Friday, May 20th, 2011
110

Satchels, Totes and Cases! Whatever Shall a Man Carry?

Since time immemorial, man has been forced to carry bags. Even worse: In much of my office-going life, I've been forced to carry a laptop to work. This has created Man Problems for myself, in needing to have a piece of small luggage that is also sturdy enough to protect said laptop. I had a very chic and nearly perfect slender black Lacoste shoulder bag that fit the computer perfectly, even in its little padded case. And then one day on the L train (of course) I shifted my coffee and my iPhone in my hands and it slipped off my shoulder and dropped all of 2.5 feet and the computer landed on one corner and was never right in the head again. (It was a long year with poor head-injury computer.) And so then… I became a backpack person. The worst and most degraded kind of daily luggage person. Fortunately, most fellows aren't required to carry a laptop every day, and even if they are, surely we can do this better?

The good news about bags is: there really aren't many rules, unless you're working somewhere super-swank, or there are a lot of really judgmental fashion people around. Your bag should be useful and fun and right for you! For serious! And you know I never say that.

So many choices!

No bag.

The best! This leaves your hands free to fight with your Big City's many zombies, racists and various miscreants! But more importantly, it also feels good. Don't you feel all nice in your slacks and your shoes, strolling down the avenues for the subway, all unencumbered? Just your keys, wallet, phone, other phone, BlackBerry and office pager and maybe a stick of gum? No, but for real: anything you can do to not be carrying anything more than a house key, a credit card and a cellphone makes life worth living all over again. I'm sure this goes for the ladies too, who are constantly carrying around enormous bags for no reason.

The Briefcase.

Oh, are you going to court to defend a multinational corporation? Awesome, bring your briefcase! Your soft-sided briefcase. (Maybe in a nice battered brown leather!) There is literally no hard-sided briefcase that needs to exist in this day and age—you tend to look like a weird 70s stooge, or overly irony addled. Unless you need to carry a gun. Or something crushable, like a bunch of origami.

Mmm, sure, the million-dollar Salvatore Ferragamo double-gusset briefcase. Or maybe you just like to feel like a guy carrying a briefcase! That's fun too.

Satchel.

We don't use the phrase "man-bag." It reeks of shame. Prada calls this a "messenger bag" but it's really a satchel. Prada also calls this $830, which, LOL. And now you know why they're having a $2-billion IPO.

The Tote.

Hey pretty lady, where you going with that nice Paul Smith tote bag? Oh! I'm sorry, sir. Heh.

Listen, I'm not trying to be too gender normative here. I like seeing the guys going out to Fire Island on the train with a million kicky tote bags! Effective, easy, often great. And they can even look like men's stuff. And also… tote bags, they look great if—shallowest thing I've ever said coming up here—if they're crammed with like, issues of the LRB and the NYRoB. Sorry, it's true.

The Messenger Bag.

Do you live in San Francisco or Greenpoint? Awesome, toss one on, dude, and tear off on your fixie.That being said, it's nice to have casual luggage that you can also use to throw everything you own into it in case you need to flee the metro area due to nuclear disaster. (That bag is made by Futura Laboratories.)

The Envelope.

This is a thing? Kind of a New York-specific thing, I think. It's a step up from a Fedex envelope and a step down from an attache case. It's basically a leather envelope? Like, you take a carrying-case for a Mac Air and lug that around. I believe this is serious Jack Spade territory. Downside: takes a hand. Other downside: highly droppable. Upside: Intriguing!

The Duffle.

It's odd, and yet there's something kind of hot about a guy with a duffle bag. I guess it screams "I'm going to go play a sport later" or "I just got out of the Army and stole some guy's name and identity." Also you can technically take one to the office because you'll score points (NO PUN INTENDED) because people will think you have an after-work pickup basketball game. And after all, nothing gets you advancement at work like being one of the boys. That is also a Paul Smith bag!

If you must: the backpack.

Listen, it could be worse. You could actually still be in high school!


So, I hesitate to tell you this… but you know who not only makes the best coasters (true fact: lots of zebra) but also makes exceptional and inexpensive luggage? Beretta. Yes, sure, the folks who make the guns. I know. It's odd. It may not feel right for you! But their products come and go seemingly at random, because really their focus is on bullets and stuff. So you never know what you'll find at their store (718 Madison Avenue!), but from time to time, it's amazing. They made the best backpack ever invented a few years ago. If you can get your hands on one, your life will change.

