ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

Agreed! Is this really a question that needs to be asked? I second your eyeball roll!

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

i dont think it is ridiculous or offensive – valid question and good for discussion

we have gay men and straight men who use bags so nothing wrong with that

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

But honey ‘ SIZE” is matter for especially straight men!! 😝

Olivia Penzey
Olivia Penzey
1 month ago

Great column as usual, Sajid. You never seem to run out of interesting things to write about regarding our relationships with our bags, and their significance within different aspects of our lives and culture.

Ζoe
Ζoe
1 month ago

I find the title offensive. I know you do not mean it…

Last edited 1 month ago by Ζoe
Fabuleux
Fabuleux
1 month ago
Reply to  Ζoe

Totally agree, Zoe. Feels like a click-bait from 2000.

Aspen
Aspen
1 month ago
Reply to  Ζoe

Keep in mind he’s not from America. He’s from South Asia and in those countries, they aren’t as open about topics like this. So stop being offended at everything. It’s just a question.

Holly
Holly
1 month ago
Reply to  Aspen

Why are you telling this individual to “stop being offended by everything”? He/she is participating in the dialogue & voicing their opinion, as you are. No-one is suggesting that you “stop” because they disagree with you. That would be stupid, right?

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  Ζoe

i dont find it an offensive question – its a valid question this young blogger has

Olivia Penzey
Olivia Penzey
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

No doubt! Also, I don’t know where everyone else is from, but I don’t think a lot of the U.S. is that terribly open-minded about men wearing bags that aren’t very clearly coded as male (messenger, backpack, fannypack), unfortunately. A man wearing a micropurse would def get stares outside of major city centers.

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  Olivia Penzey

Yes you are absolutely right – even in NYC people who dress beyond their gender get stares

Laura W
Laura W
1 month ago

Your question was in no way offensive and you do not need to apologise for anything,

AliciaKae
AliciaKae
1 month ago
Reply to  Laura W

Because you don’t find something offensive doesn’t mean others weren’t offended by it. Your experience is not the only experience that exists in the world.

Laura W
Laura W
1 month ago
Reply to  AliciaKae

Ahh yes. The perpetually offended..

Julia
Julia
1 month ago

You get me everytime Sajid. Love your articles. But I need Every man to read this comment for some positivity: WEAR WHATEVER YOUR HEART DESIRES. You can be straight gay tall short skinny and not so skinny. The purse was primarily worn by men, it’s not a feminine product. Love it, revel in it, wear it ❤️

ROSE
ROSE
1 month ago

I don’t think a man should be wearing a woman’s handbag. I wouldn’t go on a date with a man who was wearing a bag similar to mine.

Julie
Julie
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

Wouldn’t want to be with a man who’s going to pull off your bag better than you 🥲

Kim
Kim
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

with your attitude, they probably won’t want to go on a date with you either

ROSE
ROSE
1 month ago
Reply to  Kim

Exactly, I wouldn’t want my boyfriend to be wearing the same bag as me so no love loss. A messenger bag is one thing a mini bag as pictured in the article. NO THANKS

Kim
Kim
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

Sorry to your boyfriend who has to deal with your horrible attitude 🙏

Jenna
Jenna
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

I suppose the threshold for someone’s freedom to wear what they love goes beyond whether Rose would want to go out on a date with them. 🙄

ROSE
ROSE
1 month ago
Reply to  Jenna

Listen, if you have no problem with your husband/boyfriend wearing the same bag as you, knock yourself out!

Pitt
Pitt
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

My boyfriend and I wear different bags. Seems like you’re using this “same bag” line as a mask for some rigid frameworks for gender presentation. Setting limitations like these does not serve you.

ROSE
ROSE
1 month ago
Reply to  Pitt

If a heterosexual man went on a dinner date wearing a women’s pocket book, most hetorosexual women would be turned off. I said what I said and I won’t be bullied into thinking otherwise.

Sally
Sally
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

Imagine going on a tirade against men wearing women’s bags and then victimizing yourself once people call you out on your backwards views. Karen moment

Yep
Yep
1 month ago
Reply to  Pitt

You hit the nail on the head!

ROSE
ROSE
1 month ago

Thanks Sajid! You conveyed that to both sides very eloquently.

Laura W
Laura W
1 month ago
Reply to  ROSE

Its a shame you have no ability to convey yourself eloquently

Tonya
Tonya
1 month ago

Exactly! I appreciate your open attitude re: being able to see all sides. While I may not agree with “ROSE” she has the right to state her opinion re: what she does/does not like without being chastised or belittled. If someone expresses an opinion, outside of the norm, they are personally attacked. It’s fine to disagree, but taking it to a personal level is too much. I feel adults should have outgrown this behavior, but with every post it continues.

Anyway, I’ll continue to read your posts because it gives me insight into your perspective which is both stimulating & thought provoking. 👛

Yep
Yep
1 month ago
Reply to  Tonya

I tend to disagree with you. People who foster a binary view of gender consequently contribute to harmful gender stereotypes that have real life consequences for LGBTQ+ youth and women. Thus those people should be “chastised” just as we “chastise” people who promote other violent and harmful ideologies. One’s right to express an opinion doesn’t mean they should live free of consequences.

Last edited 1 month ago by Yep
Tonya
Tonya
1 month ago
Reply to  Yep

I hear you and understand you. A dialogue about differences between individuals is healthy and can lead to better understanding and possibly acceptance, but to personally insult the individual is nonproductive. As you stated “One’s right to express an opinion doesn’t mean they should live free of consequences”; however, a personal character attack should not be one of the consequences, because it slams the door on further productive communication, and creates increasing hostility.

Ljo
Ljo
1 month ago

Love your articles, Sajid!
The answer to your question is YES! At least 2 mini bags please, so that I can borrow them! =)
My husband was so tired to having his wallet, keys, personal & work phones misplaced all over the house or car in different spots that he bought himself a cheap black fanny pack from Amazon that I hate. I would love for him to buy an LV mini soft trunk, Keepall xs or any cool crossbody camera bag. I wish I could buy one for him but he won’t use it & insist that I use the money to buy one for myself. I mean could, but this way I won’t feel so guilty splurging only on myself. LOL!
My 18 yr old son just started driving & I’m trying to convince him that he should use one as well cause there’s a very good chance he’s going to lose this wallet/keys/phone someday. Again, I could buy one for him but it’ll collect dust in his room.

Ann
Ann
1 month ago
Reply to  Ljo

I work with many men that carry simple, nylon crossbody bags, that they call their “man bag”. It holds their things and some can be slung over their back. No-one cares or thinks about it. It’s really not a big deal.

Philip
Philip
1 month ago

Bags started getting smaller because phones have become do-it-alls. It replaced a lot of items we used to carry: cash, notebooks/organizers, pens, music player, etc.

But then phones are also becoming bigger hence not convenient to carry in pants’ pockets. AirPods and the likes have started becoming a must as well as a powerbank. Hence the rise of the mini bags for men.

Passerine
Passerine
1 month ago

Of course people should wear whatever they choose. Yes, in general, I think that tiny little bags look slightly off balance on large people (of any gender) but that’s just my own private and personal opinion and even then it’s just a passing trivial thought; I would never judge or criticize someone over the size of their bag.

Marc Correra
Marc Correra
1 month ago

I think you should wear whatever you want. More power to you!

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