What is the Difference between a Handbag and a Shoulder Bag?

A handbag and a shoulder bag

Bag lovers, at a time in their life, might have wondered about the difference between a handbag and a shoulder bag. It can be confusing to differentiate them because sometimes a handbag can be a shoulder bag and vice versa. People use their bags to carry their things when going to work, shopping, outings and travelling. They have straps for hanging them on the shoulder, and they also have handles for holding them with your hands. Handbags and shoulder bags are both bags so you should expect lots of commonalities from them. 

The Difference between a Handbag and a Shoulder Bag


Difference between a handbag and a shoulder bag

A handbag is a type of bag that people use to carry their belongings. It fits for both formal and casual settings. People carry a handbag when going to places such as work, special occasions, shopping, casual outings, and travelling. Both men and women use the handbag, but it is more of a woman’s bag than man. Women use their handbags to keep things like lipsticks, make-up, keys, credit cards and smartphones. A handbag can have either one or two straps, depending on the design. The straps can be either long or short, and they are in a fixed position. Some handbags have adjustable straps. They can use either leather or chain, in making the straps.

Producers use different materials in making handbags; some of these materials are leather, canvas and cotton. Handbags come in different sizes depending on its function. Handbags for shopping like a tote, are usually large enough to carry things in them. The ones for special occasions are usually small but stylish in design. Office handbags are structured and big enough to fit items such as a tablet device, in them.

Some Types of Handbags

Clutch Handbag

The clutch handbag is small and stylish in appearance. This handbag is a woman’s bag. Women love this handbag because it makes them look classy when they carry it to an event. They carry it with different outfits for special occasions such as weddings, evening dates and parties. Women hold the clutch handbag in their hand because some clutch does not come with a strap or a handle. 

Bowler handbag

The bowler bag is a medium-size handbag with a dome shape at the top. It has short handles at the top, and the two handles have clips so that you can hold them together comfortably. The bowler bag does not have a strap.


The minaudiere is a small handbag with a stylish look. It has precious stones like crystals and gems, all over its body. Women carry this handbag to look classy. They take this bag to special occasions like dinners, weddings, even dates, and after-parties. Some minaudiere comes with a strap usually of a chain.

Shoulder Bag

Difference between a handbag and a shoulder bag

A shoulder bag is a type of bag with a long strap so that you can hang it on your shoulder. The strap of a shoulder bag is fixed, and cannot be adjusted. Depending on the type, a shoulder bag can have zips and pockets both inside and outside of it. Both men and women use the shoulder bag, although there are different designs for both genders. Women use the bag as fashion accessories, and to keep their things when going out. A shoulder bag is a big bag that can carry essential items for everyday use. The bag is fitting for both formal and informal settings.

Some Types of Shoulder Bags

Hobo Bag

The hobo bag is an unstructured shoulder bag that women use to carry their things when going out. They also use this bag as fashion accessories. The bag is large. It also has a strap that is long enough to hang around the shoulder. The hobo bag is a slouchy and crescent-shaped shoulder bag.

Bucket Bag

The bucket bag is a bag with a bucket shape, and also a flat bottom. It is a medium-size handbag. It has long straps making it easy and comfortable to hang it around your shoulder. The bag is fit for both formal and casual outfits, depending on the design. You can classify this bag as a shoulder bag.

Tote Bag

A tote bag fits into different categories of bags. You can also call it a shoulder bag. It is rectangular and large enough to contain many things, such as your groceries. The tote bag is suitable for various purposes, including work, shopping, travelling, and casual outings. It is a strong bag made with either leather, canvas, or other strong materials. A tote bag can be a zipped or open-top type, and it can also be structured or unstructured.


The difference between a handbag and a shoulder bag is in their strap designs. A handbag has a short handle and strap, while a shoulder bag has a long handle to hang it around the shoulder.