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor, advertisers do not produce the content. This series/post is brought to you by Gillette. Learn more about Gillette and its products at Gillette.com.

Photo from Flickr by David Wagner.

109 Comments / Post A Comment

MichelleDean (#7,041)

You failed to mention the favourite of straight men in relationships everywhere: your girlfriend's bag.

@MichelleDean IS THAT A THING??? GUYS make their LADIES carry things????

Oh wow, my mind is blown.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@Choire Sicha Usually it's a long-term relationship thing. It happens somewhere around the point where the sex starts to go south, in my experience.

Many are the chains of heterosexuality.

@MichelleDean Man. Bad times.

KarenUhOh (#19)

@Choire Sicha Oh lord, there's so much truth here. I could tell you the exact age of my father solely by the number of photographs in a given period that involved him carting around my mother's purse. Direct relationship age:carries.

It is the ultimate sign of dominion. It is the lady answer to the raised seat.

jolie (#16)

@Choire Sicha Yes. Really no one's let you in on this? My homosexual man friends do this to me too.

kpants (#719)

@Choire Sicha Yes! Which partially answers the reason for "I'm sure this goes for the ladies too, who are constantly carrying around enormous bags for no reason." (This also answers for why some ladies carry around improbably tiny purses, because we prefer to preempt any notion we're willing to carry other people's crap around.)

@jolie @kpants It has LITERALLY never occurred to me to ask a lady-friend to carry something in her purse for me. I think I'd rather just throw it away, whatever "it" is!

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@Choire Sicha I have carried waterbottles, sunglasses, cell phones, and in one particularly irritating instance, two library books.

Some people aren't raised right, I'm saying.

@MichelleDean I think the solution is make them carry the lady-bag?

Or you know, tell 'em to shove it somewhere.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@Choire Sicha That would be un-Canadian. Also unladylike, but I've had less problems overcoming the latter.

jolie (#16)

@MichelleDean The worst is when you're going to the beach or the park and somehow you end up with a dirty Nerf ball, the Times, a hardcover book, a G4 iPod, a bottle of Snapple and a sandwich from the deli on the corner. The only consolation is knowing that two subway stops in, he's going to be carrying a heavy LL Bean tote bag that says JOLES in bubblegum pink across one side.

Bittersweet (#765)

@jolie: LL Bean tote bag! Got a brand spankin' new one for my birthday this year and can't wait to break it in at the beach this summer. Wish mine said my name in bubblegum pink, though.

Howdini (#11,296)

@Choire Sicha I've been known to put an item or two into my beautiful lady's 38lb. tote bag and then *I* carry said 40lb. tote bag because THAT IS THE KIND OF MUTHAFUCKIN GUY I AM.

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm sitting in the mismatched-furniture-cafe next door to my house in Greenpoint drinking cappuccino and working on the 2nd draft of my precocious screenplay on my Macbook I carried upstairs in my messenger bag WHAT!? WHAT SICHA!? YOU WANNA FIGHT ME RIGHT NOW!? FISTICUFFS!!!

@HiredGoons I think you deserve this ice water in your face.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Choire Sicha: I probably deserve a lot more than that.

@HiredGoons They call that the "Greenpoint shower."

KarenUhOh (#19)

Gentlemen, gentlemen, there's an honorable solution to this.

Shall we say, pissants at dawn?

HiredGoons (#603)

@Choire Sicha I didn't know you were into that.

@HiredGoons I mean… I could be….

deepomega (#1,720)

@Choire Sicha: *call me

HereKitty (#2,713)

The Google tells me you are less than two blocks from the flagship store of the best bags on the planet: Manhattan Portage.

Leon (#6,596)

Team Satchel forever. I have a crappy Strand one now, and I was promised an awesome leather one I've wanted forever by my mom for my birthday – she said she needed to get her new CC, cuz the old one had expired, and then she would order it from Amazon – it's now 6 weeks later and no bag, nor any mention of it. Is there an etiquette on dealing with this or do I have to just buy it myself?

roboloki (#1,724)

i'll remind her when i see her tonight.
i kid!

deepomega (#1,720)

@roboloki: Happy Your Mom Friday, everybody!

jbsquare (#793)

I thought the most degraded kind of daily luggage was the backpack like suitcase on wheels that people pull behind them.

also, Patagonia has a backpack that you can turn into a shoulder bag it you get to self conscious wearing a backpack

HiredGoons (#603)

@jbsquare: wheelie-totes are for Hasidim and office-supplies salesmen.

