BREAKING NEWS: Men are wearing purses!

July 26th, 2006
ABC Nightline Man Purse

ABC’s Nightline news program scooped the fashion world last night by airing a short segment that reveals a shocking fact: Certain men, it seems, have been carrying bags that look “suspiciously like purses.”

Correspondent John Berman demonstrates the resourcefulness of a crack reporter by stepping a few paces outside ABC’s New York studios to interview some New Yorkish but actual handbag-carrying men. He asks them penetrating questions, such as “What do you carry in your man purse?” and “What kind of comments do you hear?”

But wait! There’s more to the story: Andy Roddick doesn’t like man purses! Ah, but Roddick hasn’t won a tournament this year, Berman notes. So, uh . . . touché! But Chewbacca wears one! “And who would question his masculinity?”, Berman quips.

Our favorite cameo in the report comes from an unidentified but suspiciously normal looking shoulder-bag-carrying man who shakes the reporter’s hand and says to him “Don’t make me look foolish” before walking away.

If you missed last night’s program, you can view it on the Nightline website, or read the printed version more discreetly if you’re at work. But if discretion isn’t really your bag (and we realize that for many purse toters it isn’t achievable), Nightline is soliciting “video” responses to its report. That’s right: You can film yourself holding a man purse and send the footage to ABC! We bet the more foolish you look, the better the chance your video will be featured. Or take the opposite tack: make grunting sounds, insult bag carriers as pansies, then insist that your camera bag isn’t a man purse.

What’s that sound we hear? Sharks, jumping?

(Thanks again are due man-bag news scout Craig Keirstead for alerting us to this important moment.)

How Andy Roddick carries his balls

July 5th, 2006

Reader Craig Keirstead writes to clue us into a simmering international controversy that’s been roiling the sports and fashion worlds in the last month — since tennis star Andy Roddick used his blog to issue some unprovoked criticism of man bags and the men who wear them.

“I have seen some guys walking around with man purses here in London,” Roddick writes in a pre-Wimbledon entry dated June 9th:

…. anything bigger than a money clip or a wallet is to be left to your girlfriend / wife…and just so we are clear you should not be able to throw your “wallet” over a shoulder…if you have a man purse, the wall is waiting.

Roddick’s “wall” reference is a bit obscure: it’s not an invitation to man-purse wearers to throw their handbags over a wall, but rather a suggestion that they be forced to “self chuck” themselves into one.

If this isn’t clear, we’ve found an AP photo at Yahoo! News that shows Roddick demonstrating the results of his own self-chucking technique . . . against a net.

Andy Roddick Chucks Himself into the Net

Well, what of it? Roddick’s comments have provoked a series of articles in the British and American press, many of which have used his words as a starting point to . . . issue fashion advice for men who want to carry handbags:

Daily Telegraph fashion editor Hilary Alexander concurs.

“As long as it’s not small and pink, and dangling from your wrist, it’s perfectly OK,” she said. “Rugged, chunky leather man bags are sensible, as putting too much into your pockets spoils the cut of your trousers.”

She predicts that next season we may well see more businessmen in Times Square squeezing their laptops into a rich, dark-chocolate grained cowhide leather bag from Dunhill, or even a Mulberry multipurpose man bag.

We’ve come a long way: It wasn’t too long ago when a male sports figure might make news by wearing a man purse. Today, it’s international news when someone is outspoken enough to criticize them.

Read on for more photos of Roddick’s Wimbledon technique, plus one photo he surely doesn’t want you to see . . . (yes, he’s packing!)

Read the rest of this entry »

The further adventures of Jack Bauer, backpack designer

June 30th, 2006

Over at Digg, user detour99 points to a page of Oakley computer cases and labels it “If Jack Bauer made laptop bags . . .” He adds:

These rock-hard laptop bags from Oakley would appear more at home dropped into a war-zone rather than carried on the bus. They do however score a high amount of both ‘geek’ and ‘cool’ points. Just the thing to put your laptop in when you turn up for the next “Battlefield 2″ LAN party.

