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What bag should I get?

What bag should I get?

A bag is much more than a way to carry your stuff around. Get it wrong and you’re not just stuck with something impractical, you could ruin your entire outfit. Just like the wrong shoes, a bag that’s too smart or too casual throws off your whole vibe.

But while this might sound like a challenge, it’s actually an opportunity. Choose the right bag and it makes any outfit feel bespoke – you'll add a stamp of personality to even the most basic looks. Your bag is something you’ll carry almost every day, so it can become a signature. You can be dressed in the same sweatshirt and chinos as the rest of your office, but if you’ve got an interesting backpack, then you always look distinctive.

To help you decide which is right for you, Thread stylist Millie Rich breaks down four of the most versatile kinds, so you can be sure that you pick one that works for your look and lifestyle. Because of course, it does still need to carry all your stuff around.


Man with wessenger bag

What is it? “A rectangular bag with a shoulder strap and a flap over the top,” says Milie. “They were orignally designed for carrying books, but are perfect for a laptop.”

Smartness: “If you go for leather in either black or brown, a satchel is like a more relaxed version of a briefcase. But you can also get versions in technical fabrics, or brighter colours, that look better with jeans than a suit.”

What to look for: “A solid strap that gives good support and is comfortable on your shoulder. Also look for pockets on the front. Then you can grab things like a book, keys or tablet without diving into the main compartment.”

Who does it suit? “They’re ideal for commuting if your work is smart. This is the bag to get if a briefcase feels too dated, or impractical.”


Man with holdall

What is it? “The largest bag that’s not a suitcase and not one you’d carry day-to-day,” says Millie. “They’re designed to hold enough stuff for a long weekend away.”

Smartness “Because they’re big, they’re not something you’d take to a formal office. Leather versions look good on business trips, but get one in something less fancy if it’s just for your gym kit."

What to look for: “Rugged materials mean your bag – and its contents – will stand up to bumps and bangs when you’re travelling. It should be big enough to fit a few changes of outfit in, but small enough to fit in a plane’s overhead locker.”

Who does it suit? “Every man should have a holdall, but the more you travel, the more you should spend. It’s worth investing in something that looks good and is hard-wearing, as you’ll use it more than you think.”


Man with backpack

What is it? “A bag with two straps that you carry over your shoulders,” says Millie.

Smartness: “They’re more relaxed than a messenger, but if you go for dark colours and premium materials – leather is good but so are rubberised cotton or canvas – then they’re perfect for offices where jeans don’t look out of place.”

What to look for: “Avoid anything bright or technical. If it’s covered in straps then it’s for camping, not commuting. A foldover top is good for rain, as are taped zips, particularly if you cycle. Otherwise you might find it leaks.”

Who does it suit? “It’s quite a youthful style and even the smartest versions aren’t all that smart, so it’s best for guys who spend most of their time in casual clothes.”


Man with tote bag

What is it? “A square bag with two handles that you can either carry in your hand, or on your shoulder,” says Millie.

Smartness: “They’re pretty much the most casual bag that doesn’t come from a supermarket. Canvas versions are particularly relaxed, but you can get leather or nylon totes that are almost as smart as a backpack.”

What to look for: “Premium versions should have a zipped top and pockets on the inside, to store the things you want to access quickly.”

Who does it suit? “They’re quite arty, so good for guys in creative jobs who find a messenger a bit too formal.”

Illustrations: Eric Chow