Holdalls in Fashion

For business trips or a weekends away, all the way to gym day a Holdalls style bag is a portable pleasure.

What is a Holdalls?

The definition of a holdall bag is the size and shape, usually a holdall is larger than average and often in a cylindrical shape. A holdall bag is used to transport many items at once, hence why they are often called weekender bags, duffle bags or even gym bags. Traditionally duffel bags were made from cloth or canvas and has a drawstring closure, however, nowadays the term is more generally used to describe a much larger bag that is soft sided and normally has a zip top closure.

Typically, a holdall bag will have two shoulder straps that make it easy to just grab and go, more often a holdall will also come with an adjustable removable cross-body strap so you can wear your weekend bag hands free. The cross-body strap also makes weight distribution easier.

In more recent years the holdall design has developed into many different styles not just the more traditional duffle bag shape but now there’s an option for many holdalls to be slightly more structured and some even have the option to come with wheels so you can pull your weekend bag rather than carry it. This change in design makes the holdall bag a popular travel bag choice.

Duffel Bag or Duffle Bag?

Earlier we listed several other terms that are used when referencing the holdall bag- weekender bag, gym bag and the duffle bag. There is some confusion over the correct spelling of duffle bag and whether it is actually duffel bag.

The original spelling of the word is duffle bag, however since the Second World War, there was an English corruption of the word, which made more people spell the term as duffel. The terms duffel bag and duffle bag are both still used; however, you are more likely to see it written as duffel bag.

Where did Holdalls Originate?

The term holdall is relatively new, in fact it was the term duffel bag that was originally used. The term duffel or duffle dates to the 16th century and stood for ‘a coarse woollen cloth’. The cloth, material that the duffle bags were originally used from was favourite by sailors to make their bags because it was so durable and more fashionable.

The duffle material originated from Belgium and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it reached America and Britain. The first reference of the term duffle or duffel bag heard was during the first world war, an ambulance driver wrote a letter and referenced the duffle bag, it was also heard again in the popular war song ‘Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag’.

The holdall / duffle bag was popular in the war because of the size – it was large enough to fit everything you could possibly need, handles – made it easy to carry and transport and the material – was durable. Comfortable and easy to fold away when not in use. By the end of the war, everyone across Britain and America were able to purchase the duffel bag. Soon the style that was used by the military became a popular gym bag or sports bag for those that had a love of exercise.

Overtime designers have seen the potential in holdall style bags and have made many different adaptations using different materials, stronger handles and many different style and colour options. These changes and updates have increased the holdall bags popularity amongst those would are after a practical yet stylish bag. Many brands now have multiple different holdall bag styles, weekender bags, duffel bags and gym bags.

Holdall Bag Trends and Fun Holdall Bag Facts

Holdalls (known originally as duffel bags) were first used in the military by soldiers.

There are many different types of holdalls- gym bags, travel bags, duffle bags or duffel bags and weekend bags.

The popularity of the holdall bag is because of many reasons but the flexible material they are traditionally made of is a big bonus. The fact that they are expandable and soft material mean a lot can fit inside but also after use the bag can be flat packed away.

Companies soon realised the potential of the holdall and soon after the way designers were creating their own versions. The bag is very popular because of it’s multi-functional use, the perfect size for travelling and use as a weekend bag.

The holdall bag is popular amongst both women and men as they are able to carry all their belongings when travelling. The holdall or weekend bag is a popular option to be used as cabin luggage because of it’s soft material making it easy to be squashed down and comply with strict airline regulations.

One of the most popular holdall styles is the gym bag or sports bag. The reason for this is the spacious interior which allow for whole sport kits and trainers plus any smaller equipment to be carried all at once. Although gym bags and sports bag are slightly larger, they are able to be squished down and then fit inside the gym lockers.

More recently the holdall has been popular as a work bag again the reason for this is the space and style which make transporting everything place to place easy.

Radley Holdalls for Women

Pocket Essentials- Large Zip-Top Tote Bag
The Pocket tote is a lightweight spacious interior has the ability to fit all your essentials, day to day and more. The soft water-resistant material allows the bag to move with you and fit in spaces when you need.

Cable Street- Large Zip-Top Tote Bag
The Cable Street Holdall makes for the perfect gym bag, weekend bag and even just as an everyday spacious bag. The soft nylon fabric allow it to fit into any space you might need and the grab and go handles plus the detachable oversized straps make it incredibly easy to transport everywhere. This Gym Bag is only made better by the multiple compartments which enable you to stay organised.

Radley Holdalls for Men

Cannon Street- Large Zip-Top Holdall
If carry-on suitcases or sportswear holdalls aren’t your style, pack up your weekend-away belongings in the Cannon Street men’s holdall. Instead of the classic men’s black leather holdall however, the Radley design team conceptualised an Ink Blue fabric finish that’s just as timeless but softer on the eye and to the touch. Use the sturdy strap to spread the weight across your body and to make it effortless to transport wherever your travels take you.