His link gets 25 “diggs” from other users. A few add comments, such as

I give diggs to anything with Jack Bauer in the title . . . [colemanm]

and

I have 2 different Oakley Laptop bags(the original, and the SI computer bag), i love them and they are as tough as they look, and you can’t beat Oakley’s warranty policy. [Mesach]

We applaud the enthusiasm of all these handbag and 24 fans. However, we cannot help but note a somewhat critical distinction between the Oakley bags detour99 and friends are fawning over and the bag tastes of their role model and supposed laptop-bag designer, the fictional sorta-superhero Jack Bauer.

Jack Bauer-Style Canvas Man Purse from Rothco

Let’s review. Here, as we’ve mentioned before, is the shoulder bag Jack Bauer carries in 24. You will note it is a simple canvas bag with unremarkable markings. It is very similar to a bag described and sold by many vendors as a “Danish School Bag.”

Oakley Kitchen Sink Pack

Detour99, on the other hand, points to a page of Oakley bags, but let’s focus on just one of them, since it appears to epitomize the qualities he (we presume he’s a he) admires in the line. It’s the Oakley Kitchen Sink Pack pictured here, and it looks pretty burly. As Oakley describes it:

Each Oakley pack has its own premium features. If you can’t choose between them, get them all in a single pack that offers every conceivable innovation. From the mobile phone pocket to the padded sleeve that holds widescreen laptops up to 17”, the Kitchen Sink Pack gives you everything you need to haul your gear. The top storage compartment is fleece lined and compression molded, perfect for protecting eyewear — or use it for a media player and take advantage of the headphone port. Cable zipper pulls let you add a lock to secure the main compartment. The mid-body access flap includes an inner organizer, and a compartment at the bottom has drainage ports for wet or soiled items. You also get plenty of pockets, attachment points and tie downs.

The Kitchen Sink Pack sells for $175 and appears to bristle with threatening metal, in the form of clips and anchor handles, the purposes of which are not so clear, though perhaps they could be used for some form of backward rock climbing. We can’t help but imagine that carrying a bag clearly dotted with attachment points might become somewhat counterproductive in the event that the wearer, in full pseudo-counter-terrorism mode, attempts to escape some attackers, say, who might carry hooks.

So let’s contrast. The Jack Pack was pioneered by schoolchildren in Denmark, is made of soft canvas, and has no internal padding or exterior markings save a zipper and two flaps. Yet somehow, in his imagined nascent career as purveyor of laptop backpacks, Jack Bauer is going to decide that bags should be festooned with buckles and gizmos and padded to coddle expensive sunglasses?

We don’t think so.

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in 24

Let’s get this straight: Jack Bauer’s bag is simple and inexpensive. He carries everything but the kitchen sink inside it. While it looks like he might have only a sweaty towel and some jogging shorts in there, he regularly pulls out of it some rather strategic weaponry and devices. Dramatic tension arises from that simple contrast. The Kitchen Sink Bag, on the other hand — and other “tough” looking bags like it from Oakley and many other manufacturers — look like they might be weapons themselves . . . or at least cases for them. What’s inside could only be a letdown. A lot of imagined “protection” for your cute little iPod, no?

We like the comment on detour99’s post from user epluribusunum:

Jack Bauer does not carry a “laptop bag,” he carries a “man-purse.”

The doctor is out

June 26th, 2006
Qara Argentina Medico Bag

Here’s a stylish bag for men inspired by the medical bags doctors used to carry back in the days of housecalls. At $650, though, the Medico Bag from Qara appears to draw equal inspiration from more recent medical trends, like the skyrocketing costs of health care.

Nail-Head Rivets on Qara Argentina Medico Bag

The Medico Bag comes in rich brown “Vintage Vitelo” or dark “Grevy Black” (we think they mean Gray) top-grain leather. There are two zippered pockets inside, plus a slot where you can stow your passport. The handle is attached to the bag with “handmade alpaca nail-head rivets” Alpaca? Yeah, that’s what they say. There’s also a detachable leather shoulder strap.

Qara calls the Medico a getaway bag, but we imagine it’d be especially appropriate if your getaway includes a chance to play Doctor with someone special. (Thanks to Pop Wuping for the tip.)

A hunky rolling backpack for school

June 23rd, 2006

Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? How about just world history? Plus maybe biology, English, and that humongous calculus textbook, too?

Ah, the pleasures of lugging big fat schoolbooks in an ever-expanding, droopy backpack. Someone please explain to us how it has come to this: In the age of digital documents, email, IM, and PDFs, how come textbooks have become so dang massive?

