Let’s face it: You’ve grown out of your backpack. You’re not dropping off your stuff in your locker anymore. You’re an adult man, with an adult job—so you need an adult way to carry around your wallet, work items, laptop and other everyday essentials. Enter the best messenger bags for men. A messenger bag is the cool, tough guy’s version of the purse: a bag that you sling over your shoulder or across your body that comes in different sizes and styles to accommodate your needs.
The right messenger bag for you depends on what you plan to carry around (a laptop, iPad, book, gym clothes?) and where you’re heading (to work or a coffee shop?). Ahead, we did the research on the styles and materials for different use case scenarios. Here’s what made our list of the best messenger bags for guys, including our top pick, Chrome’s Citizen, and a budget-friendly alternative from Timbuk2.
What To Consider When Buying A Men’s Messenger Bag
What You’ll Put In It
Not all messenger bags are created equally so before investing in one just because it looks cool, spend some time thinking about what you’ll actually carry. Will you be stashing lots of small items like headphones, caribeners or keys that require lots of pockets? Do you need at least one or some of those pockets to be located on the outside of the bag for easy access? Is a button pocket sufficient or would small keys or coins be more secure in a zipped pocket?
Even if there’s space to throw your laptop into the main compartment, it may be easier to keep your bag organized (and find what you need) if there’s a separate laptop sleeve. Will you carry this bag in all weather? If so, you may want to consider a water-resistant or waterproof bag.
How You’ll Use It
Some of the best men’s messenger bags are multipurpose, so they’ll work well for a quick meeting at the coffee shop, a full-day at the office or even a post-work gym run. However, other men’s messenger bags are better suited for one particular purpose. For instance, while our top overall pick, the Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag, is great for a variety of needs, the brand specializes in hardcord bags for bike messengers. As such, the style and aesthetic of this bag isn’t especially well-suited to the boardroom. Similarly, while the Pacsafe Metrosafe Anti-Theft Bag has a comfortable sling that makes it a nice travel bag, the strap wasn’t designed for biking so it wouldn’t fit comfortably around your torso while riding.
How You’ll Wear It
You might really love one particular way of wearing your messenger bag—say, slung over your shoulder, hung down by your hip or over your upper back like a backpack. However, if you’re the type of person who likes to switch things up, you may appreciate a messenger bag that can be worn, held or carried multiple ways. Keep in mind that even if you usually sling a bag over your shoulder, it may be convenient to have an extended strap to wear it over your hip and also have a carrying handle for travel. A supportive chest strap may also make the bag more comfortable if you’ll be wearing it over long periods.
Your Body Type
If you have especially broad shoulders and want to sling your messenger bag across your body, you’re going to want to make sure the strap is long enough that you can do so comfortably without struggling to get your head and arm through. Similarly, if the messenger bag has a front strap that you’d like to attach for support, you’ll want to make sure that it’s wide enough for your chest since some run on the shorter side.
What’s The Difference Between A Messenger And Briefcase-Style Bag?
Although both are often referred to as messenger bags, they’re actually two styles that serve different purposes. Essentially, both messenger-style and briefcase-style “messenger bags” are a manly version of a purse, or an oversized bag with a single, cross-body strap.
The main differences are in the details like the design of the back panel, clasps and pockets. Messenger bags tend to sit high on the back (as opposed to lower on the hip) so they can be worn on a bike for long periods of time, and tend to fit a large amount of items, including bulky things. For that reason, messenger-style bags prioritize comfort, stability and streamlined pockets. Messenger-style bags also have quick-release buckles instead of finicky buttons, clasps or straps so you can access items quickly on the go.
On the other hand, briefcase-style bags tend to have more rigid back panels, built-in laptop sleeves, more storage compartments for small items and top-grab handles that are useful when walking with the bag. These straps are designed for walking (not biking) and they are most comfortable resting lower on the back or hip.
Does A Messenger Bag Need To Be Waterproof?
If you’re using your messenger bag like an actual messenger, then, yes, it needs to be waterproof since you may find yourself riding in the rain. Or, even if you’ll only be walking with your messenger bag but you tend to walk a lot (say, you live in a commuter-friendly area like New York City or Chicago) and you need to ensure your laptop, headphones, wallet and other important items stay dry, then you’ll want to invest in a waterproof bag.
While many briefcase-style messenger bags are high-quality and well-designed, because they are more intended for casual or office use and have more of an emphasis on style and fashion, they are less likely to be waterproof. If you think you may find yourself in light rain for brief periods, a water-resistant messenger bag would probably be sufficient but it would not be suitable in a downpour. If you usually just walk from your house to your driveway then from your car into the office, water-resistance may not even be an issue.
What Bag Features Are Most Important?
Well, that depends how you’re going to use it. Many proper bike messenger bags come with bike-friendly features like reflective straps, which are essential if you’re biking through the street but may not be necessary if you usually drive.
Similarly, stabilizing and chest-support straps are not always included in messenger bags but help distribute the weight if you tend to carry a heavy bag or if you suffer from neck, shoulder or back pain. Messenger bas don’t typically come with waist support straps but if that’s the sort of support you need, you may want to prioritize finding a bag with one, even if it means getting a proper backpack instead.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
As writers and researchers, the Forbes Vetted team has tested and published many men’s fashion articles on everything from the best wallets to the most comfortable dress shoes to the best suits. As consumers, we have high standards about what we buy and how we shop, and we like to think our readers benefit from our pickiness and obsessive tendencies.
Based on our knowledge of the fashion space, which includes testing out many trusted brands and top products, we pinpointed the best messenger bags for men, depending on a variety of different needs in terms of sizes, materials and styles. This story is regularly updated for accuracy and was last edited in June 2023.
How We Choose The Best Messenger Bags For Men
To select the messenger bags on this list, we looked at dozens of firsthand customer reviews, checked out prices and considered how each model would comfortable store and organize one’s belongings to ultimately determine which bags were the best investments.
Durability was also a top priority; you want to hold onto a messenger bag for a few years, so we prioritized high-quality materials, such as leather and waterproof PVC polyester, and also checked for resilient hardware, including buckles and adjustable straps. Price was another consideration; you shouldn’t have to overspend to find a sophisticated, stylish messenger bag. Instead, we located a range of options that work with all budgets (small or large), from the affordable Timbuk2 Classic Messenger to the higher-end Shinola Computer Brief. Finally, we made sure all of the bags were available from trusted retailers with good return policies, so you can try out these messenger bags risk-free in order to make the best purchase for your needs.