In the recent past, there was only one consideration for choosing a good diaper bag: with or without yellow duckies? Thanks in part to the boon of celebrity babies, style has finally caught up with parenting gear.
But the birth of the designer diaper bag is not merely an idle fad. Looking deeper into the metamorphosis of diaper bags from burlap sacks to high-end designer accessories, I have found that the root of the change is the shifting gender profile of both women and men.
Consider this: because diaper bags used to only be made for women, baby-toting fathers were forced to shirk around in public with flowery-looking gear. Not today; fathers are no longer chided for helping take care of their babies; they’re celebrated for helping out.
My evidence is that many Hollywood fathers — the most visible and influential examples of modern masculinity — have been seen carrying diaper bags, including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and David Arquette.
The diaper bags these men are toting are rugged in design, or gender-neutral. Popular styles now include camouflage, dark colors, black leather, and even designs made from recycled materials like old tires or seatbelts! Watch men’s designer diaper bags in the near future; they’re booming not just because of celebrity fad but because of a changing sense of what it means to be a man. In a word: Daddy-spice.
Designer Diaper Bags and Feminism
Another piece of the puzzle about this curious style transformation is that attitudes about carrying diaper bags to work have softened in recent years. After all, 72% of American mothers now work outside the home. In response to the upsurge of working mothers, many diaper bags resemble attaché cases as well as purses.
Corporate culture no longer frowns upon childcare realities like it did a generation ago. Sleek and “no-nonsense” diaper bags help working moms blend their child-rearing duties with their office responsibilities. Also, with flex-time schedules being more common in the workplace, mothers are more free to trade off the baby gear with their partners at the office.
In my opinion, the increased visibility of working mothers has directly led to the fresh look for diaper bags. Certainly, the new culture of working moms means no longer shaving to hide the frumpy and neon-colored diaper bag in the corner. The wide choice of diaper bags now available at the local department store can also be seen as one of the unintended fruits of feminism. Who knew that the women’s movement would spell the demise of yellow duckies?
So, next time your are distraught over all the choices in designer diaper bags, consider that the diaper bag is a cultural artifact that is reflecting changes in the social construction of gender. Maybe it won’t help with the ultimate decision (a sleek handheld or maybe recycled camo?) but it may empower you to join the cultural creators.
Think I’m being coy? Look how Brad Pitt is using his celebrity status these days. He’s saving the world, one designer diaper bag at a time.
This article is free to be reproduced, but only in its entirety. Copywrite (c) 2007 Barbara Garrison