The Big Debate: Are handbags better than shoes?

Miss Victoria has two stunning accessories on hand

Now and again I like to think outside the shoe box. I am all in favour of being slowly seduced by leather accessories other than shoes but handbags have never done it for me. Even these handbags.

The reason is, of course, that I know very very little about handbags. I have about 4 leather Leo Monk handbags with varying amounts of crud and children’s toys at the bottom. I like them particularly because they are large enough to accomodate a pair of stilettos, my yoga gear, reading materials and my lunch. One of them will more or less go with each pair of shoes that I own.  For me the shoes are the star of the show.

So when @SeraphimSP proclaimed strenuously that handbags are better than shoes I was intrigued rather than militant. I asked her to convince me why.  Here is her presentation of the First Affirmative Constructive as debating folk would say.

Why handbags are better than shoes.

There is nothing like the throwing down of the proverbial gauntlet to make me rise to a challenge. There is a school of thought that dictates that women usually fall into one of two categories; they are either shoe or handbag women. In fairness, I will say there are those who elegantly straddle this divide in killer stilettos, with their magnificent designer clutch delicately held in their beautifully manicured hands.

I am not one of those women, though I have often wistfully wished I were.

Firstly, I have hideous looking feet. Disfigured by bunions and no arches they are not things of beauty. They are however, very useful for getting me from A to B, so please do not think me ungrateful. My feet and I have long since agreed to live in harmony with each other. I cover them up to protect them from public derision, and in return they get me where I need to go.

But like many women to whom strappy, elegant shoes are out of reach, my love lies elsewhere. I cannot say if it is because of my inability to wear beautiful footwear that was the catalyst for my love of handbags, or if it is a genetic condition passed to me by my mother who is also a lover of handbags. But there it is.

I am of the school of thought that believes handbags are better than shoes.


Everyone can wear them irrespective of your foot status, whether they are ones foot fetishists weep tears of unadulterated joy over, or shrink in horror at the sight of.

In addition they come in all shapes and sizes and seasons. And handbags are not worn according to the dictates of the seasons. No, a handbag can be worn proudly regardless of the inclement weather. Pouring with rain? Your strappy sandals are off the menu, but your handbag? The insanely impractical one that you are still in the throes of infatuation with? It can come out with you dangling proudly at your side, while the strappy sandals languish in their carefully labeled perspex box at home.

Handbags are aspirational objects in a way shoes aren’t. One of my not so guilty pleasures is visiting my favourite handbag website, and reading the lovingly worded descriptions of the bags I covet. I read the words “In black patent leather with rose gold turnlock signature hardware, for a feminine touch which combines function and form with glamour, giving optimal space and easy access to your valuables” and I am transported instantly to a world of glamour and beauty. If I were to read a description of a shoe on a website my immediate thoughts would be mournful at my inability to wear said shoe and an insatiable urge to click away from the site. But handbags? Well anyone can wear one.

In truth, this particular object of beauty is in my hallway right now exemplifying that if one is aspirational (and thank God Mimco does laybys) then anything is possible.

And that my friends is true, but only of handbags. Not shoes sadly.


So, if someone offered you the gift of Christian Louboutin, right now, price no object what would you choose?

The shoes...

or the bag?

Christian Louboutin Red Satin Clutch

26 thoughts on “The Big Debate: Are handbags better than shoes?

  1. Sorry, I’m with @Gabfran on this one. It’s rare to find a nice looking, comfortable, functional, affordable handbag… And when you do, it’s useless because it doesn’t match your outfit anyway.

  2. The shoes! The shoes! Of course, the shoes!
    I will admit that the handbag is cute, but the strut that goes with those towering, red, sparkly shoes simply wins hands down over a floppy little bag hanging limply by your side.

  3. The bag! I have size 11 wide feet with wide calves – shoes dont fit and if they do it is purely functional. But a bag is in your line of sight and are just soo purdy!
    I am a HUGE spencer and rutherford fan 🙂

  4. Ok, I have to confess, I love both shoes AND bags. Can’t live without either. And would drool (ok not literally) at either if I find that I’ve fallen in love with the design. On saying that though, it’s easier for me to design and make a handbag to suit an outfit than for me to make a pair of shoes. That’s if I can’t find one in the shops to suit it. But I would always have to spend $ on shoes that I purchase to suit an outfit…but then might never get to wear again. So on practically – I choose handbags. 🙂

  5. Those red shoes are devine. I have such a thing for red which I thought might be a passing thing, but it appears not. I have a red purse (a beige handbag) but my fav shoes are red. And I’m not the kind of zany person who should be wearing Red.

    So, all in all, I think although you made a compelling argument, I have to go with Gabfran, shoes over handbags. 🙂

  6. The bag every single time!

    I am NOT a high heel type of gal, I own one pair and have had this one pair for a year and I bought them with the thinking of…”I should start to wear girly shoes”….I’m yet to wear them.

    I do however have around 12 handbags and that’s only because I’ve culled them.

    I used to buy a new bag every month or so.

    It doesn’t have to be expensive – in fact I don’t believe that I’ve ever spent more than $50 on a bag but they DO have to “speak” to me. I’m picky about my bags but I couldn’t tell you what it is exactly about a certain bag that I like – it’s just something.

    My favourite at the minute is a $20 canvas bag I picked up from K’mart it’s just “me” at the minute!!

