Regular readers of the Satchel Pages are probably aware that we do not shy from media criticism, especially when the work of journalism in question exhibits shoddy reporting or lazy generalizations. But if we’re going to point out flaws when they are apparent, we should also dish out kudos when they are deserved, especially in a field of such great social importance as men’s handbags.
And so we come to a column in Wired News last week written by Lore Sjöberg, which we can only describe as a seminal work in the short but storied history of man-purse journalism. Why?
Some of the fine qualities exhibited by Mr. Sjöberg’s writing:
Well-directed humor. Mr. Sjöberg does not lean on cliched laugh lines that simply poke fun of men with purses. And yet the absurdity of the entire man-purse project is apparent throughout:
Women already have purses. Men need something similar that they can use while preserving the arbitrary, restrictive gender roles that make this country great.
Finely tuned social radar. Mr. Sjöberg recognizes, but is unfazed by, the artificial, testosterone-flavored additives routinely pumped into man bags to make them palatable:
There are some really slick satchels out there, including some from the Swiss Army people. Hey, it has “army” in it! Death, killing, very masculine. Ignore the Swiss part.
Sharp but measured conclusions gleaned only from careful and scientific study. What do all these details add up to? And what can we deduce from them?
I spent a lot of time observing masculine people in their native environments, and I concluded that there are two major requirements for a manly satchel. First off, the strap must attach to the main body with a huge metal latch that looks like it could attach the cab of a semi to the trailer. Secondly, it needs to have a handle, so you can convey the impression that it’s really a briefcase, and you only have it over one shoulder because you’re late for a tractor pull.
Sober recognition of the limitations of transformative accessorizing. Mr. Sjöberg balances the advantages of each exciting carrying option against inevitable cultural constraints:
Worst part: It could be made out of titanium steel with a pinup girl airbrushed onto the side and people would still call it a “purse.”
You just look like yourself, only with lumps of plastic holding up your belly like little flying buttresses.
Willingness to provide assistance. Mr. Sjöberg is not above stepping into the fray with his own fashion suggestions:
OK, this is my contribution, but it’s a good one. Bandoliers are comfortable, have very masculine overtones, and Chewbacca wore one. I could totally see dropping my miniature bleeping possessions into the pouches of a bandolier, cheerfully strapping it on, heading out into the world, and getting shot down by a paranoid security guard.
Reality check. Alas, our columnist is well aware of societal processes that allow forbidden costumes to become briefly fashionable but which shortly consign them to the laundry hamper of history. So he qualifies his own contributions with well-considered warnings:
this needs to be a culturewide fashion move. So for now, and this is vital, geeks can’t use them. It pains me to say this, but we are not fashion trend-setters, my brethren. We need to get Jude Law or Will Smith into one of these pups, let them throw old-media fans into an imitative tizzy, then we can start wearing them.
Mr. Sjöberg’s article should be required reading for any reporter seeking to cover the man-purse beat.