In the early 2000s I wielded my Coach wristlet like a weapon. If you crossed me, like the boy who touched my baby bangs without asking or the girl who said my bejeweled Juicy Tracksuit was trash, I’d whip it behind my back and storm in the opposite direction. In hindsight, that doesn’t really seem very threatening, but back then wristlet bags were a status symbol. And throwing one around with attitude was both dramatic and intimidating. It’s also worth mentioning they do make a startling noise when they hit a Juicy Couture zipper.
After I convinced my mom I needed a wristlet, I felt like I had aged ten years and skipped puberty. I’d wake up every day convinced this tiny $75 bag that hung off my wrist was like the dollhouse in 13 Going on 30: filled with magic and womanhood. The wristlet was so powerful I was certain only other girls who owned one truly understood me. Part of me still believes that. Nearly nothing is as emblematic as a Coach wristlet.
And then the Spice Girls disbanded and Britney Spears shaved her head. The Internet happened and iPphones replaced hot pink Motorola Razrs. We stopped dropping slime on top of celebrities’ heads and things started to get serious. Now it feels like the world might end at any second. And as the weight of the world got heavier, bags got bigger. The 2000s were carefree. You could whip around a wristlet like it was nothing. And then as we entered the 2010s, we needed a place to put all of our worries and laptops. Of course, with the recent rise of the microbag, things have apparently started to revert.
We still have to free Britney and Victoria Beckham didn’t join the Spice Girls reunion tour. Bags, though, are smaller than ever. Maybe it’s because, with so much emotional baggage to carry around and angst about the current state of everything from politics to climate change, microbags are a reminder that sometimes it’s okay to leave some things at home — and that you won’t die without your phone.
Coach gets this and nearly every model at its fall ‘20 show had a strap wrapped around their wrist, a new iteration of the Coach wristlet dangling against their legs. Stuart Vevers’s latest collection looked away from Americana for the first time in a couple seasons and zeroed in on ‘80s New York. That was definitely not the golden age of the wristlet, but that time period does share some of the less complicated vibe that the bag embodies.
Coach’s latest take on the wristlet doesn’t feel nostalgic. They’re not necessarily the ones I used to pair with my Limited Too wardrobe. Instead, they come in new shapes: Some sleek and square, others dreamy and half-moon shaped, some cylindric with enough space for your phone. A handful of models even wore Coach’s latest circle crossbody bags as wristlets, and all of them are available to shop now, in patterns inspired by the 1980s downtown New York art scene. They’re cool like something Debbie Harry, who actually performed at the show, would wear. And that’s definitely more intimidating and chic than my middle-school take on the trend.
Shop the Coach wristlet bag trend, which starts at $75, below.