Last month, Matthew McConaughey offered a strident defence of the oft-derided bumbag and even some advice on how to wear one with aplomb.
How are we supposed to keep our pockets free of clutter after all? The word “manbag” invites mockery, but it’s not worth worrying about. As the Guardian recently reported, tote bags are A-OK for men. Ditto bumbags. In the words of Matthew McConaughey, “I’m not afraid of the fanny pack,” and neither should you be. What about Ryan Gosling, or Pharrell Williams, or Ancient Roman legionaries, how are (or were) they carrying around all their stuff? Here are our top five manbags, which hold all the answers.
The humble bumbag – or to use its American name, the fanny pack – has somewhat surprisingly been embraced by Hollywood stars this summer. First, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) recently tweeted a fantastic throwback photo of himself from the 90s, just chilling in a turtleneck, chain and bumbag. Second, Matthew McConaughey attended a Boston Red Sox baseball game wearing one, and took it upon himself to defend its usefulness. “I’m not afraid of the fanny pack,” he explained. “You gotta kind of put it on the side to make it look a little not as nerdy, but still, practicality wins out. I got so much gear in here that I don’t want in my pockets.” So there you are. In the past, bumbags were worn over the buttocks – thus the name – but these days they’re best worn to the side, that’s how Kanye West sports his Louis Vuitton monogrammed one too. However while such designer versions do exist, you shouldn’t really spend any more than £20 on a bumbag.
How to wear it: slightly off-centre over a pair of pale chinos, with sunglasses too, in the manner of Matthew and Kanye.
High street: Bum bag, £20, by Eastpak
Bum bags might have Matthew McConaughey but backpacks have heartthrob du jour Ryan Gosling, who is often pictured out with his Jansport Pleasanton: a large, strappy backpack in khaki cotton twill and chocolate leather trim. Like Gosling himself it’s very rugged and outdoorsy, and that’s what backpacks are all about really; in ancient times they were crafted out of animal hides, sewn together with intestines and used on hunting trips. However, if you’re after a more contemporary, metropolitan design, try Eastpak’s collaboration with young menswear designer Nicomede Talavera, who graduated from Central Saint Martins only last year and is already showing his collections on the London catwalk. Either way, always wear both straps of your backpack (unless you’re at school, in which case never wear both straps).
How to wear it: for comfort and for style, always wear both straps of your backpack and keep them long and loose.
High street: Backpack, £23, by Asos
High fashion: Backpack, £195, by Eastpak x Nicomede
Of course bumbags and backpacks are all very casual, and if you’re after a really professional, really grownup accessory, you should invest in a smart leather briefcase. In movies, briefcases are often full of cash, or explosives, or guns, and flung haphazardly across crowded rooms, but in reality they should be held firmly by the handle and used to transport your papers to and from the office.
How to wear it: held firmly in one hand, paired with a smart suit. When you’re not carrying it, make sure it’s sitting on its bottom – like a well-trained dog – rather than lying on its side.
High street: Briefcase, £79, by MS
High fashion: Briefcase, £785, by Montblanc
Unlike briefcases, satchels are soft-sided and worn with a shoulder-strap. They were first popularised by Roman legionaries who carried a version called a loculus, most likely made from a goat’s hide, which can clearly be seen in the carvings on Trajan’s Column (a cast of which resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum). Later they became associated with schoolchildren, and all the way back in 1599 Shakespeare wrote of, “The whining schoolboy with his satchel/And shining morning face, creeping like a snail/Unwillingly to school.” Today the satchel is thought of as a practical, everyday bag for adults, one that is – as Indiana Jones has shown – strong enough to survive rainforest chases and Temples of Doom.
How to wear it: hung low over one shoulder, but not across the body, unless you’re a postman or a schoolboy.
High street: Satchel, £40, by Asos
High fashion: Satchel, £185, by the Cambridge Satchel Company
At its most practical, a holdall is a large bag with two handles, perfect for a weekend away or for ferrying your sports kit around. At its most chic, however, it’s an oversized and very expensive man’s handbag as favoured by rappers. Taking its inspiration from Argentinian cowboys, the Hermès Haut à Courroies was designed in the late 19th century so that horse-riders could carry their saddles around with them; however it also went on to inspire the highly sought-after Hermès Birkin handbag as favoured by ladies who lunch. Kanye has an Hermes Haut à Courroies in tan leather and Pharrell has a rather garish one in purple crocodile; if you’ve ever wondered what a statement manbag might look like, well this is it.
How to wear it: for the too-rich rapper look, hold an oversized holdall by both handles so it’s almost touching the floor, like a low-flying owl or a boy racer’s car.
High street: Holdall, £94, by MS