@HiredGoons Wheelie-totes don't even exist in my mind. Not to be addressed. LA LA LA. It's like I have a thousand blind spots when I'm in the airport.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Choire Sicha I have my grandfather's oversized alligator suitcase that I lug by the handle through airports, and my father always laughs and asks me why I don't just get a suitcase with wheels and I just have to tell him, "you'll never understand."

I also 'dress' to travel; and I don't mean sweatsuits.

jolie (#16)

@Choire Sicha Wheelie-bags are the Devil's luggage.

SeanP (#4,058)

The propensity for you people to insist on utterly impractical fashion choices never ceases to amaze me. 1) Suitcases are heavy, and you have to walk a long way every time you go into an airport. You can have my wheeled luggage when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. 2) Backpacks: a lot easier on the back than anything you carry in your arms, at least if there's anything heavy in there.

I will say that when not traveling by air, I'm pretty much a no-bag man (unless you count a lunchbox).

Howdini (#11,296)

@SeanP Lunchboxes are known carcinogens.

Bettytron (#575)

What's the verdict on something like this?

It's smaller than a satchel as pictured above, but Mr. Bettytron adores it, as it's the perfect size for a book and a bottle of water. But does the size make it more feminine/somehow not a thing a guy should carry?

@Bettytron I find those adorable when done right. It really IS a manbag. I mean, if you're wearing corduroy pants? A SHOO-IN.

@Bettytron It will be hard for other men to respect that. How many tattoos does he have? How many are on his face?

Bettytron (#575)

@ContainsHotLiquid Only two facial tattoos, but the overall effect of those is offset by the snuggly cardigans.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Bettytron: So Mr. Bettytron is Mike Tyson?

Bettytron (#575)

@deepomega Exactly, but imagine less former-boxer and more dashing-professor-type (for which these columns plus Uniqlo suits have been a GODSEND)

Max Clarke (#3,635)

@Bettytron I bought one of those (made of less fancy material) at an army-navy store a few years back, where it was called a "map case", which is army-navy-store-ese for "This is macho and vaguely military and NOT a purse". It served me well for a good long while, but eventually I got tired of how much it swung around while I walked, and have reverted to something more satchel-like, which is is more stable on my hip.

@Bettytron My partner carries something like this. We call it his straight-boy purse. The army surplussy fabric makes him look like an aging anarchist. Which he is, sort of. Super hot.

Howdini (#11,296)

@Bettytron Uniqlo. Uniqlo, Uniqlo, Uniqlo. It is a magic word; it is a mantra. Uniqlo.

I go with a backpack but have the decency to be embarrassed by it and never enter an elevator or subway with it actually on my back.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@NotAndersonCooper Exactly. Jansport plain grey. Simple. Effective. There is the Peter Pan "I don't wanna grow up" look going on though.

HiredGoons (#603)

Are the small-sized L.L Bean bags considered totes, or are they a stand-alone category? Because I find them very convenient for farmers markets and neighborhood (but not all day, long distance) schlepping.

jolie (#16)

Oh I loooove a duffle on a man.

SeanP (#4,058)

@jolie Another awesome choice: a seabag. Combines the best aspects of the duffle and backpack, holds a metric buttload of stuff, and has that military air about it.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

> issues of the LRB and the NYRoB. Sorry, it's true.

Oh whew! Because I was about to spiral over the gender-normative thing.

But… if I you have more than ten issues of the LRB and NYRoB in my your tote, that makes me you a hoarder, doesn't it.

@dntsqzthchrmn Oh, listen, I have as much internalized homophobia as the next self-hating gay.

ShanghaiLil (#260)

@Choire Sicha Every now and then I begin to wonder if I have vestigial internalized homophobia, but then I remember how I feel about most of the straight people in my life, and realize all over again that it's just a kind of generalized misanthropy.

iantenna (#5,160)

where does my chosen tote, the amoeba music bag, fall on the spectrum? the borderline homeless looking side?

@iantenna Yes! But I think that's a really good look for you.

iantenna (#5,160)

@Choire Sicha it's a very popular look here in the bay area but i take it next level.

roboloki (#1,724)

go with the satchel! i have one and love it. also, i call it a purse because that's what it damn well is.