    So yes, I’ll happily walk around in my flat shoes all comfy like while I let my handbag be in the spotlight.

  7. I TOTALLY agree with Seraphim. Whilst I have a soft spot for shoes…well, boots to be precise, a great handbag lasts a lot longer (fashion wise) and they can be bought online. I would never buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. Anyone who is friends with me on Twitter knows of my recent online handbag purchase. Bags that I’ve spent a fortune on are still being used, but frightfully expensive shoes can be (and have been) worn once, only to find they are SO uncomfortable, if I have them on for 5 more minutes, I’d never be able to use my feet again.

    N x

  8. confession: guy’s opinion.

    I would have to say shoes win.

    While a bag can look pretty darn spiffy, yes I said spiffy, and women will go to some amazing lengths to get “that” bag, the number of women who wear shoes that are too small and cause pain all in the name of looking… well WOW, has to tell you there is something about shoes, right?

    Everyone can find a bag, but not everyone can find “that” pair of shoes. Doesn’t that make them special? it’d be like me saying I can have one of these generic toyotas or an expensive ferrari that I won’t fit in very well and is difficult to drive but looks fantastic. Surely I’d pick the fantastic over the generic?? wouldn’t you?

    And I could make a point about being in the nud, would you rather see a woman in a pair of stellar shoes or with a bag. But I don’t think I need to go there. even though I kind of did.

    So there you go, my view. Shoes FTW

  9. Well, I do love shoes (esp boots) but I don’t get on well with heels and so I often just feel disappointed when I buy nice shoes and then find myself unable to wear them…

    However, bags are a different story – it’s a much more involved relationship. Is the bag comfortable on your shoulder? Are there lots of useful pockets for all my stuff? Does it feel good when you are walking around? Can you wear it across the body? I have sometimes had handbag disasters/disappointments, but nothing compares to the letdown that a pair of heels can deliver, after I’ve realised that I wasted the money because I am really not a high heel chick. And sometimes I have really fantastic successes with handbags – my brother bought me one in Selfridges 5 years ago, and it’s still going happily. People comment on it all the time, and I love everything about it… But that’s probably the same with shoes – there are some that are amazing and will guarantee comments and happiness whenever I wear them. So maybe I’d like to choose SOME bags and SOME shoes – the trick is just knowing which ones.

  10. Handbags, or in my case, backpacks beat shoes every time. I often dream of the perfect backpack, including of course the perfect contents. An iPad or MBP? A leatherman or Swiss army knife? A ratchet Allen key set or a mini screwdrivers? How will the helmet and bike chain fit in? Do they belong? What about train tickets or the mobile?

    Will the backpack have just one strap? Or should it be an over the shoulder type deal? So many options…

    Sigh… What do shoes have to offer? Nothing, that’s what.

    SeraphimSP for the win.

  11. I am shocked this is even a question. Shoes. Clearly.

    And I don’t buy the argument @SeraphimSP makes because I have hideous, wide, bunion-y, tough-skinned feet and I absolutely adore shoes, particularly high heels. I especially love bright shiny colourful heels that make me smile every time I look down.

    And Daryl has a point – ok, yes about the nude thing, but mainly about the buzz of finding *that* pair of shoes. How can you not get a kick out of hunting down a fabulously unique pair that are also so comfortable you could run in them?

    Oh, and a bag has never made ones legs look fabulous.

  12. For me there is no question. Bags are best.

    Among my most treasured possessions are two bags individually designed and handcrafted by a dear friend, a textile artist (who, right now, is dying). They are not ordinary bags: first she collected retro textiles, and then she collected the retro buckles and other shiny (or patinaed) things to detail them with, and then designed them with different kinds of inspiration in mind – Victorian, Art Deco, or just a very useful yet beautiful bag. She began to sell on Etsy – and I did her banner design and avatar, because that’s the kind of thing I can do.

    That special kind of sharing puts bags way ahead for me.

    • Oh Pam – that is a sad and wonderful comment. I would love to see your friend’s work as I am sure would the other Bag Gals. Would you mind posting a link to her Etsy page here?

      • My friend died the morning after my comment above, and had closed her Etsy store a couple of months before that. (Someone elsewhere has already swiped her brand.) I will photograph my two bags, and will try to obtain one of the art deco bags to photograph too, because they are really stylish. The photos hopefully will be on Flickr at some stage soon. I will let you know.

  13. definitely both… i like my gucci shoes AND my gucci bag. why settle for one when you can have both? they are like peas and carrots, they are made for each other.

  14. Maybe I am not a female after all? For me I couldn’t care less about shoes or bags. My current shoes are a pair of black slip ons. My bag is a baby bag (albeit made by my gorgeous friend and it is very cute, but still a baby bag).

    But given the option of the above two? Shoes for sure. I would never wear them anywhere. But I would smile when I got them out of the box to stroke them.

    The bag does nothing for me.

    So, I am not a shoe or bag lady. But I do love hats. So can I enter a vote for hats?? hats make me swoon.

  15. This is a tough question for me to pick a side for. In reality I don’t own many shoes or bags. While I love shoes I tend to have an ability to hurt myself while wearing the most stunning of heels and at the end of the day I’d have to say I mght just be on the bag side though I go less for style and more for ability to hold the essentials and try to suit whatever occasion presents itself.

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