Accessories / Society

Is this really a 'man bag' world? Mikko Puttonen on breaking the handbag taboo

By Mikko Puttonen
Harry Styles Gucci Jackie handbag

Harry Styles with his much-worn Jackie handbag by Gucci . Photo: Harmony Korine for Gucci

We all have things to carry around, no matter our gender. So why are purses are frowned upon for men?

According to a 2019 study featured on NBC News, some straight men opt for a plastic bag over a reusable tote for a trip to the local grocery store because they feel the latter appears more 'feminine' and 'gay'. Seemingly the same connotations come with caring about the environment and recycling? I am so confused.


How did we get here? I blame the TV show Friends. Well, at least in part. I never liked or watched the show but apparently, one problematic and outdated episode is behind the term 'man bag'. The episode is not only cringe-worthy but feeds toxic ideas of masculinity in the mainstream. It's also helped spark a whole range of gendered terms for bags — as I discovered when I searched 'man bag' on Google.

According to Urban Dictionary, a 'man bag' means a small handbag for a man (alternatively it can refer to testicles or a condom). But it doesn't stop there. 'Bro bag' refers to a man's gym bag and 'daddy sack' is... actually not what you think - it's used to describe a bag of infant's supplies carried by a father. I couldn’t help but share this new information with our very own beauty editor Esteban Villanueva (and now with you, I am so sorry). Villanueva told me he wished he'd never even heard of the term ‘daddy sack', though he admitted that “it has a meaning more wholesome than the name conveys.” I mean it does sound like something straight from Grindr.

But seriously, why do we insist on gendering something as simple as a bag?