But despite their ubiquity on the streets, tote bags seem to carry luggage, especially those cheap, inexpensive fabric bags that are lazy replacements for a briefcase or computer bag. On a man, in my opinion, it’s an insignificant accessory that suggests he’s as shapeless and bland as the bag itself. And even men seem to understand this. A male friend who works in tech has long conflicted with his ways of carrying tote bags, noting that it made him “feel like a boob, and has a frequency with which he tangles on my arm.” Photographer Daniel Arnold also shared a few choice words. “Hatred and usury. It makes me look like a babysitter which I can tell because I’ve been a major babysitter, ”he wrote. “Partly because, at least in my life, tote bags are always gifts. You never choose a tote bag that you like. These are always advertisements for whoever gave them to you, which adds to the shame of wearing them.
The women seem to agree. In a recent Facebook poll I conducted, a friend felt compelled to stand up for the manhood of her bag-carrying boyfriend: “He’s carrying snacks!” Like apple, dried fruit, almonds, duh! she wrote, adding: “My boyfriend is very masculine, I swear!” Vogue.com fashion editor Brooke Bobb considers gender “a pseudo-intellectual thing,” explaining that she frequently spots men with bookstore bags. (That’s right, the article reminds me of a silly guy bending over like a right angle and bringing back textbooks from his Masters in Philosophy class.)
Still, catch-all men are everywhere, and in light of the article’s recent resurgence on the catwalks, I’ve done some soul searching to accept them. Part of my aversion may stem from the idea that men should be low-maintenance, and that a bag – any bag – indicates otherwise. After all, what the hell could they take? They have pockets for their necessities – there should only be two, right? – keys and a wallet. And they can put them in their pockets without worrying about inflating their figure. But then I remember it’s 2017, a time when busy people need iPads, lunches, books, charging cords and, yes, snacks. (All of those Balenciaga fathers have to carry diapers and bottles in something.) And not all guys want to be weighed down by all the pockets, gear, and the overall bulk of a backpack or briefcase.
As for the mote’s virility factor, even that can change: just look at 6’4 “, 220-pound basketball star Dwyane Wade, who alongside his handbag-carrying wife Gabrielle Union, was recently spotted carrying Thom Browne’s “Hector” tote bag, a real leather bag in the shape of a dog. What was he carrying in there? Who knows. But his message to the barrel chest for men who tote seems to be just tote with confidence and maybe invest in a leather version while you’re at it.