Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A case for the 'man-bag'


LEATHER BRIEF: The messenger bags are more appropriate for use by those gentlemen whose mode of employment does not require the formality of a leather brief.

Kwame Laurence

"I mean, if you're thinking it's a woman's bag, it's not. It's a man's bag.” – Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), Friends (NBC Sit-Com)

Most men would prefer to cram their cell phone, car keys, house keys, reading glasses, chicken roti and breath mints into the front, back or side pockets of their trousers, rather than admit that it makes more sense to put these items into some sort of receptacle made of a fairly durable material...that opens and closes, preferably with a handle...hmmm, like a bag.

We know it by many names, none of which are flattering:”man-bag”, “murse”, “manny-pack”. Whichever ridiculously emasculating name sticks, it tends to paint an equally unbecoming picture for the male carrying it, which leads to the widely held perception that it is wildly inappropriate for a man to carry a bag.

This perception is somewhat justified; men have a short list of advantages over women when it comes to fashion accessories; ‘not needing to carry a purse’ is at the top of that list. However, it is probably wise to look into some solution to the whole “where to put all these things, boy?” problem that plagues most men, yet eludes the fairer sex. Machismo ought not to deprive us of that solution. I therefore respectfully present a few options which may find the right balance between gender-appropriate accessorising and solving the problem of storing our ever-growing list of personal effects.

Brief-Case or Brief-Bag

The term ‘briefcase’ may immediately conjure up images of your father’s sharp-cornered leather case with the ‘gold’ (I use this term loosely) clasp and numerically-coded barrel lock, but briefcases are probably the oldest form of socially acceptable handbags for men, and still have their place in the working man’s wardrobe. Thankfully, modern-day briefcases have evolved somewhat since the days of your father’s antiquated box-with-a-handle set up. They are not as ‘boxy’ as their outdated counterparts, but the buckles, leather exterior, and practical interior compartments remain to help make this bag a timeless addition to any working man’s wardrobe. They are now more suitably called ‘brief-bags’, and are most appropriate with business attire.

Messenger Bag or Newsboy Bag

These bags are more appropriate for use by those gentlemen whose mode of employment does not require the formality of a leather brief. They are equally suitable for male students who are too mature for backpacks, but need a place for their schoolbooks and stationery. Often made from leather and swung across the shoulder, these bags convey a more laid-back style, but will always have a classic casual flair. The Newsboy Bag is similar to the Messenger Bag’s style, but its traditional canvas exterior makes it a little less formal than the latter. This bag style is also perfect for the male student-on-the-go, as it makes a fashion statement and exudes more masculinity and style savvy than a knapsack.

Holdall or Carryall

Not quite sure what this is? Think ‘duffel bag’ leather! All professional men should own a holdall for those three-day business trips or weekend getaways, since it fills the gap between a full and a carry-on piece. Big, bulky luggage has transformed into sleek, stylish holdalls or carryalls. As I mentioned, the design is inspired by the traditional duffel bag, but its predominantly leather exterior and more refined appearance attribute a classic look to this practical piece, and is more attractive than your old frayed gym bag. This bag is most appropriately carried with casual weekend wear or business-casual attire.

The Utility Case

I personally subscribe to the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared”. To this end, I either keep in my car or carry with me (as the situation dictates) a discrete brown rectangular leather case (dimensions- 10 x 6 x 4 inches) with a very short strap. This case houses the following items: my lesser-used membership cards, spare keys, headache pills, spare shirt buttons (with needle and thread), safety pins, mints, ball point pen, spare mobile phone and SIM card, hand sanitizer, spare flash drive, stain removing pen, floss, nail clipper, extra cash (vex-money), spare batteries (for car alarms especially), miniature torch light and business cards. I strongly recommend that each man keeps and maintains the contents of this or a similar case so as to make daily emergencies a little less inconvenient.

Bags NO man should carry...

There are several bags which ought to be permanently off-limits to all self-respecting men. Wearing any of these bags is a man’s way of announcing to the world that he no longer cares about what he thinks of himself and he refuses to be swayed by the traditional ideals of what a man wears.

1.    Fanny Packs- If you are on anabolic steroids, this is a great place to hide them. If your steroids are effective, then no one will laugh at you, so you get a pass. For the rest of us, these bags are the province of tourists over 60 who actually wish to be mugged.

2.    Mobile Phone Belt Cases- If you are wearing this, you are probably a nerd. I am sorry to have to offend, but this is the truth- this case is the modern-day equivalent of the pocket protector, and ought to be avoided by men who seek the company of women.

3.    Anything your wife or girlfriend likes.  This is pretty self-explanatory; if you are looking for a new bag, do not go shopping with your significant other. Do it alone and look for something that she would not like. Only then will you be buying the right one for yourself. Ignore this, and you will end up in a Progressive Insurance commercial.


My advice is that men ought to feel comfortable to benefit from the level of preparedness and convenience previously enjoyed exclusively by ladies, without it being an affront to their masculinity. Carrying a bag is not effeminate; it is practical, convenient, and when done the right way, a classic solution to an unnecessary problem.

Justin Junkere our expert on men's fashion and etiquette is back. You can email him at