MR PORTER’s Got Some Brand New Bags
Are you a backpack, tote or holdall man? We’ve got a bag for every type
If you hover over “accessories” on the navigation bar at the top of the MR PORTER website and then click on “bags” – go on, we’ll wait – you’ll be directed to a range of backpacks, weekend bags, briefcases and tote bags… so broad and all-encompassing as to be completely beyond the practical requirements of any one man. “Who on earth needs this many bags?” you might wonder as you survey the embarrassment of riches on offer.
The answer, of course, is nobody: this selection was not assembled to satisfy the needs of one man, but of all men. You’re a diverse bunch, and it stands to reason that your taste in bags is going to be just as diverse. That’s why you can choose between hard-wearing backpacks made by Filson, a Seattle-based company founded in 1897 to cater for intrepid adventurers seeking their fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush; leather briefcases made by Berluti, a Parisian shoemaker that has been outfitting the upper crust of European society for more than a century; and pretty much everything in between, too.
Nevertheless, the sheer abundance of choice on offer may come as a shock to the casual consumer, who only logged on to buy a new bag, but now finds himself subject to a sort of trial-by-luggage personality test. Am I an Eastpak guy or a Patagonia guy? Do I prefer navy or black? Is this suede panelling a bit “fashion”? It’s the same feeling you might experience while standing in the bathroom aisle of your local Home Depot, staring at a choice of 50 different types of shower curtain and wondering which one is the most “you”. Exhaustible quickly becomes exhausting.
We have no desire to make the shopping process any more stressful than it already is, so we’ve decided to do the hard work for you by picking out a few of our current favourite bags and allocating each one a broad-brush personality type. A small caveat: we have no experience in psychology, and no scientific rigour was applied to this process whatsoever.
If you’re looking for something to catch the eye of the nearest roaming street-style photographer, look no further. Givenchy was never a brand for shrinking violets and wallflowers, and certainly not during the tenure of Mr Riccardo Tisci, who has just vacated his position as creative director – a post that he held for nearly 12 years. (Quick, send your application to Mr Bernard Arnault now!) His final spring collection stuck closely to the formula that he established over the course of the past decade, borrowing heavily from the world of streetwear and featuring plenty of punchy graphic prints. The Egyptian wing motif on this leather backpack is… well, it’s not subtle. But for fans of the brand looking for one of the final opportunities to buy into Mr Tisci’s vision of Givenchy, it’s an essential.
The functions of a bag are twofold. The first, and most obvious, is to hold more stuff than you can comfortably carry in your pockets. The second, supporting function of a bag is to look good. While not as vital as the primary function, its value should not be played down. But the modern man requires a bag that excels in both function and form. Consider the lunch-hour gym-goer. He needs a bag that can comfortably hold a full change of clothes while not looking out of place in the office. For that purpose, we can think of no better choice than this holdall from Álvaro: a smart, understated choice in navy cotton-canvas.
Eastpak’s iconic, teardrop-shaped backpacks have been popular with style-conscious college kids since the mid-1970s. Go back another couple of decades, though, and you’ll discover that the brand has its roots not on the campus, but on the battlefield. As Eastern Canvas Products USA, the company signed a contract in 1952 with the Pentagon to produce duffel bags for the US Army, and it’s this military heritage that is echoed today in this rugged Killington backpack. (It’s unclear whether the name was chosen for its vaguely violent connotations, but we’d assume not.) Made from tough, army-green canvas and finished with ample swathes of tan leather, this backpack is built to survive warzones – so it should be able to handle the daily commute.
If you’re the kind of man who believes that a bag should have character – and bags of it – then this tote from Loewe should be right up your street. The Madrid-based brand (pronounced low-eh-vay), is one of the oldest purveyors of luxury in the world, boasting some 170 years’ experience as a maker of leather bags and accessories. It wasn’t until 2013, however, that it really began to step outside its earlier remit and become the brand that we know it as today. With Northern Irish designer Mr Jonathan Anderson – whom you might recognise from his eponymous menswear brand, JW Anderson – installed at the helm, Loewe now takes a playful approach to its own heritage, stretching the limits of tradition with odd proportions and unusual fabrics. This eye-catching tote, in a herringbone pattern woven from frayed strips of multicoloured denim, is a case in point.
Berluti caters to men with that other kind of leather fetish. This Parisian house, founded in 1895, inspires cultish levels of devotion among those with a taste for the finer things in life. Legend has it that once upon a time, a society comprising its best customers would gather under the light of a quarter moon to polish their shoes with Venetian linen dipped in the finest champagne. Nonsense, of course, but the fact that such a story even exists should give you some idea of the esteem in which this brand is held. Note the characteristic burnished appearance of the leather, which gives it the look of a piece of vintage Chippendale furniture. This capacious Deux Jours briefcase – bigger than the standard Un Jour model, as those of you with a rudimentary grasp of French might have already guessed – is finished in a rich burgundy. And if you think it looks good now, just wait until you see it after a couple years’ use.
“Mr Practical” is probably the category into which most men fall. What defines us? We neither want to stand out, nor to blend in. We want to look good, but not in a way that seems to crave attention. We don’t ultimately want to be defined by the clothes we wear – but we don’t want to be judged adversely by them, either. All we really look for in a bag is something that does the job, that doesn’t get in people’s faces on the commute or look like something we’ve had since we were in middle school. In other words, what we want is a messenger bag exactly like this one from Prada. Cut from a lightweight shell fabric and fitted with canvas straps, the technical fabrics lend it a utilitarian feel, which of course aligns perfectly with Prada’s minimalist design ethos.
Does every product stand to benefit from endless reevaluation, or were certain inventions perfected long ago? For all its technical innovations, is the modern backpack actually superior to one that was made half a century ago? If you’re the kind of guy who holds to the view that things were just better in the old days – and looking at the state of the world today, who could really blame you – then you’ll love RRL, the vintage Americana-inspired line from Mr Ralph Lauren. In a classic knapsack design rendered in blue leather that’s been washed until it looks like it’s been in the attic for 30-odd years, this backpack comes with a built-in, old-school charm that makes it just the thing for your next Saturday morning trip to the vinyl market.
The goal of this piece was to provide something for every man, and so we couldn’t not mention that tiny subsection of men who find the idea of carrying their own bag abhorrent. (Yes, you’re the one per cent of the one per cent, but you still count!) Brunello Cucinelli’s full-grain leather portfolio is a beautifully understated, expertly crafted accessory that provides the perfect vehicle for those essential bits of pieces that you’d rather keep by your side – tablet, diary, nuclear codes, etc – while your personal entourage trails in your wake with the rest of your luggage in tow. It’s tough at the top.