What’s in a work bag? A lot of things, including a message about your personality


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The modern woman has spoken, and she really can’t be weighed down any longer by the accumulation of S’well bottles, journals, or a packed lunch. In what’s perhaps the most functional throwback trend ever, backpacks are officially…back. According to market-research firm NPD, sales for the posture-improving carryall have shot up 28 percent this year, with proponents citing comfort as a main impetus (in conjunction with the rise in ubiquity of sneakers, athleisure, and the general pilgrimage toward self care).

Of course, not everyone is ready to re-embrace the trend, back-to-school-style. I, for one, still come into the office every morning with a raw-red shoulder indent. Hey, old habits die hard, and I tend to live and breathe symbols of hyperfemininity, even when they’re problematic—like a classic shoulder bag that might as well be full of heavy stones, weighing me down and keeping me from reaching any ceilings including glass ones. (I know, I know, backpack offerings have expanded since the days of those monogrammed L.L. Bean numbers—and if anyone wants to gift me a sleek Gucci model, I’ll wear it. Until then, let me and my sore shoulder live.)

But I digress. Amid this transitional period of the backpack renaissance, I looked around my own office and saw a veritable buffet of carryall options. On the continuum between my old-guard staple and styles so minimalist they could make Marie Kondo break out in song and dance, I quickly realized how many varieties exist. So, what does the bag you bring to work say about you?

Check out what 13 bags for work say about your personality.

What different bags for work say about your personality
Photo: Getty Images/Gabriella Szabo-EyeEm

1. Full-size backpack

You’re super ahead of the curve, my girl. If you’re kicking it old-school with a backpack, you’re practical, ambitious, and probably have to walk or at least be standing at some point along your commute to work. Alternatively: This is the most efficient way to be prepared for long weekends at your partner’s place since it provides room for your laptop, packed lunch, and several changes of clothes.

2. Mini backpack

At some point in college, you had a nostalgia-saturated Tumblr that has now given way to a nostalgia-saturated Pinterest account. You’re into fast fashion, are very hip, very young at heart, and very much can pull out quotes from Clueless like a rabbit from a top hat. You may or may not also visit Disney or attend Coachella (or BOTH?) annually.

3. Small, cross-body flap bag

You are poised, confident, and have artfully managed to streamline your life to only the essentials. You are a true adult. Or, you’re about four seconds away from throwing out this bag and getting something more manageable.

4. Gigantic leather bag with Hermes aspirations

I don’t have strong opinions on leather one way or another so don’t @ me over this, but this is the kind of giant bag that makes you think, “Wow, a whole herd of cattle died so you could carry 4,000 Glossier products?” Basically, you have a ton of stuff, and while the inside of the bag might be a graveyard of crushed sugar packets and open lipstick tubes, the outside makes you look ritzy AF. And you’re totally cool with that.

5. Gym bag

Your office has a lax dress code, and given that you come into work wearing yoga pants more mornings than not, you’re into that. Fitness is pretty paramount to your self-care routine, whether that means waking up for that 6 a.m. Pilates class or hightailing it out of the office EOD to hit the treadmill before a dinner date. You own one, maybe two small purses for events like weddings and, uh, anything that you may do on the weekend, yet it always feels weird not having a little weight looped around your arm.

6. Messenger bag

There’s a good chance you’re a freelance worker, since a messenger bag feels right at home, first and foremost, in any Starbucks. This Seth Cohen power lewk from the early aughts might well have gotten a style update, but the subtext is still, “I own many Moleskines and, yes, I’m still working on my screenplay.”

7. Clear bag

Bonus points if it’s neon and also a mini backpack, because nothing could scream “I miss 1999” more clearly—and that’s very sweet. Unlike canvas tote-bag carriers, you’re a little more, um, recklessly trusting versus chill and trusting.  Just don’t let your credit cards float around in there, willy nilly.

8. Canvas tote with a cute design

You definitely have a laid-back personality, trusting the universe to not peer into your zipperless bag. Or maybe you just have nothing to hide. You either have four very specific things in there or it’s a virtual clutter fest of things you’d never need day-to-day (also an EOS lip balm, always an EOS lip balm). You live off Trader Joe’s frozen food and love the idea of going to a farmers’ market, but whether you’ll actually make it to the latter this year is 40/60.

9. Fanny pack

You are an influencer. Nobody with a desk job could walk around with a bag that could only fit half a tampon and your cell phone (wallet is optional). Likewise, nobody who isn’t boasting a well-cultivated, bronzed-up level of hotness could pull off something that my mom wore in 1996 to hold animal crackers.  No judgment to any of this! Just don’t get weird and start calling it a “belt bag.”

10. Wristlet

This one isn’t about size so much as it’s about you divorcing yourself from a larger bag. Chances are, you do keep your wristlet in something a little heartier, but you’re constantly running errands and need something small on hand (you know, to grab coffee, pick up dry cleaning, walk dogs (yours or otherwise)). My read is that you’re possibly in that phase of your life when you only have someone else’s company credit card and a dream.

11. Structured Kate Spade tote

You love a statement color and are still working to get over the imposter syndrome you’ve had since you were a 22-year-old intern. Also, you’re me!

12. Used paper bag from Whole Foods

I just really hope you get the help you need.

13. A dress with pockets

You are free.

Learn how millennials are embracing ultra-luxe accessible fashion. Then learn which style trends you need to get on this spring (hint: one bubbly color is everything). 

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