Phil: The man-purse. You actually gonna wear that, or you guys just f***in’ with me?
Alan: It’s where I keep all my things. Get a lot of compliments on this. Plus, it’s not a man-purse. It’s called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one!
Phil: So does Joy Behar!
The above dialogue between Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis from “The Hangover” was, apparently, humorous enough for some folks to have inspired a T-shirt.
Many Filipinos might fail to see the hilarity: Apart from wondering who Joy Behar might be, the notion that carrying a bag if you’re a man might seem a little gay, or at the very least European, is largely an American thing that doesn’t really translate.
Filipino males are acculturated from an early age that there’s nothing particularly unmanly or inappropriate about carrying some kind of tote or hold-all or, yes, handbag to put your stuff in.
Filipinos have a long history with the man-purse, going back to the woven bamboo or rattan stash-bag where our forebears kept their nganga and ikmo.
Before backpacks or luggage wheels, every schoolboy carried their books in a satchel, an indestructible leather school bag with a handle and strap.
Carrying a man-bag in one’s later years, therefore, isn’t that much of a leap.
Today, however, smartphones have grown too big to be comfortably carried in a trouser pocket, giving rise to a veritable man-bag industry.
By one estimate, for instance, one-fifth of the luxury handbag market is aimed at men. All the major players—Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Fendi, Prada—have designed high-priced messenger bags, satchels, slings and dude bags for the GQ set.
Meanwhile, the athleisure companies have the mid-market sewn up, and there’s plenty leftover for small independents down to the sweatshops.
In fact, it’s the golden age of man-bags: celebrities like Kanye, Jay-Z, Brad, Dwayne, Beckham and Ronaldo have all been seen rocking one.
“… a man bag is not a style blasphemy anymore,” goes an article in an online style magazine tagged “Top 5 Handbags Every Man Should Own in 2020.”
“…Whether they’re wearing one of Prada’s mini bags on their wrists or spotting Tyler the Creator with a vintage Chanel around their neck, the bag has become a staple for men in its own right, having transcended gender stereotypes to become a piece synonymous with menswear trends regardless of style, practicality or necessity.”
Even the belt bag, a.k.a. the fanny pack, bum bag, waist pack etc.—once the preferred accessory of geriatric mall-walkers and market vendors—has made an inexplicable comeback.
Who knows? The clutch bag—a disco-era throwback along with gold chains and polyester shirts—might be next to make a comeback. Already, those boutiques catering to middle-management executives and groovy D.O.M. are stocking “Korean” faux-leather sling bags along with the shoehorns and suspenders.
Anyway, these ruminations came as I was trying to relieve COVID fatigue with some retail therapy—online, of course.
While browsing my usual shopping website, I came upon something called a “sacoche.” Further research revealed that “sacoche” was merely French for “bag.” Deeper inquiry (yeah, that’s how I roll) uncovered the fact that it was enough of a thing in Japan for them to Nipponize the term to “sakkoshu.”
Another iteration of the dreaded “murse” (for “man-purse”), a sacoche was basically just a small zipped nylon envelope with a shoulder strap, so you could carry it nonchalantly like a sling, or when feeling particularly paranoid, in a secure and vise-like armpit grip.
Of course, I immediately wanted one.
Hunting for the version least likely to be mistaken for a murse, I came across one in urban camo. While I’m normally a sucker for anything camo or “tactical,” I eventually settled on one in basic Antifa black, designed by a brand I was familiar with from my fixed-gear riding days.
It was burlier than one might expect for something called a sacoche. The inside looked to be lined with waterproof truck tarp, which is the kind of detail guys appreciate.
And while I don’t know when I’ll be out and about enough to actually need one, the thing is outbound at some logistics facility, en route as I write.
I’m not calling it a sacoche, though. Dude, it’s a satchel.