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.


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.

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Photo from Flickr by David Wagner.