Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The rise of the rucksack

The accessory of choice for fashion agnostics or a healthy two fingers to style? By Claire Rubinstein

 

London is in the midst of an epidemic. So widespread is the affliction that it seems no area has escaped its advances. From St James’s to the Square Mile, from Notting Hill to Belgravia, the normally stylish urban gent is gripped by rucksack ruin. Precise tailoring – check, bespoke shoes – check, luxury timepiece – check, get a little closer and inhale the Creed Aventus. So far, so stylish until the aesthetic is shattered – Ninja Turtle style it’s a hero in a half shell, namely on his back is a Millets rucksack.

 

Rucksack 1
The archetypal rucksack look

Once the domain of terrorists, one glimpse was enough to induce fear on such a scale that instant vacation of a tube carriage or any public place was guaranteed. Now rucksacks are commonplace. Want proof? Look no further than the cluttered window space at Cecconi’s or under the tables at The Wolseley. Rucksacks are everywhere.

 

Once upon a time the only bulge a man was politely allowed to have in his suit was his wallet, and so the classic briefcase or attaché case reigned supreme. But now a man is required to carry more than just his wallet and a few documents, likewise the resistance to carrying bags has become a thing of the past. Attitudes are changing and so are the bags. There is a huge variety of personal styles and even influential designers are embracing the trend with satchels, messenger bags, organiser bags and of course the controversial rucksack all in a range of materials from classic leather, fabric, canvas and even vegan-friendly hemp for the fashion conscious with a moral conscience.

 

Picture 62
Matching jackets deserve matching bags and even a matching dog

Picture 51
A casually discarded satchel

But our obsession with bags is nothing new. Men once carried coin purses, with the oldest known purse dating back more than 5000 years, it was worn by a man known as Ötzi the Iceman. It can only be a matter of time before ‘The Ötzi’ becomes a coveted waiting-list only piece of male arm candy.

 

So what lies behind this devil-may-care attitude to accessorising? Chatting to the culprits, I found that it is nothing more than simple practicality. One Mayfair “hedgie” told me he eschewed his very stylish new Mulberry briefcase in favour of the rucksack as the offending item was much more practical when riding a scooter. A health-conscious West End property tycoon used a similar excuse reasoning that a briefcase made cycling impossible and was also not spacious enough for the extra grooming essentials needed for his daily sessions at The Royal Automobile Club’s pool.

 

But out of everyone I asked, there was one over-riding factor – the weather. So it seems that just as the iconic British Mackintosh has evolved for our rainy climate so too has the rucksack. And perhaps there is something rather charming about this stealth wealth with the cherished rucksack off-setting the traditional trappings of elegance.

 

As all that glitters is not gold, indeed the only man I knew who ticked every style box possible and never to be seen with a rucksack would proudly dress up in 3-piece suit and briefcase for ‘meetings’. This big-talking small-fry’s important appointments turned out to be meetings for one with the nearest bottle of house red and his briefcase contained nothing more than an Oyster Card and a clutch of court summonses for non-payment of bills.

I rest my case.

 

Picture 7
The author, Claire Rubinstein, with a gentleman who prefers a Harrods bag in jute

Picture 4
A manbag in miniature

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  1. Good point.
    In addition they are dangerous!
    People seem to forget they are wearing them hence adding to their “width”.
    I have experienced and witnessed “side swipes” as wearers turn around forgetting they are wearing them in a crowded street or on the Tube. Perhaps they should come with an instruction manual or warning mechanisms.

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