The handbag should be classified as a fashion necessity for any woman, rather than a fashion accessory, since the appeal of the handbag is equal among all women. Look on any High Street and almost every woman will have a handbag; yet, the male equivalent – known as the man-bag, messenger bag or satchel – has no such universal appeal.

NEMS recently conducted a study among 537 men across the UK, the main aims of which were to see what type of man owns a man-bag and what he keeps in it.

Around three out of ten men were man-bag owners, and they were:

  • most likely to be aged between the 16-24 year old, and seen to become less popular as age increases;
  • twice as prevalent among the highest socio-economic groups compared to the lower groups;
  • and, there were indications that men with young families were more likely to be man-bag owners.

This basically points to young professionals with families as being the typical man-bag owner.

It seems the main factor limiting the scale of the man-bag market is the two-thirds who would never consider getting a man-bag at any point in the future; a proportion which is not exclusive to any one age group and therefore likely to inhibit future growth in the man-bag market, without a major shift in opinion among men’s attitudes and perceptions towards man-bags.

So, what do men carry in their man-bags?

Our sample of man-bag owners carried a wide spectrum of paraphernalia on a day-to-day basis: ranging from the expected keys, wallet and mobile phone, through to the more unusual items such as beer.

If you were to look inside a man-bag you’d be twice as likely to find items for boredom relief (such as books, MP3 players, magazines) or paperwork as you would be to find a gadget or more practical items such as keys or wallet. You’d be unlikely to find any personal goods (such as medication, toiletries or tissues) in a man-bag since only one in thirty owners routinely carry such goods.

What's inside a man-bag depends very much on the age and occupational group of the bag owner:

  • 16 to 24 year olds focused more on having boredom relief items in their man-bag;
  • 25 year olds and over (in particular those 55 and over) used their man-bag more for work items;
  • 25 to 34 year olds also showed a tendency to have gadgets in their man-bags;
  • Unsuprisingly, those from the highest socio-economic groups had the greatest likelihood of having paperwork and gadgets in their man-bags;
  • While those from the more manual occupations were twice as likely to use their man-bag for lunch or clothing storage.

To receive a free copy of the data tables used to produce the above blog, or to commission your own opinion poll, contact Paul Murray