He had been warning him, more or less undisguisedly, since his appointment as creative director of the Louis Vuitton men’s collection was announced last February: the first thing Pharrell Williams had in mind as soon as he got into business was to get his hands on the Speedy. Made of waterproof canvas, with a checkerboard pattern or screen-printed monogram, rounded edges, a double handle and a one-way zipper, the model, a jibarized version of its popular travel bag, was a commercial milestone for the French firm in 1930.
A bag with which the then trunk house embarked on the daily adventure, designed for the day-to-day life of women. Practical and versatile, it didn’t take long for men to adopt it, especially when it appeared in a shoulder bag version. Well, the American singer/rapper, composer and producer-turned-designer has complied by appropriating one of the sociocultural references that marked his sentimental street education (the most shot aspirational piece in the top manta on Canal Street in New York), and by far: Speedys of all sizes, materials and colors were endless in his debut show, at the end of June. Nor did he forget about other classics (the Keepall, the Alma, the Soft and the Malle Trunk), or giving a spin to clutches, backpacks and bowling bags, or contribute their own ideas, such as the deluxe leather rendition of the saffron-toned paper corporate bag that distinguishes buyers of the flagship of the luxury conglomerate LVMH. It is not going to be that some gentleman is left empty-handed next spring/summer 2024.
The phenomenon arrives late to the general headlines, because the bag as an accessory without gender prejudices has been rounding up men’s fashion proposals for at least a decade. In 2016, market studies already predicted that, at this point in the game, its turnover would reach €10 billion. A recent report on consumer habits prepared by the Circana data agency reveals that its sales increased by 7% in 2022, of which 15% correspond to luxury models. The fastest growing product category on record since the pandemic. “The more fluid treatment of masculinity, evident in the ready-to-wear discourse in recent seasons, has changed the way men approach accessories, not just in terms of jewelry and watches,” Daniel explains. Todd, purchasing manager at Mr. Porter digital store. “Demand has skyrocketed, evolving from the tote bag to more daring, sophisticated handbag designs, in leather or sumptuous materials,” he reports. As happened with the sneaker fever, the proliferation of collaborations between posh labels and cult streetwear brands, in addition to a highly calculated shortage in the number of pieces on sale, have done the rest.
Opportune inclusive and diverse narratives aside, the matter should not produce such a surprise either (or scare, depending on who you ask). The gentlemen, in reality, would only be recovering an article that was already theirs before giving up ostentation/ornament in clothing after the French Revolution. Indeed, there are reports of men with full beards carrying bags in the days when they hunted mammoths and bison. In the Middle Ages, pouches hung from their belts and, from the Enlightenment, it became popular among aristocrats to carry a kind of beggars with floral medleys that camouflaged the consequences of poor personal hygiene. The modern rigid business briefcase with a single handle emerged in the mid-19th century and, shortly after, the backpack almost as we know it today. At the beginning of the seventies of the last century, they were a clamor among celebrities with bohemian fur and condition: in tote bag format carried by David Hockney, in plan bowling or Leather cosmetic bag worn by Jimi Hendrix, a carrycot version for Truman Capote and Elton John, and even stolen from the feminine Olympus to hang from Samuel Beckett’s shoulder. Waiting for Godot with a Gucci Jackie. The NBA players and their display of murses (contraction of man and purse) during the walk of fame of the playoffs, already in the decade of 2000, would deserve their own chapter.
The chroniclers have not yet agreed, if it was the manageable, vegan and very affordable Telfar bag, the so-called Bushwick Birkin in reference to the popular New York neighborhood where it first found its niche, the one that lit the fuse of the current gentlemen bags in 2015, or if the honor corresponds to the Gucci belt bag, Alessandro Michele’s twist on the fanny pack that has marked the aesthetics of young zeta puppies, crossed over the chest, from 2017. That same year the notorious entente Louis Vuitton × Supreme and the men’s edition of the emblematic Saddle, by Dior, the endeavor of Kim Jones, saw the light of day. Since then, there is no luxury brand that has not redoubled its bag offer, from the appropriations of the no less iconic Baguette, from Fendi; the ridiculously tiny Chiquito Moyen, by Jacquemus; going through the modernized Intrincatto, by Bottega Veneta; the Puzzle, by Loewe, or the whimsical designs of Balmain. All to carry by the handle, as recommended by brand ambassadors of the scope of the singer Harry Styles, the actor Jacob Elordi or the South Korean pop idols on duty. And to think that Coco Chanel put a leash on 2.55 to give women freedom of action.
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