Types of Shoulder Bags

Carry your laptop or school books in a shoulder bag.
Carry your laptop or school books in a shoulder bag. (Image: Aidon/Photodisc/Getty Images)

If you need to carry more items than you can fit in your pocket, a shoulder bag provides room to store your goods. Shoulder bags, more stylish than backpacks, come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and materials. Unlike backpacks, shoulder bags look fashionable with most outfits.

Large Purses

Many larger women's purses have straps large enough to make them shoulder bags. The hobo bag, typically shaped like a crescent moon attached to a square, offers a bohemian look. These bags are often made of cotton or canvas and contain earth tones and fabric patterns. The barrel bag, shaped like a cylinder, uses one or two long shoulder straps. Many designer purses use the barrel bag shape. Many large bags are called tote bags -- very large, often rectangular bags with two medium-sized shoulder straps. Satchels, a close cousin of the tote bag, are longer than they are wide. These bags are available in purse and luggage style.

Small Purses

A flat bag, small and often square, uses two shoulder straps and fits a moderate amount of items. Pouch bags are typically small purses attached to a very long strap. These bags can be worn over one shoulder or over the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. Typically, pouch bags hang around the hip. Flap-enclosure bags are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and provide extra security with a clasp, key, snap or fastener flap enclosure.


Though many people utilize rolling luggage to spare their back and shoulders the discomfort of a heavy bag, others use a shoulder bag for their luggage solution. Sometimes called a holdall, these bags provide just enough room for two or three days of clothing and personal items. Many bags use two straps that allow you to sling the bag over the shoulder, while other holdalls offer one long strap. Though these bags are most commonly made of leather, they are also available in canvas, water-resistant polyester or canvas. Most of them bags are small enough to use as a carry-on during airplane flights but they may not fit the size requirements if you stuff them with items.

Messenger Bag

Messenger bags have a large, rectangular pouch and one long strap. Traditionally, you wear a messenger bag with pouch on one side of your body and the strap around your opposite shoulder. This helps distribute the weight of the bag across your body. Often made of canvas or leather, these bags look casual and are often worn by students or messengers. The newsboy bag, similar to the messenger bag, is made of canvas and typically found in earth tones.

Camera Bag

Many bags designed for carrying camera equipment utilize a long strap. These rectangular bags are most often found in black and contain several pockets and pouches for storing your camera equipment. Typically, a zipper keeps the pouches of the camera bag safe. If you carry a camera bag, people may assume you are a photographer or tourist. Some camera bags are longer than they are wide, while other camera bags are shaped more like holdalls.

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