What is a Hobo Bag?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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The hobo bag is a handbag or purse carried over the shoulder with a single strap. The shape of these bags is typically crescent, and smaller bags may look like half moons. Larger bags vaguely follow the crescent shape but it may not be quite so noticeable. One feature of the hobo bag is that materials used to make the bag are usually soft and don’t retain their shape when you set the bag down.

The word hobo likely evolved in the mid-19th century and referred to many people who were generally homeless and traveled from place to place by way of railroad cars. During and after the depression, the hobo population in the US grew significantly. It’s interesting that early advertisements for hobo bags appear about ten years after the stock market crash, and since then these bags have never gone out of style. When designer purses became the rage in the 1950s, many designers made variants of the hobo bag.

A larger hobo bag can be ideal for carrying tons of stuff. In addition to being fashionable, they’re also imminently practical. When buying a large hobo bag, it might be wise to look for one that has more than one compartment to more easily organize things. Smaller versions can still have a terrific shape and loads of style.


The modern hobo bag can be found in plenty of different fabrics. Leather in numerous colors is popular because of its pliability and durability. Other materials like canvas, or various fabrics are also available, and there are bags made of imitation leather for those who prefer cruelty free fashion. Price range is very dramatic. Inexpensive bags can be found for $10-20 US Dollars (USD), while some women pay several thousand dollars for designer hobo bags.

One advantage to the hobo bag is that the strap is often long enough to be worn on the opposite shoulder, so that the strap runs across the chest. Some people believe this is a more secure means of carrying a purse because a thief cannot simply pull the purse string off the shoulder. It should be noted that a wily purse thief could cut the purse straight from the straps and make away with it.


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