Since time immemorial, men have carried bags, but conventionally they have always been unshowy and practical. The businessman had his briefcase, the workman his toolbox, the bicycle courier his messenger bag, and so on. A man who carried a bag because it was to some degree, decorative, ran the terrifying risk of ‘compromising’ his masculinity.
The tide began to turn in the late 1990s when the fashion industry spotted the potential for a new market, and the terms ‘manbag’ and ‘murse’ (portmanteau of man and purse) began to do the rounds. Non-coincidentally, this period also saw the birth pangs of the ‘metrosexual’ male, for whom well-chosen accessories were a high priority.
In 1999, the US sitcom Friends put out an episode in which aspiring actor Joey becomes unhealthily attached to his ‘murse’ and fails an audition because of it. Even in Manhattan, it seemed the world was not quite ready for the glamorous peacock male.
Today, the manbag is ubiquitous, at least in major cities. While it usually takes the form of a soft leather satchel or an upscale messenger bag, there are occasional surprises, such as the brown and gold Louis Vuitton clutch once sported by David Beckham.
How long will it be before we have the male evening bag?