5 Iconic Moments in Handbag History
Bags aren’t a new thing; as long as we humans have had things to haul, we’ve had bags to hold them. From the year dot, people have had a plus-one bag for all their bits and pieces. For carrying everything from currency to a just-in-case cardigan, bags have been with us across the ages. Here’s how 5 kinds of bags came to be.
These handy pockets arose in the 1600s when paper currency first came on the scene. And for the next 200 years, these wallets were attached to men’s belts so the wearer could strut their stuff. During the 1920s, Hermes, which back then, was a bridle and harness maker, saw an opportunity to branch out from their equine clients. The brand began to fashion gorgeous wallets from saddle leather, quality billfolds for the everyday man. From the 50s until today, wallets have seen a whole lot of styles. Thanks to the bi-fold design, exotic leathers and textiles, the trusty wallet has become a back-pocket fashion-forward item.
Whether you dress your tote up with a metallic or leather trim or down with a DIY print, this all-purpose bag is tote-ally indispensable. Meaning ‘to carry,’ the word tote has been thrown around since the 17th century. Ever the useful bag, the first tote was made by the Maine-based outdoors store L.L.Bean, as an ice carrier. Over the years, the variety of sizes, materials, zipper-tops, trims, handles and prints have made this iconic satchel one of the most versatile kinds of bag. Due to their diversity, the tote serves several purposes; you’ve probably used one for everything from library books to gym gear, and everything in between.
With no specific dimensions, the best definition of a clutch is a bag you... clutch. Think of it as a slimline handbag without the handles or straps. An age-old solution for storing your valuable small stuff, you can see the humble clutch depicted in paintings and tapestries. There’s even a version of this crafty bag in London’s Courtauld Gallery, traceable back 700 years, to Iraq, where it served as a status symbol. A clutch can see you through all occasions; from a day clutch with handy inside pockets to a crystal-encrusted evening clutch for a fancy do. Put it this way – if you want to carry it, you can clutch it instead.
These useful bags also go by the name of utility bags. Worn with one large strap across the body, these waist-resting bags were initially used by people, like soldiers and lumberjacks, who were out on the job, and needed a place to put their tools. During the Industrial Revolution, fabric and leather crossbody bags were used as coin-carriers before the 17th and 18th centuries saw intricate embroidery and slim shapes emerge. These essential bags became a staple for everyone, from well-heeled ladies travelling by rail to postal workers. The benefit of these bags is, no matter if you're carrying only an umbrella, or your whole kit and kaboodle – they distribute weight and make carrying comfy.
Let’s hear it for the backpack; the adventure-inspired, go-anywhere bag. This durable, get-about bag was born on the back of the exploration spirit and can be traced back 5,000 years, to an iceman who crossed the Alps with a rucksack. American, Dick Kelty, began producing backpacks in 1952, sporting woollen carpet as shoulder strap padding. In German, ‘ruck’ means back, and ‘sack’ means bag, and so this trusty transporter got its name. No longer only the bag of choice for mountaineers and students, the backpack now has serious street cred and is a mainstay in most wardrobes.
Bags are your besties. And because every type serves a specific purpose, most of us have a bevvy of bags, ready to cater to our many walks of life. A black crossbody bag, a lovely vegan leather-trimmed backpack, a sloganed tote, an animal-print clutch and a beautiful camel wallet. Grab a bag and choose your adventure.