Remember when your purse's contents were private? Then gossip magazines started asking celebs to show off what was inside their bags. Now, Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writes at the Pacific Standard, it's become a phenomenon: From education periodicals to tech blogs to newspapers, everyone wants to know what's in your bag. For Foreign Policy, it's a war reporter's bag that's of interest; the Verge is more fascinated by the contents of a Silicon Valley worker's handbag; the Wall Street Journal reveals what executives carry.
Why the obsession? For one thing, we're more prepared to publicize our lives these days, whether it's online or at the airport. "The bag traditionally is designed to hide your personal activities—but now you display it because you know that no matter what you do, everyone will know who you are, what you’re doing, where you live," says a sociologist. And when the contents are authentic, the bags "reveal a certain hierarchy in who gets to travel light (young city dwellers whose essentials take up little space) and who must bear the burden of their tools," Abrahamian notes. "The 'what’s in your bag' phenomenon helps us situate ourselves—and others—within this hierarchy."