Nothing has evolved quite like the handbag. For thousands of years, handbags were fabric pouches for coins. Over time, handbags turned into a multibillion dollar industry that constantly evolved, with new lines coming out every season.
Of course, with fashion becoming involved, the handbag has become a status symbol, signifying how much a consumer is willing to pay for it and how much disposable income the consumer has.
In its simplest form, the handbag is a form of portable storage, and has remained practical by serving that purpose. The handbag has become a unique part of fashion by not being an accessory or a clothing item, but a necessity.
The modern sense of the handbag is a western notion. Parts of the handbag can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
Before the term “handbag” was created in the mid nineteenth century, bags or pouches were used to carry valuables. Since pockets were not invented yet, bags were the only way to carry anything.
The primary function of bags was to carry coins, since the concept ofpaper currency had not been created.
The modern concept of the handbag came to fruition during the Industrial Revolution, a period when several countries in Europe and the United States saw unprecedented growth in production, populations, and consumption.
Because the Industrial Revolution aided in better transportation, people used handbags as an easy and convenient way to travel with their possessions on the newly developed railroads.
During this time, the term “handbag” was created. Many handbag brands, including Hermes and Louis Vuitton, were founded during this time period.
Since the Industrial Revolution, handbags have transformed in accordance with the era. For example, the conservative values of the 1950s led to smaller handbags and neutral colors to increase a woman’s femininity. The 1960s, on the other hand, led to larger handbags and bolder colors, including floral prints.
Today, a variety of handbags crowd the market, from the colorful designs of Vera Bradley, to the simple look of Michael Kors.
Currently, the most popular handbag brand in the United States is Coach, Inc. For the fiscal year of 2011, Coach had approximately $4 billion in revenue.
After Coach, the most popular handbag brands include Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Longchamp.
The popularity of certain brands is due to the fact that handbags are seen as a status symbol. Luxury handbags, including Louis Vuitton and Chanel, are expensive, and require a certain amount of disposable income and wealth to purchase them.
Therefore, in today’s society, the label of the bag coincides with the monetary wealth of the person. The wild popularity of knock off handbags demonstrates the use of handbags as a status symbol because these consumers care more about the label than the product.
The most expensive luxury handbag in the world costs $3.8 million. To compare, it costs approximately as much as a mansion in Beverly Hills, California.
The amount of handbags a person owns also creates status. Someone who has a handbag for every outfit is typically wealthier than someone who owns one or two.
Since the days where people carried bags to store coins and valuables, handbags have evolved considerably. Popular styles include the tote, satchel and clutch.
The tote bag is characterized by its versatility and usefulness, and is usually open and unfastened, with a handle on each side. This style of bag is designed for people with busy lifestyles and many possessions.
The satchel is similar to the tote bag, but it is fastened. Also, the satchel has a cross body strap that allows people to carry it over either shoulder. Satchels are more popular in cities because of its ability to fasten.
The clutch is a smaller handbag that does not have a lot of capacity. It is mostly worn to social occasions, when people do not need to carry many possessions. Clutches allow people to not have to deal with the bulk of most handbags.
Over the last two decades, handbags for men have become more popular. These bags, often nicknamed “manbags,” exemplify the relaxation of gender roles in the United States. Originally, the most popular bag for men was the briefcase, which would store files and other important materials for the workplace.
The messenger bag has taken over as the most popular bag for men because of its versatility. The messenger bag is characterized by a flap that snaps or buckles into place and a cross body strap. It can still hold files, but it can also store laptops, books, notebook, and other smaller possessions.
Although the idea of a handbag as portable storage is a worldwide concept, these styles are also particular to western cultures because of regional and lifestyle differences.
The handbag has influenced the fashion industry, been used as a status symbol, and evolved to become a necessary part of everyday life, with different styles to suite individual needs.