Trend alert: How the tote became the must-have bag for men

Just when you thought the metrosexual had left the building, along comes a trend that proves us all wrong; totes for blokes. Samuel Bail, the co-founder of luxury London-based leather-goods label Troubadour, says even he is surprised with the sudden popularity of a style of bag usually carried by ladies.

"Totes have been growing super quickly for us; it's now our best-selling style," said Bail while visiting Sydney's Hunt boutique last week.

In 2011, Bail and his colleague Abel Samet were working as financiers in the big end of London. Each was looking for a duffel to use on weekends away, and noticed the only designer choices were blinged-up bags with logos. So they decided to fill that gap in the market by coming up with their own range of men's luggage that focused on extremely high quality leather and hardware without having to shout about it.

Skip forward to 2016 and Troubadour goods are a global phenomenon sold in USA, UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, and China. And they aren't cheap.  Hand-crafted in Italy, a backpack will relieve you of more than $2500.

It's in the bag

Despite the popularity of the Troubadour tote, Bail says he never had a vision to create a male shopping bag, and was steadfastly opposed to it: "Our designer, to her credit, kept insisting we make a tote and my answer consistently was absolutely not, I will never carry a tote. It's a fad. It felt feminine to me," he says.

"Then just before our season kicked off she gave me a design for a tote and asked me to sample it. I said, okay, fine, let's make one sample and then we can at least end this debate."

That sample proved to be a huge hit. "Everyone who saw it asked us to include it in our range."

But does Bail carry one himself?

"I don't; but to be fair I bicycle everywhere and I wear a rucksack. A tote on a bicycle is not convenient."


Convenient alternatives

Rucksacks, or 'backpacks' as they are known in Australia are another area of men's luggage that is only going to get bigger and a more convenient bag to transport. Bail says his decision to create a luxurious backpack came about after seeing executives in the financial district of London, walking around in bespoke Saville Row suits but carrying scruffy old Eastpak.

"It just didn't seem the right fit," says Bail.

"Our packs are designed to be worn with a beautiful suit. They are hand-stitched from premium Italian leather and include hand-polished zippers we sourced from a family business in Italy. Everything we make has to work within an office environment."

The way forward

He says there is also a big push towards technical raw materials that will see bags offering better performance. Troubadour is developing a vegetable-tanned leather that is completely waterproof while retaining the natural variations in colour and texture.

"The waterproof qualities are soaked through the grain during the tanning process, rather than by applying an artificial finish to the leather," he says. "Plus we are not using any stitching; everything is bonded. If you are cycling along and it starts to rain, you can be confident your stuff will remain dry."

One thing is for sure, Bail says we won't be seeing the return of the hard briefcase.

"Nowadays technology is lighter and smaller and people aren't carrying so much paper. For someone to wander around with a briefcase that weighs more than the Macbook Air inside it, just doesn't make any sense."