Redchurch Street- Large Flapover Backpack
Redchurch Street is a collection of men’s canvas bags with East London’s urban pulse at its core. Every accessory will punctuate an outfit with effortless edge, cue this backpack for men – the ultimate in modern utility. Thanks to its crisp canvas finish and slick black accents, it corresponds to the daily grind instead of your regular office wardrobe or work it at weekends whenever you’re on the move.

Different Types of Holdalls

Basic Holdall


A basic holdall is one of the most reasonable selections for a travel bag. They are usually large in size, soft-sided, strong, simple and lightweight. The basic holdall will have two parallel shoulder straps to carry, however, you may also find some that will also have two grab handles attached so it can be carried by hand, and some will have a detachable cross-body strap, allowing you to carry the bag hands-free.

Wheeled Holdall


This type of holdall is likely to be slightly bigger than a basic holdall. It is designed more for travel purposes, so that you can fit more into it. This holdall has two or four wheels at the base of the bag, and a telescopic handle so that it can easily be pulled along. A wheeled holdall is still going to be soft sided, however, it is likely to be more structured so that it is easier to pull along.

Backpack Holdall


This is very similar to a basic holdall in the sense that it is large in size, soft-sided, strong simple and lightweight. However, instead of having shoulder straps, cross-body straps and grab handles, it has two straps attached to the base of the bag so that it can be worn on your back. The reason for this is to make them safe and easier to carry around airports and train stations.

How to choose the right Holdall for you

What are you using it for?


If you are wanting to use a holdall for work the it is better to go for one that is slightly smaller and has thick shoulder straps. This is because you are not likely to need to carry as much to work as you would if you were after a bag for travelling. Also, the bag is likely to be heavier with papers and laptops needing to be carried, which is why it is important your work bag has a thicker strap.

Leather is also a smarter looking material, so would be good to choose a leather bag if you have a corporate job. On the other canvas material is much more casual and would be perfect to hold shopping or work well as a weekend bag.

How much will you need to put in it?


The more you need to put in your holdall bag the larger it will need to be. If your bag is going to be heavy, it’s always better to go for a holdall which has a thick shoulder strap on it, or a holdall with backpack straps on it. This is because it will be much more comfortable to carry, and the weight of the bag will be distributed more evenly across your shoulders and be a lot comfier for you.

Are you taking it on an airline?


All airlines and trains will have specific dimensions regarding the size of the bag you are allowed to take onto it as carry-on luggage. So, make sure that you check the allowed size of bag before you buy the bag so that you can be sure that it will be accepted onto the plane or train.

Try it on


Take what you will carry in the holdall with you and try it out with everything inside. That way you can see how heavy the bag will be when you are carrying it. You will also be able to work out if it is a comfortable fit on you.

Where are you taking it?


If you’re going to have your holdall outside, it would be better to go for one that is made of a waterproof or water-resistant material to protect it from rain or snow. Occasion wise, leather generally looks smarter than other materials, however you can get a non-leather bag that looks smart if you are looking for a work bag.

How to Wear a Holdall

A typical holdall will have two shoulder straps. The best way is to put both straps over your shoulder and carry your holdall under your arm.

If the bag has a cross-body strap, then hook the long strap over your shoulder so that the bag sits comfortably in front of your waist, adjust the strap so that the bag is the right length for you and do not put too much weight into the bag to reduce the result of any neck or shoulder pain.

If the bag has backpack straps, then always wear both straps on your shoulders to prevent any pain to your back and shoulders and adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack is high on your back. Your backpack should weigh less than 10% of your body weight, but, you should never carry a backpack that weighs more that 20%.

If the bag has wheels, then pull up the telescopic handle and pull the bag alongside yourself.

Athleisure Holdalls, Travel Holdalls and Business / Work Holdalls

Holdalls for Athleisure


Another common name for holdalls are gym bags, as they are a very popular style of bag to take with you to the gym or to use as a sports bag at matches. These gym bags are good for this type of thing because of the size of them and how easy they are to transport from one place to the next. They are also spacious, meaning that they can hold everything from gym clothes, to trainers, to bottles of water and items, such as shampoo and deodorant. Although they are large bags, they can also usually fit into lockers at the gym, which is very convenient.

Holdalls for Travel


Many people have opted to using holdalls when they travel, both as hold luggage, cabin luggage and also if they are travelling on transport other than planes. However, it is a very popular bag for cabin luggage, as it is soft sided, meaning that it can be squashed down to meet the required airline baggage restrictions. The downside to this, however, is that the contents of the bag may also become squashed and creased. Overall, a holdall is both a versatile and stylish way to pack your luggage when travelling.

Holdalls for Business / Work Holdalls


Men often favour using a holdall for business. This is because they are large enough to store laptops and files in them, and also many of them are designed with protective sleeves and pockets for technology and other important items that you may need for work. Leather holdalls also offer durability and style, which is something that is important to many businessmen. However, the biggest factor as to why they are good work bags, is how easy they are to transport.