Pockets. Regular, non-cargo pockets. That's the only way.

By the way, related-ish. Yesterday I a saw a guy wearing a cargo kilt. His gf/wife was wearing cargo pants. They looked like their pockets were full of 20-sided dice. This was in London.

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

@My Number Is My Address Utilikilt?

Olivia2.0 (#1,716)

J. Peterman always has some awesome fake mail carrier bags that I want.

gumplr (#66)

@Olivia2.0 "Then, in the distance, I heard the bulls. I began running as fast as I could. Fortunately, I was wearing my Italian bucket bag. Sophisticated yet different; nothing to make a huge fuss about. 100% cotton lining. Self-fabric pockets with contrasting leather trim. 15” tall, 19” wide at the top, 9 ½” x 7 ½” at the bottom. Color: tobacco."

jfruh (#713)

I have a laptop shoulder bag (not sure if it falls into the "satchel" or "messenger bag" category above? it has lots of pockets!) that, if it's particularly heavy, can be magically transformed into an admittedly oddly square backpack! It's pretty sweet.

Bettytron (#575)

@jfruh Dad?

pissy elliott (#397)

No one wants to read my styleblog (it's just American Apparel polo shirts and jeans that don't smell too much like barf), but after long years of experimentation, I've finally found the bag(s) that work for me. Manhattan Portage cross-body backpacks, and this: http://bit.ly/gloXOj

Urban Outfitters is an indefensible corporation, but this bag is amazing. It has tote handles, but can morph into a backpack, or a one shoulder satchel, and it carries a lot. If you too are a male packrat, I endorse heartily.

El Matardillo (#586)

I find the number of comments on this post disturbing.

HiredGoons (#603)

@El Matardillo: this crowd has a lot of baggage.

elecampane (#1,877)

European military surplus shoulder bags! Nice nondescript black canvas, last forever, kinda punk rock.

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

Portland area bike commuter here. WEATHERPROOF messenger bag or messenger backpack is key.

gumplr (#66)

@Werner Hedgehog http://www.vayabags.com

These are absolutely great. Made from scrap sailing canvas and recycled bicycle tubing (yes!) so they are insanely durable. I bought mine at the Renegade Craft Fair last year after regrettably not pulling the trigger the year prior, only to be given an inferior Brooklyn Industries bag weeks later that would fall apart within 6 months.

Vaya and get yourself one today!

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

@gumplr I ride with Alchemy Goods, but those Vayas look great!

laurel (#4,035)

@gumplr The one made of Dance Dance Revolution is the key to eternal happiness: http://vayabags.tumblr.com/post/3877311705/a-custom-bag-we-made-last-week-out-of-a-dance

gumplr (#66)

@spiralbetty gtfo this is amazing

lbf (#2,343)

Bagjack, from Berlin, that's mine. I wanna say it's better than all of yours combined?
Messenger bags look awesome on pretty much any outfit (except a suit, let's be real), and mind can morph into a nice backpack too. That said:
- I usually throw it in my oversize wicker basket for riding, because I'm confident enough in my manliness that I ride a proper city bike AND it has a basket.
- I use all sorts of bags: soft brown leather briefcase for work (my bike's rack has a hook for it!), German canvas supermarket bags for when I'm feeling lazy and I'll probably need to carry more home than I left with, my wife's Paraty when I'm with her (always the handles, never the strap).

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Throw your lipgloss in your murse and call it a day, boys.

LondonLee (#922)

I have a Fred Perry shoulder bag which has lasted a lot longer than the expensive leather Kenneth Cole satchel thing I used to have.

hman (#53)

If I'm feeling particularly cheery, I will whip out my WNYC canvas tote (LOL) because it's true – those people really will try and engage you in conversation!

We laptop carriers that have gone through the fun of back injury are pretty much condemned to backpacks – and they look even dorkier on us ladytypes. I'm thinking of buying one of these from Booq. They at least seem to be making an attempt at adulthood.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

I end up using a Baggu nylon shopping bag most of the time. I also have a Domke which I like a lot but I think it makes me look like a paparazzi.

GoodFriday (#12,723)

I also think that the positioning of the bag and the length of the straps are important to pay attention to. A cross body bag looks great on men if it doesn't hang too low, but if you are choosing to carry it on one shoulder, please please please do not let the thing hang down to your knees. I see this all the time and it takes a lot for me to not snap judge those men.

katiechasm (#163)

Fjall Kanken make nice simple backpacks that make you feel like an efficient Swedish child.

