Does this work bag read feminine?
September 23, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

I would like to replace my husband's deteriorating work bag (which I gave him many moons ago) for our upcoming anniversary . I like this nylon one, but fear it will read as being made for a woman. I have past experience with this seller and she will customize a bag. If this does read as feminine, what makes it so? Thank you.
posted by michellenoel to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, there is nothing about that bag that reads feminine to me. It looks perfectly gender neutral.
posted by lydhre at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

It does read feminine to me. I think it would look less feminine if the little pockets with tiny buttons were removed. But the top opening with the handles will still be very "tote bag" looking, which is a women's style of bag. Also be conscious of the scale of the bag - if a bag is too small for the man carrying it, it will look kind of like a purse no matter how masculine the style itself is.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

The snap pockets on that one read a little like a purse rather than a bag, however the seller has 3 similar ones that have less purse-like pockets that I think look great! Although if you are totally in love with the one you linked, I don't think anyone will look at him weird. I just think these three are a little more man-bag-like.

Zip Pocket
Flap Pocket Bag
Flap Snap Bag
posted by Crystalinne at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Doesn't ring any bells for me one way or another, either.

But if you're worried, have her put a skull on it, or maybe a spitting cobra on fire driving a monster truck through a bar room.
posted by jquinby at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2013 [28 favorites]

I think the proportions and details on that bag do make it look feminine (although not strikingly so). Also, it is shown in the scrollable pictures with only a female model, but I thought it looked feminine even before I saw that there was more than one image of it available.

I think of a neutral bag as being more heavily constructed and having fewer small details; omitting the "tote" aspect also helps.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not overtly feminine.
I would say it also depends on where you live and what industry he works in.
posted by Snazzy67 at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree it's the pockets that give it a slightly feminine vibe - If the flaps were flat rather than rounded, it'd be more masculine.
posted by jalexei at 1:56 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

It does strike me as more feminine, but I'm not sure why. I think it has to do with the material + pocket shape.

That being said, it wouldn't keep me from using it, as a male.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:56 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: Quick followup: His old one is leather but similar in style, except no outside pockets. It also has handles as opposed to over the shoulder. Maybe I can have her leave off the outside pockets, make the handle more neutral and make it just a bit larger. What he likes about his current bag is all the pockets inside, which this one has.

Ok - done thread sitting.
posted by michellenoel at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2013

That bag doesn't SCREAM feminine, but there are a couple of things that seem to edge it toward feminine to my eye. I think it's the medium size coupled with the many pockets that make it a bit purse-like. For me, the quintessential men's bag is the leather saddleback classic. If you look at that specific bag, it's got very clean lines, no top grip, few pockets and is big enough that no one will mistake it for a purse.

So I think on the bag you linked to, I'd suggest removing the top handle grip, and maybe either removing the pockets with the flaps or making the snaps a darker color so they aren't so highlighted. And also making the whole bag bigger. For example, I agree with @Crystalinne that this bag looks more masculine, but even it is too small.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2013

To me it's the floppiness of the handles more than the pockets that makes it feminine. Men's bag handles are often more structured, whereas these are more like on a cloth grocery bag. By simply shortening those straps a tiny bit it would reduce their flopping over.

That said, I've definitely seen men carrying bags less "manly" than this with no sense of weirdness. It might depend on his sense of style whether he'd love it or hate it, but there's nothing about it that is particularly gender-slanted to me, as external observer.
posted by aimedwander at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

What type of work does your husband do? He might get more use out of either a nice briefcase or a sturdy reinforced tool bag, depending on his needs - I think the tote bag risks being a no man's land that's not ideal for anything.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2013

Or check out the waxed canvas Moops.
posted by barnone at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He teaches at a college in a laid-back environment. He likes the divisions in his bag and we have a lot of wet weather so I thought the nylon would be good. He is not uber masculine - more middle of the road.
posted by michellenoel at 2:09 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: He does not carry a laptop.
posted by michellenoel at 2:11 PM on September 23, 2013

Doesn't strike me as feminine at all.
posted by cairdeas at 2:11 PM on September 23, 2013

It looks pretty much unisex to me, but here are things that would make it more "masculine":

-Get rid of the little handles, keep just the shoulder strap.
-Make the little front pockets the same size. The fact that they are not symmetrical adds a touch of quirky style that most man-bags don't seem to have.
-Make it slightly larger.
-Use a zipper instead of a snap at the top. A bag that doesn't close all the way across the top is less convenient for an active person, because if it gets turned upside down, stuff will fall out. (I'm a woman and this drives me crazy, why do designers think I want all my stuff to fall out of my bag??)
-Make it in a color like black or some kind of drab/green/brown/khaki.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:18 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks folks. I've marked the question as resolved. ALL of the answers were good. I appreciate it.
posted by michellenoel at 2:20 PM on September 23, 2013

The shoulder strap is missing a shoulder guard thingy that would help masculinize the bag.

