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The man purse

February 4, 2011

In season 5 of the television show “Friends”, there was an episode where Joey has a big audition, goes to Rachel for advice on dressing for success for said audition, and ends up buying a “man bag”. His attachment to the bag ends up causing him to blow his audition, and his friends eventually convince him to get rid of it.

I don’t know that that would happen here.

Men here carry man bags, or man purses, or whatever you want to call them. I have seen it quite a bit since I got here, and it never really surprised me. After all, they have been big in Europe for a while, but somehow never successfully made the leap across the pond to the United States. I wonder why this is?  They are handy to have, because after all, men have things they need to carry too (which does not usually involve makeup). But do a simple Google search on the topic, and one of the first things that comes up is an ABC news story from 2006 (seriously? WHY was this covered in the news?) called “Man Purses: Hot or Not?”

Other sites include one that links to a variety of sites that sell man bags, which ironically has a rather defensive write-up:

“I happen to love a good man bag. Once I bought my first man bag, I was hooked. I don’t care if people have a problem with man bags– the only problem I have is, not having enough man bags. I carry lots of items with me, I never leave my home without a good book to read for the train, or a note bookto take notes. I also keep my Kindle in my man bag, and no, it is not a purse. It is man bag!”

So why do men here carry man bags? Is it because they walk so much more than their American counterparts, and thus do not have a car in which to spread their things?  Is it because of the requirement to always carry your identity card and passport, which of course does not fit into a wallet?

Think about it – men have things to carry too – money, cell phone, ID, cigarettes (sadly, most of them here seem to smoke), keys, and perhaps other things. It is just that men here have the confidence to carry off a man bag. It is usually small and, for the most part, not noticeable. At least not to other Ukrainians – we Americans seem to notice everything that is even slightly different than in the U.S., and a man bag, well, that’s a big difference.

And they actually can be stylish looking. I know that sounds strange, given that I said they are rather utilitarian-looking, but it is possible to be both. And somehow, when worn with the right attitude and right outfit (the gentleman who I saw today, who made me think to write this post, was rather nattily dressed in a wool coat, leather gloves, and leather hat), the man bag can be quite stylish indeed.

So the next time you see a man with a man bag, don’t snicker – if he is in the United States, he is indeed a trend-setter. Perhaps in ten years such a thing will no longer evoke snickers and sneers. After all, it worked for silly fashion trends like leg warmers, didn’t it?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephen permalink
    February 4, 2011 11:53 am

    I bought my first “man bag” in Paris in 1981, at a cost of about $5. It was very simple. I still have it somewhere in a box in the basement. I have acquired four or five since then, but none so simple, nor at such a reasonable cost. I think I still have most of them, somewhere in a box in the basement. For the most part, they have all been replaced by computer bags, which carry so much more, and are much harder to loose track of. I look forward to a tablet computer that will allow me to go back to the small, simple “man bag.”

  2. Stephen permalink
    February 4, 2011 11:55 am

    Would you belive LOSE track of?

  3. Heidi permalink
    February 4, 2011 2:18 pm

    Maybe I have spent too much time on college campuses, because men carrying various totes never strikes me as odd… Or maybe I just know odd American men…

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