Also does anyone know where to get a leather briefcase (or purse that looks like a briefcase, like a Birkin bag) for under $200? :/

sharilyn (#4,599)

@katiechasm – Yes. Chinatown. I bought a fake Birkin for $80 last week.

I always thought Nina Totenberg should produce her own line of totes.

hman (#53)

@Brooklyn Battery Want one?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@hman ZoNOMG asdfasdfghh

Max Clarke (#3,635)

Pro tip: If you do the satchel thing, switch shoulders regularly. Otherwise you may actually develop a weird shoulder-height-asymmetry thing. I've seen this in myself and in other longtime satchel-wearers. These days I do a "port-out, starboard-home" thing when commuting, i.e., wear it on the left shoulder in the morning, and the right in the evening.

beringfisherman (#12,837)

@Max Clarke Good tip! And nautically appropriate!! "Red, Right, Return"

hockeymom (#143)

True story. Yesterday the 10 year old put all her books in a cloth bag, tied it to a stick, threw it over her shoulder and said she was "starting a new fad. It's called the hobo, mom."

I'd like a fashion ruling on this.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Briefcase.

"He clasped it tightly to him, in a very particular manner which he had himself thought out, so that the greatest possible area of his body was always in contact with it. Even his ribs could feel its presence through his cheap, thin suit. His upper arm covered the whole side elevation; it fitted exactly. The lower portion of his arm supported the case from below. His outstretched fingers splayed out over every part of the flat surface to which they yearned. He privately excused himself for this exaggerated care because of the value of the contents. Should the briefcase by any mischance fall to the ground, or should the lock, which he tested every morning before setting out, spring open at precisely that perilous moment, ruin would come to his priceless volumes. There was nothing he loathed more intensely than battered books . . . ."

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@Tulletilsynet: The problem is taking care of the hard edges of the leather — an attache case's leather cracks faster than Allen Edmonds brogues.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@charmin
But cloth doesn't do justice to your precious volumes.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@Tulletilsynet Yeah, applying neat's foot oil to books is a bridge too far maybe?

There is no such thing as a man-bag or man-purse. We have shit we gotta lug around, regardless of gender. Personally, I go with a Filson briefcase, its a bit pricey but I fully expect it to last a lifetime, and it's gorgeous: http://bit.ly/bU3AIB

Good Bear (#11,503)

Over time I've realized that any type of bag will hurt my back.

I think a man bag is considered an essential in this day and age. Briefcases look great with a smart suit and I love the look of a casual satchel! A wallet is no longer enough to carry everything men need! There's some great man bags here Ciao!

bradmgray (#12,931)

Ernest Alexander messenger bags. i just discovered this brand. Timeless, durable, and made locally in NY. check em out

mrschem (#1,757)

I wanna bag that'll carry ME! also – Freitag.

DENNER (#1,763)

I think it looks kind of silly when I see a guy in the morning going to work, no jacket or sweater over his button-up, maybe wearing some kind of thinner-material H&M office pants, with his keys, iphone, wallet and potentially more, all crammed into his pockets creating odd lumps on the tops of his thighs. I begin to worry about him, what if it rains later, or gets cold? What if he needs a pencil? Hopefully he's not also carrying a pencil in his pocket. How will he sit comfortably on the subway? What ever will he do with his hands until he gets to work? He has left the house with nothing.

I'm a woman, and I've always carried a bag and sometimes I actually need the things inside of it!

sanmig05 (#12,961)

Such a nice read. Very informative! Different kinds of bags, hehe!

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 11:50 am

David (#192)

For an easy overview of the development of handbags since we stated denying that we ever emerged from the tree tops, see this article by Joan Kiplinger: http://www.fabrics.net/joan105.asp

"Handbags were first used by the Babylonians and Assyrians from 1500 BCE to 550 BCE. They were richly embroidered and used for religious ceremonies.

The ancient Persians had a better idea. Attached or pinned to their golden girdles was a small pouch to hold money. A neat custom was for a ruler to turn over the revenues of a captured land to his wife, and she would tuck the money in the pouch–thus the term pin money which is still a key word in our language today.

From early times up through the early 16th century, the purse remained on a belt for both men and women." …

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