History of the Man Bag

men's dark brown messenger bag

Men’s bags ranging from messenger bags, briefcases and satchels to backpacks are seen everywhere you go. Mainly a practical accessory, they are also a fashion statement. These masculine bags are nothing new, and have originated as far back as 5000 years ago. The picture above is a messenger bag.

Legendary Warrior William Wallace  A.D. 1272-1305, used a sporran, Gaelic for purse, as an accessory for the pocketless kilts. The Scottish adapted their version of the man bag. He wore it around his waist and off to the side. The picture below is an army green satchel.

mens army green canvas satchel

Legendary Davy Crockett  A.D. 1786-1836, had his hunting bag. It had a long strap and he wore it across his body and toward his back.  He was the King of the Wild Frontier and died during the battle of the Alimo, 170 years later, the leather saddleback would appear.

Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones, from action hero films in the 1930’s, carried a simple crossbody messenger bag, with a flap over closure as shown below with the brown messenger bag. All of these bags among the legends remain similar to this day. They were mainly a medium size over a larger style, which is popular among most men now. They have much more of a variety of styles and colors along with fabric to choose from, and are worn across the chest, the back or hanging over a shoulder.

mens brown crossbody messenger bagIn the Middle Ages, the man bags were known as girdle pouches replacing pockets, which had not been developed yet. They were used to carry herbs for spices to mask bodily odors and carry money. During the Renaissance, pockets had greatly reduced the use for man bags. They were used to show wealth and status. The satchel was created during this period, and continues it’s popularity. They are a smaller version of the crossbody messenger bag as seen in the picture below.

mens tan satchel bag

The Industrial Revolution changed bags to suit the progress era, with the introduction for freedom of travel with the railroads. they needed a strong and sturdy bag and the briefcase was created. They resemble the ones we have today, for example with the black leather version below. It has a handle on the flap over cover, and the attached long strap to be worn crossbody style or over the shoulder.mens black leather briefcase

The history of these bags were associated with the pioneer spirit from the American trailblazers of the Wild West. They carried burlap gunnysacks that resemble a potato sack, satchels, and the gym or duffel bags. The man bags have a long history of masculinity, seen today as businessmen from movie stars to an array of men out there who carry them. There are many choices from stylish and classy to more casual, rugged or have an edgy appearance. Below is the gym style duffel bag which is made of a casual canvas fabric, and has the darker straps.mens grey canvas gym style duffel bag

Using an all weather protection product like Tana All Protector or a special conditioner that is sold for footwear, is a benefit to keep your bags lasting longer.

Click on Women’s Purses and Handbags for information about them or to shop for gifts, to read and shop for men’s click on Men’s Bags and Accessories. The option to shop for both are to the right on my sidebar where I have several merchants listed.

Unless otherwise stated, the bags for this article I chose from various merchants for the specific style I needed to write this article.


  1. Nick


    I had no idea that men’s bags have been around so long. I thought they were a relatively new trend but it seems reasonable enough that men needed something before pockets were invented! Great selection of bags for men on your eBags pages too. I feel some shopping coming on! Great article.

    1. Patsy


      Hi Nick,

      I didn’t know myself how far back guys had bags until I wrote this article. It was an interesting one to write about. It gradually became accepted and to this day, there are men who would never use one. They don’t realize that the gym bag, backpack or briefcases among other bags they use are actually considered ‘man bags’.

      eBags has a great selection along with ‘Modern Man Bags’ which isn’t on my sidebar but on my ‘Men’s Bags and Accessories’ page. They have hundreds of bags, it’s all they carry. eBags has wallets where the other doesn’t have any.

      Thanks for stopping by again and hope to see you again soon!

  2. Jair


    First off, WOW! The amount of information I just got was unreal! I currently started a new business that requires me visiting customers at their office. I have never had a modern metro, semi-casual look about so I have been updating my image, as carrying a knapsack with my files organizer, laptop and phone just did not seem business like.
    With my new modern look, the knapsack was not working which is how I came to your site. I never knew “man bag” had become so fashionable and utilitarian at the same time. You have given me many great ideas, I have learned how to care and store them. If William Wallace (Braveheart) & Bobby (Robert) Burns, named for the Whisky cocktail, can rock man bags, then surely I can!
    Two Questions for you Patsy, what price range am I looking at for one to fit a laptop and leather of course and where would be the best place to purchase one, I don’t need any and designer, strictly utilitarian. Great sight, you truly have finished off my new image that will surely help my new business and my new life as a man…with a man-bag! Thank you, Patsy!!

    1. Patsy


      Hi Jair,
      Thank you for stopping by again and enjoying this article also. It is a lot of information spanning many years, and now this market for men is huge.
      Once you go from casual work to business, it’s wise to change your look accordingly. There are many ideas as I mentioned and am happy they are of help for you.
      Prices range from great sales to the more expensive ones depending on what type of leather. They can be semi casual and still look great with a suit if needed.
      There is a link at the end of the article leading you to where the shopping banner is, You can take a look for one you may like, there are so many to choose from for any budget!
      Thanks again Jair.

  3. Jen


    Hi – I love the history of the man bag, it was so interesting to learned where this trend came from. I’ve always been turned off by men that carry bags that look like purses for some reason. However, I really like the ones that look more like messenger bags or would carry a laptop or business papers. Those bags seem more “masculine” to me.

    I think most men don’t feel as manly carrying a bag that looks feminine, but the ones you have above really have a more masculine feel to them, probably because they are mostly black and brown.

    Thanks for providing the history lesson and offering some good example of a “man bag” that can really be a good accessory for any guy.

    1. Patsy


      Hi Jen, you are welcome.

      There aren’t any men’s bags that look feminine even though I have seen colors like purple and pink for men, the bag is masculine enough to know it’s not feminine. It’s just a color. Many bags sold for men and women are unisex so a guy can buy one in the ladies department, just as we can buy one in the men’s.

      Things have evolved for quite some time, including colors that don’t only come in black or brown.

  4. gregS


    Hi Patsy
    Thanks for the history lesson on man bags.
    When I was a teenager and in my early 20’s, I tried to avoid having a bag as much as possible. Backpacks weren’t around, and rarely did a man carry a bag. Sports bags were used to carry sports equipment for training, but otherwise they weren’t used.
    The only bag I carry now, is a computer bag, but otherwise it’s a backpack. How times have changed.
    I once used to carry a comb, but no more(no hair to comb now) LOL

    1. Patsy


      Hi Greg, you are welcome.

      It’s a great history lesson for how far back men’s bags go. The times have changed since then and many have accepted that men do need bags, especially seeing how practical they are.

      Thank you for dropping by and sharing your story!

  5. Jade


    Thank you for the great history lesson! I didn’t know much about the origins of man bags and even being a woman myself, I found it quite interesting. I think the bag you’ve shown here would be a great gift for any man that has a lot of things to carry for work or recreation.

    1. Patsy


      Hi Jade,

      I’m glad you found my latest addition, and enjoyed it. Who would have thought that man bags would have been around for so long.

      All of the bags are available to purchase, the option to purchase any if you decide to is at the bottom of the page where it states this. I can leave the link for you here, just click on it and it will take you to the Men’s Bags and Accessories page. The shopping banner as at the bottom.

      Thank you for your interest!

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