The shoulder strap as it is looks feminine.
posted by jbenben at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't think it's particularly feminine. If anything, changing the pockets from curved to square would make it more masculine.
posted by catatethebird at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the important thing to make it not look feminine is the color. Pick a dark grey, a black or maybe a brown.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:25 PM on September 23, 2013

looking at all the pics of the bag it does look a bit feminine but not that much. i think i'd just go for more of a classic messenger bag look with a big flap than those tote handles and poofy pockets. also, make sure the straps are long enough to hit a man in the correct spot so he's not carrying it higher like a purse.
posted by wildflower at 2:34 PM on September 23, 2013

Yes. Maybe to a woman it leans neutral; dunno. But for a man, it's girly. Not pink-ruffles girly, but girly. Why? It looks like a purse. The size, dimensions, pockets, the fabric, ... it's a purse. (Are there guys who would carry it? Sure--but there are guys who do a lot of things.)

Personally, I think 95% of "messenger" bags look like purses, and usually is just an excuse for a guy to carry a purse and not call it that. (But whatever, this is just my personal opinion and taste.) This one you linked to is not an exception.

As an experiment, I searched for "masculine messenger bags" and tried to determine which didn't look like a purse. Except for one that looks like a camera bag, nada. The best bet from those results is whatever you can find that looks like luggage or a duffle or briefcase. The problem is that it's easier to imagine a woman carrying nearly all of them.

So what is in the 5% masculine messenger bag category? Something that isn't a purse (i.e. isn't a messenger bag). This Saddleback "classic briefcase" is expensive but reasonably manly. Indiana Jonesesque. Something that looks like that would work, or you could go more tacticool (5.11, Blackhawk, etc.). Depends on your husband.

EDIT: I clicked a link in another answer to Nordstroms "messenger bags for men." The ones that might work there are essentially leather (maybe canvas) briefcases with long straps for shoulder carry. Anything square or more vertical than horizontal (dimension-wise) is wrong.

I realize all this is very subjective. But if you want something masculine, you're walking a very feminine line with a messenger bag. (Yeah yeah, lots of guys carry MBs, yada yada. It's a purse.)
posted by mumeishi at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2013

What an interesting question.

Without reading any of the responses, to me it reads a little feminine because of the rounded flaps on the pockets. Only a little, though.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2013

The big floppy handles and the flaps on the pockets read a bit feminine to me. It's mostly about scale, I think- if the handles were smaller and the flaps smaller in proportion to the bag, it would look pretty neutral.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks again. He does not like messenger bags. He prefers handles. I appreciate the help.
posted by michellenoel at 3:21 PM on September 23, 2013

Get a sharpie to darken the snaps on the pockets.
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2013

Seconding that you look at Moop bags for gender-neutral shapes and colors.
posted by xo at 3:24 PM on September 23, 2013

The snap at the top screams purse. The pocket size difference, dimensions, and dainty zippers murmur it. The photo without the strap, because it's wider at the top, screams feminine again.
posted by Anwan at 3:54 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

that's def feminine.

It's the cut of the small pockets--half circles--that do it.
posted by Murray M at 4:12 PM on September 23, 2013

Huh. The Moop bag linked to above looks FAR more feminine than the bag the OP linked to, in my opinion. But that said, I agree with others here about the pockets on the one the OP linked to. Slight changes to them might be all that is needed. I'm a girl though, not a guy, so maybe I'm not a good judge.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2013

The texture and loose shape strike me as feminine.

This is the bag that I use. It's a little more masculine than the design provided by OP. It also has a nylon-ish coating, which makes it water-resistant, if not 100% waterproof. It's also pretty cheap. I love the shit out of this bag and take it with me virtually every day. If I could marry inaminate objects, I would marry this bag.

Also be conscious of the scale of the bag - if a bag is too small for the man carrying it, it will look kind of like a purse no matter how masculine the style itself is

I am a hefty, stocky fellow and this 5.11 bag doesn't look small or purse-like on me.

(Nota bene: should you choose this bag, and purchase it on amazon, don't use "Stores123"; they were the most inept sellers and the worst amazon experience I've ever had.)
posted by jason's_planet at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2013

Looks pretty unisex to me. It could be made unisexer with squared flaps and Velcro or buckle closures instead of snaps.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:40 PM on September 23, 2013

He does not like messenger bags. He prefers handles.

at the men's bags i looked at they seem to usually have one handle rather than two at the top but that would require some sort of flap. maybe go for a carpet bag or doctor's bag look? i dunno.
posted by wildflower at 4:56 PM on September 23, 2013

First look? That's a woman's bag. It's unstructured and floppy which gives it a purse-like vibe. Also the hardware seems sort of dainty for a gentleman's bag.

If a guy was carrying it, then it would probably look fine. But sitting on a table I'd assume it was a woman's purse/case.
posted by 26.2 at 5:59 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: jason'planet - I like the 5.11 line. Thanks.
posted by michellenoel at 9:15 PM on September 23, 2013

Response by poster: This design might work.
posted by michellenoel at 9:26 PM on September 23, 2013

FWIW, That Nordstrom bag looks spot on, and it has to do with the rounded corners, the zippered top, and then smaller pull handles. /me bookmarking for future reference.
posted by absquatulate at 6:29 AM on September 24, 2013

Another handled, masculine bag option: Wood&Faulk
posted by heliostatic at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2013

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