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An UrbanDaddy Publication

A Pop-Culture History of Men and Bags

  • Kempt Staff


Utter the term “murse” anywhere and it’s instantly recognizable: the portmanteau of “man” and “purse” describing a compact bag or satchel meant for hauling things around town. It’s become patient zero of emasculating menswear—now we have “meggings” and “mewelry” to name a few of the more egregious.

But how did we, as a society, get here?

It’s a good question. One worth exploring. And as menswear anthropologists, in our quest to understand the inextricable link between manhood and baggage choice, we present to you:

A complete history of men and their bags in popular culture.»

Make It Brief

  • Najib Benouar

Two of the most storied rugged fabrics still in production are together at last.

Americana torchbearer Filson has gotten together with Scotland’s Harris Tweed to reissue their Original Briefcase in Twill and Tweed. (It even rolls off the tongue nicely.) It’s got Filson’s 22-ounce oil-finish rugged twill and the hearty, knotty Harris tweed that’s stood up to the punishment of the Scottish backcountry for over a century. And it should stand up to the rigors of your office commute—while injecting a bit more tweediness into your daily routine.

You can never have enough tweediness.

Not That, This: In Defense of Low-Tech

  • Najib Benouar

Clothing has seen a lot of great technological advancement in the past century—new-age nylon, moisture-wicking fleece, genetically modified gloves that work on touchscreens—more often than not, sacrificing some handsomeness in the process.

But last week’s post on tweed trumping tech in the blazer game reminded us that sometimes the choice between high-tech and high-handsome doesn’t have to be made—because the best-looking option also happens to work just as well as any newfangled technology.

So, herewith, your high-handsome alternatives to today’s high-tech jackets, sweaters and more.»

Jack Spade Goes Plaid

The moment for lumberjack style has come and gone…but it seems to have left quite a few rugged briefcases in its wake. For instance, this buffalo-checked case from Jack Spade’s holiday collection, arriving online October 1st. Any resemblance to a log carrier is purely coincidental.

On the Case


At the risk of repeating ourselves, we’ll say it again: vintage briefcases are pretty fantastic stuff—especially if you’re looking for a gift for a younger brother ready to move into the suit-and-tie portion of his life.

This one is an art deco model that popped up on one of Etsy’s many fantastic vintage shops—but there’s plenty more where that came from. We wouldn’t advocate vintage gifting under every circumstances, but this is one item that gets better with age.

The Vintage Briefcase


Of all the handsome stuff kicking through the second-hand shops of the world, our favorite is the vintage briefcase, for one very simple reason: cliché or not, they just don’t make them like they used to.

There’s a reason for that too. It’s a throwback item at its core—built without iPod pockets, a phone holder or any other concessions to the modern age. But despite the gray flannel associations, the look of well-worn leather has attracted quite a few modern followers. You may have noticed the gents at Street Etiquette making particularly good use of them, or Blackbird’s recently unearthed Salesman’s model. But if you’re in the market, you’re still better off checking eBay…or just trawling your friendly neighborhood vintage shop.

The downside? Well, they’re heavier than they strictly have to be, they can’t handle your groceries like those canvas tote bags…but there’s still no better way to show the world you mean business.

The New Briefcase


If you’ve been adventurous enough to join in for Bike to Work Week, you may have noticed a slight problem: it’s damn hard to bring a briefcase along on one of those things. Most baskets aren’t large or deep enough to accommodate one, and keeping it strapped to your torso is asking for a wreck. Luckily, it’s a problem Europeans have been dealing with for a while now, and they’ve come up with a handsome leather solution.

It's called a frame bag, courtesy of a German shop called Retrovelo (hat tip). It's perfectly sized to hold a laptop, and still small enough to dangle between bike wheels. More importantly, it’s got a handle on the top, so you can unclip it when you reach the office and treat it like a briefcase for the rest of the day. Consider us sold.

Getting Steamy


Steamer trunk luggage has been building a following for a while now, but so far it’s been the kind you need servants to carry. It’s a lot more authentic, but it has a tendency to cramp your style, not to mention your back.

Steamline Luggage has a somewhat more carryable version via NotCot called the Aviator series which may have found the perfect middle ground. It keeps the boxy look, comes in all the usual incremental sizes—from vanity case to stowaway—and for the most part stays under four pounds. It’s not quite as historical as some of the models we’ve run across in the past…but we’re betting it’s a lot easier on our rotator cuffs.

Over and Over


A well-worn leather briefcase is practically a badge of honor among the business class, but it makes it hard to sate our appetite for new thing. That is, unless you’re handy with an awl.

Portland’s Entermodal Leather has an interesting take on the problem. When you get one of their hand-stitched bags (currently at Odin, you get a handy leatherworker along with the bargain. He’ll restitch the seams, reinforce the frame, or whatever you require. More interestingly, if you decide on a change of style—maybe even a few wallets instead of an overnighter—they’ll take the same wonderfully worn leather and remake it into something entirely new.

Well, maybe not entirely.

Black Box


As we were saying earlier, the bag you carry should depend a lot on where you’re going. If you’re going to a hipster accounting convention—possibly held in a terrifyingly angular office building—you may want to grab one of these.

Based on a recreation of 1930s steamer trunks, these suitcases from French bespoke luggage firm Pinel & Pinel end up looking more like a macho version of the hardshell briefcase you’ll see on the hands of businessmen from New York to Mumbai. Only the extra corner accents and the lightweight carbon fiber mean this version’s set up to take the kind of punishment accountants only see in movies.

The way business is going these days, that might come in handy.