How the latest status symbol of masculinity became a handbag

In the late 1990s, women went wild for Fendi's amusingly named Baguette, a dainty handbag that infiltrated pop culture (it featured prominently on Sex and the City) and helped turn around the Italian brand's fortunes.

Back then, high-flying men purchased the Baguette for the special women in their lives.

Today, some of those same men are picking up Baguettes for themselves.

Same same, but different

Okay, it's not exactly the same bag. The product in question is, rather simply, called the Men's Baguette, and Fendi launched it with much fanfare earlier in the week (there was an effusive press release and a film featuring European influencers).

However, the Men's Baguette is remarkably similar to its female counterpart, with graceful curves and a slender magnetic clasp. In my view, it signals a new phase for the men's-handbag trend that has been gathering steam for the past couple of seasons.

Low slung, highbrow

That trend began around 2017 with the emergence of luxury bumbags (now dubbed 'belt bags') for men. Fuelled by the unstoppable rise of athleisure, bumbags proliferated on runways, often worn slung across the shoulder.

But it was Kim Jones who first took this trend to its logical conclusion when he reimagined the iconic Dior women's saddle bag as the must-have accessory for men in his inaugural show as artistic director for menswear at Christian Dior. An early-00s style staple, the saddle bag's rebirth as a men's must-havehas been helped along via artistic collaborations with artists such as Hajime Sorayama, Kaws, and Daniel Arsham.

This season, there is a veritable smorgasbord of high-fashion belt bags to choose from. Prada has one in army-green nylon (the very same material those daggy 1980s bumbags were made out of), Gucci has a chunky black number with an embroidered 'LOVED' patch and Hugo Boss is slinging a minimalist navy-leather version. And Dior is offering the men's saddle bag in all manner of colours and materials.

Fendi's Men's Baguette goes a step further. Yes, it can be worn as a belt bag, but it also sells with a slender top-strap so that confident men can carry it like, well, a handbag.


Sensitive side

Like Dior, Fendi's Men's Baguette isn't afraid to be androgynous. Yes, it can be worn as a belt bag, but it also sells with a slender top-strap so that confident men can carry it like, well, a handbag.

Fendi's new Baguette suggests that men's accessories are finally catching up with the masculine-feminine experimentation that has been taking place in the men's clothing world for years now. About time, too. Why shouldn't stylish gents carry elegant bags?

Now that all the taste-making rappers (A$AP Rocky, Swae Lee) are carrying compact bags instead of backpacks, expect to see much more of this in the months ahead.

In the bag

If you're ready to emancipate yourself from the societal norm that says men shouldn't carry small bags, there are a couple of appealing options this season to compete with the Men's Baguette.

Louis Vuitton is leading the charge with its men's Soft Trunk, a cute, diminutive messenger bag that looks like a shrunken version of LV's classic luggage trunks and arrives with a long strap with gold chain-links. There's also a men's purse (I refuse to call it a murse) called the Soft Trunk Pouch.

If you're after something more traditionally masculine and have a spare $2500, the arbiter of men's good taste Tom Ford has a belt bag for you, crafted from full-grain leather with a devilishly handsome black and gold strap.

Whichever you choose, you can say goodbye to overstuffed pockets and say hello to slim-fitting trousers. Bring it on.

Dan's writing on style, travel and more has appeared in The New York Times, the Australian Financial Review, Condé Nast Traveller and others. He is based in Sydney.

Follow him on Instagram

Check out the gallery above to see what you should have swinging on your arm this season.