A major concern for the style-conscious male is how to look fashionable without crossing the line into femininity. With fitted jeans, bright colors, pink shirts, and embellished accessories, it can be hard to navigate through the fashion spreads and the clothing racks while maintaining some semblance of raw masculinity. As if this isn’t difficult enough, today’s modern man has to decipher when practicality trumps manliness, and how to mesh these two together without sacrificing either element. The problem?
All that stuff you need with you throughout the day. During any given work day, chances are you require more than just a set of keys and a wallet. Gone are the days of a few choice pocket items. You need a bag, and herein lies the issue. You don’t have the luxury of carrying around a purse or shopping for a cute handbag to match your shoes. You need a bag that says, “I’m organized, I’m fashionable, and I’m all man.” You need to own that man bag, and show the world that you can rock a shoulder strap and tote with the best of ‘em. Lucky for you, my fashionable fellow, in 2011 you have options.
For the classic guy in the bunch, there’s always the briefcase. A streamlined, sturdy briefcase never goes out of style, and for good reason. There’s nothing feminine or prissy about it, and everyone respects a guy with a great briefcase. Whether you have thousands of $100 bills, accounting papers, or a mini bar in there is anybody’s guess, but nobody will be guessing if the guy carrying the structured briefcase has a sense of style. That’s a no-brainer.
Then there’s that slightly old-school collegiate look. You know, it’s a briefcase, but it’s canvas or felt or some material other than leather that seems to say, “I’ve got style, but I’m more laid back and casual.” This variety of briefcase doesn’t force you to forego style, but it does scruff up your look while maintaining a clean-cut polish to your overall appeal. If you’re not yet ready to graduate to the full-on leather briefcase, but you’re over the days of backpacks and messenger bags, this baby has your name written all over it.
Then again, maybe you do love a good backpack. After all, the weight is evenly distributed, you don’t have all your crap banging you in the hip with every step, and there’s nothing girly about a backpack. This is not to say a 20-something professional has any right walking into the office with a JanSport strapped to his back. You’re an adult now, so it’s time to clean up your act and put a little bit more than just books into that bag of yours. All the basic requirements still hold weight when selecting the perfect pack, like expandable pockets, sturdy zippers, and comfortable shoulder straps, but also consider neutral colors that will complement your work wardrobe, stylish touches and subtle embellishments that add to the boring bag, unusual fabrics that counter traditional ideas of the backpack, and an overall look that tells any onlooker you’ve earned that advanced degree in style.
And then, of course, there’s the standard messenger bag. If you’re not ready to embark on a bold fashion statement, or you’re not yet distinguished enough to pull off a briefcase, a messenger bag is always a foolproof bag. It’s classic, it can be trendy, it’s masculine, and it’s practical. What more could you ask for in a bag? Styles and sizes vary, depending on what you need, and I can promise you, there’s always a messenger bag for every guy. Find the one that matches your style and personality. Maybe you like the more distressed, word-in bags. Maybe you prefer a timeless black bag in a classic cut. Maybe you like pockets on the outside, maybe you don’t. Like I said, if briefcases, satchels, and backpacks aren’t for you, there’s a messenger for everyone, so never again should your hips and upper thighs be subjected to the poking and prodding of stray keys. No more should you be forced to sit unevenly to account for the lopsided wallet in one back pocket. From here on out you will no longer ask your girlfriend to hold your random items in her purse because you have “no where to put it.” You are 100% man, and you can rock these 100% masculine bags. Which will definitely come in handy since you clearly can’t fit so much as a toothpick in those manly skinny jean pockets of yours.
After graduating from college in ’09, Allyson Barkan flew off to Greece to teach English Literature at a private high school and explore Greek and European culture for a year. Since returning stateside, she now works in Entertainment Public Relations in New York City. For travel advice, stray observations as a 20-something in the big city, and the occasional hilarious misadventure, follow Allyson at www.allysonbarkan.com and on twitter at @aebarkan.