On YouTube, there’s a whole subculture of sneakerheads showing off their impressive shoe collections. One 2020 video, which has over a million views, a 17-year-old walks us through his $1 million collection, including a pair of Air Jordans signed by basketball player Chris Paul. There’s also a popular Complex series that takes celebrities sneaker fanatics shopping, like Pete Davidson and Bella Hadid (the latter of whom once famously said, “If he comes through in these… homebody is gonna, like, get it”). In the luxury menswear resale space, it’s clear that the appetite for collecting one-of-a-kind sneakers still persists. But, it turns out, an increasing search for rare men’s handbags is coming up on its heels.
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There was once a time when handbags were seen as a women’s-only accessory. Remember that scene in The Hangover when the crew makes fun of Alan’s “man purse?” “It’s called a satchel,” Alan quips. But as the fashion industry (and consumers) have embraced a more genderless approach to design, skirts, heels, and bags are (finally) becoming more of a unisex item. On Rebag—a popular designer bag resale site—men currently make up one-third to half of the retailer’s customer base. “Our expanded assortment of luxury handbags by labels like Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Prada, and Chanel—especially crossbodies, messenger bags, sling styles, and duffles—are popular among male consumers,” says Charles Gorra, the CEO and founder of Rebag.
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In the U.S., the handbag customer base on StockX—another popular online resale marketplace—is now evenly split between men and women as well. Rachel Makar, StockX’s director of accessories, says the growing interest in bags is not dissimilar to why men have been so sneaker obsessed in the past. “Many of the factors that have influenced sneaker culture and made limited-edition sneakers so sought after are also fueling demand for men’s bags and accessories,” she says, adding that exclusive bag drops or one-of-a-kind designer collaborations have made bags that much more covetable. On StockX, for instance, the Louis Vuitton x Supreme bags continue to be a hot-ticket item, and sales for Vuitton accessories in general (including bags but not shoes) have increased almost 90 percent in the last three years.
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It’s no coincidence that both the runways and red carpets have been filled with chic men’s bags as of late. As the number of bag options for men has grown, the resale market has increased as a ripple effect (though it’s not to say men aren’t buying women’s styles too). Just this spring 2022 season, there were plenty of men’s bags to behold. Jil Sander had large brown leather hobo bags on its runways, while Hermès showed its classic Birkin carry-alls and Dior new takes on its signature Saddle shoulder bags. The styles are still decidedly mensy, though less traditional than a briefcase or backpack. On the step and repeats, meanwhile, A-list celebrities like Jaden Smith, Harry Styles, and Lil Nas X have all stepped out and proven bags are a universal piece—Styles favors a classic Gucci Jackie style, and Nas a bolder dog-shaped bag by Thom Browne.
The craze for sneakers is still going strong too. According to leading menswear buyers for Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, the designer sneaker market is still as hot and robust as ever—see the new Gucci x Adidas sneakers, which is already on StockX. The new interest in collecting bags is more piggybacking than a complete overtaking. “The men’s bag resale market isn’t so much taking over the sneaker resale market as it is building on it,” says Makar. “There’s been a shift among male sneaker enthusiasts. Instead of sneakers being the dominant spend category, accessories are now competing with sneakers for share of wallet.”
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© Photo: Getty Images A street style star rocks a Balenciaga bag during the spring 2023 shows
Wallet-wise, men are realizing that collecting bags is a much smarter long-term purchase, says Gorra. “Bags are becoming more of a unisex collector’s item because they are often recession-proof, like in the case of Chanel bags gaining value due to to the label’s price increases,” he says. On Rebag, they’ve seen an uptick in men looking at Birkin bags, “for both fashion and investment.” (According to Baghunter, buying a Birkin is a better investment than gold and has a higher return.) Is that the reason, then, for such a hike in interest around secondhand men’s bags recently? It’s bigger than that—the result of runway trends, celebrities embracing them, and an increasingly genderless market overall—but buying a new-to-you bag versus sneakers may just land you a few future coins in your pocket. “Men realize that luxury bags aren’t just for fashion,” says Gorra. “They can also be worthwhile investments that appreciate over time.”