Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

More men are carrying women’s handbags

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 16, 2022 5:00 am

Filipino-American designer Rhuigi Villaseñor carries his Birkin on trips where his fashion house Rhude takes him.

Soon, he may also be traveling with it for his work with Swiss heritage brand Bally, where he was recently appointed as creative director. He has always been a proud fanatic of the quintessential Hermès bag originally designed for Jane Birkin in 1984 and has been the most covetable bag for women around the world. But recently, it seems, even men want it and have joined the long waiting list. To be fair, Rhuigi lends his girlfriend some of the Birkins from his collection, which also include Chanels, but the pleasure he gets from using it himself is undeniable.

Rhuigi Villaseñor, Filipino-American designer of Rhude and newly appointed creative director of Bally with his Birkin

Men have always needed bags to carry things, of course, but it was probably only in the Middle Ages when it became a form of self-expression, a canvas that showcased the bagmaker’s craftsmanship and artistry. Ornately embroidered pouches became status symbols that men would carry when they ventured from home. When pockets became essential to men’s garments in the 17th century, they no longer used bags except for large items, making the carry-on portable bag more a woman’s accessory, evolving as the handbag of the 18th and 19th centuries.

A$AP Rocky wearing a Gucci x Disney Mickey Mouse shoulder bag

By the 20th century, larger bags were designed for women, as they were increasingly able to lead independent lives outside the home. Women’s bags would drive the luxury market, with many elaborate styles and materials to choose from, while men’s bags would remain largely simple and utilitarian. A man carrying a Birkin would certainly be unheard of in the past. In a 1999 episode of Friends, Matt Le Blanc’s character, Joey, carries a shiny, black leather tote that he loves but is mocked by the boys and it even costs him a part in a play. His friend Rachel concludes, “I just don’t know if the world is ready for you and your bag.”

Monogram bags with bouquets at Louis Vuitton Men’s FW 2022-2023 show

Fast-forward 20 years, and this attitude is outdated. For FW2017, Louis Vuitton’s collab with Supreme had models with crossbody bags or holding leather clutches, making it to the red carpet, as worn by the gender-fluid Jaden Smith. Joey’s purse, meanwhile, has been the inspiration for the menswear collections of Bottega Veneta, Prada and Gucci. At Dior men SS2019, Kim Jones updated the John Galliano-era Saddle bag worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. Her favorite Fendi Baguette has also been adapted for men, who seem to love it because of its practical shape and size, and its ease and versatility as a crossbody, clutch or around the waist.

Harry Styles with his Gucci Jackie bag, named after Jacqueline Kennedy

Whereas roomy bags like shoppers were quite popular with men, especially in Japan, bags are slowly shrinking in size. “Maybe it’s because we don’t carry as much around as we used to or because it’s easier to carry — and they’re cuter, of course,” observes stylist Julian Ganio at Fendi.

The big Birkins are somehow easier for men to carry and in fact have gender-fluid roots to begin with since Jane was known for her wardrobe of men’s sports coats and trousers.

Travis Scott and his jumbo croc Hermès Haute à Courroies

Rapper Travis Scott, a fan of Villaseñor’s brand, lags around a jumbo croc Hermès HAC (Haute à Courroies), the house’s first bag produced in 1900 to transport saddles and riding boots. The fact that Hermes bags’ fine quality makes them good investment pieces is also a plus.

Vegas Dave at a Lakers game with his Birkins

The professional sports bettor Dave Oancee, aka Vegas Dave, owns six Birkins, including the rarest $500,000 Himalaya with 18-karat white gold and over 200 diamonds. He buys them for investment but the less expensive ones he uses even for everyday because it can fit his laptop and other essentials. Asked if he doesn’t mind that it’s a woman’s bag, he quipped, “I don’t care; I just know it’s dope and it’s $100,000.”

Drake in a montage with Birkin bags that he loves to collect

The star rapper Drake has also been collecting Birkins for years, but just keeps them at home “for my future wife,” he says. Displayed like art, one wonders if he’s not actually collecting them for himself. It has in fact become a cult menswear object and a universal symbol of wealth.

J-Hope of BTS with his Bottega Veneta padded cassette bag

An online article in Cnaluxury observes how more men in Asia are collecting and carrying Birkins. Auction houses like Christie’s have reported increased participation in bids for luxury bags from Hong Kong and Southeast Asian male clients, many of whom proudly post on Instagram in @birkinclub4boys, @birkinmen and their own accounts. Singaporean Bling Empire star Kane Lim was spotted, as well as celebrity hairdresser David Gan. K-pop artist G-Dragon brings around his Birkin 40 in red with gold hardware. Filipino fashion blogger BryanBoy regularly posts his Hermès collectibles and, in the local scene, designers like Paul Cabral have been seen with their prized acquisitions. The Birkin has been so coveted by men, in fact, that the recent FW2022 Hermès menswear show finally gave them The Rock, a more masculine Birkin that’s taller and has a key chain running from the top front edge into a flap pocket below.

Paul Cabral and his Birkin flanked by Vice Ganda and Bernard Cloma carrying a Goyard tote

But even the smaller bags like the Mini Lindy have been gaining ground, as well as those from other brands that tend to have more feminine silhouettes, which just shows how bags, like fashion, are more genderless than ever. Fashion stylist Julie Ragiola believes it’s just part of menswear liberation: “Gender is an outdated ascription when it comes to fashion. We’re moving to a place where taste is the true arbiter.”

Filipino blogger BryanBoy and his Valentino bag

So if a man wants a pink bag with fancy embroidery and crystals because it matches his outfit, why can’t he carry one? And if he only has a few things to bring, why shouldn’t he opt for a “cute” petite size?