Thankfully, modern bookbag technology has come to the rescue. That’s right: Instead of looking like a big nerd on campus with your overstuffed backpack mounted awkwardly on your shoulders, you can look like a big nerd on campus pulling along your very own wheeled backpack.

Jansport Hemi Wheeled School Pack

We suggest the Jansport Hemi Wheeled, an oversized bag with a name that makes it sound like a truck. Plus it comes in six different high-school-friendly color combinations, including “Jah Green Slamo,” “Snaredrum Grey,” and “Ivory Mist Small Argyle.” (Guys, we don’t think that last one is meant for you.)

The Hemi features a front pocket with organizer, a second pocket with a zipper, a pocket for a water bottle on the side, plus a laptop sleeve. The handle retracts in two stages, up to 22 inches.

Too cool for school? Sure, as long as you don’t have to go up or down any steps. Also, kids, here’s a clue: If you find classmates jumping up to tell everyone to make sure their tray tables are stowed and their seats are brought to an upright position every time you roll into class, it’s because they’re jealous.

A messenger bag in a backpack

June 20th, 2006
Chrome Backbone Messenger Backpack

We’ve heard from man-purse enthusiasts employing the bag-in-a-bag strategy. But here’s a bag that appears to do all the fancy inserting for you: The Chrome Messenger Backpack.

It’s like a bag within a bag. The independently suspended weatherproof liner freely floats within the outer shell eliminating seams exposed to the outside elements. Your cargo is safe from rain, snow, mud, and most anything else this cruel world can sling at you.

This weatherproofing is a feature of all messenger bags produced by Chrome, but the Messenger Backpack comes with two cushioned shoulder straps and a molded back panel, so you carry it like a backpack. Like Starbucks, Chrome gives a different name for each size, for no apparent reason: Dually (small), Ranchero (midsize), and Backbone (the largest, at 21 in. x 20 in. x 7 in.).

The shell is made of Cordura nylon, and the liner is an eighteen-ounce truck tarp liner. We’ve heard of that material in bags before: After you’ve used one of these for a while, you might be able to turn it inside out and sell it as a Freitag.

Over at MyMac.com, John Nemerovski comments on the Ranchero:

This Chrome case needs to be well-loaded for its broad shoulder straps to hang correctly. The fit is different from any previous pack or rucksack I’ve ever used, and I’m gradually getting used to it. Weight distribution is fine, assisted by a molded back panel and ribcage straps, and my orange presence can be spotted from a hundred miles in the sky in case of emergency.

Chrome calls their messenger backpacks “the next step in messenger bag evolution,” which sounds kinda funny to us. Why? Because for many potential purchasers of man purses, the main benefits of a messenger bag (over, say, another type of satchel) is that they provide some sort of authenticity to their male carriers — a pedigree that’s used as cultural cover for the not-entirely-socially-acceptable habit of carrying a handbag. Once a messenger bag evolves beyond the point that allows a casual observer to identify it effortlessly, a wearer might be seen for what he truly is: a man carrying a big floppy purse. In an ideal world, that would be fine. In New York City, even. But sadly, not everywhere. Yet.

Backpacks for laptops: Going half-commando

June 14th, 2006

We know what you’re thinking: The commando option is a bit rough, isn’t it? Who doesn’t have time to unplug a few cords from his laptop before shutting down?

The great divide, then, is this: How carefully do you wind your cords?

There are plenty of cord-management options for earbuds. You can find CAT5 or Ethernet cables that retract nicely into tiny little spindles. But power-supply cords are just as unwieldy as they’ve always been. Maybe you can separate the thick AC cord from the thin DC one, and maybe you have a cute little Velcro cable tie at the end. But winding it is still a pain.

When your laptop was shiny and new, you took time after shutdown to organize and bind your cords, stow each in a special pouch, and secure them carefully in your laptop case. But now your laptop’s a bit dusty, an odd assortment of crumbs line the crannies of your keyboard, and various sticky notes line the palmrests. We bet you go half-commando from time to time.

Don’t you?

Half-commando means you unplug everything that connects to your laptop when you’re ready to pack it up, that you store your laptop in a sleeve or special compartment in its case, but that you shove the cords and peripherals into your bag in a tangled mess. It’s better treatment of your machine than going commando, but it’s a heck of a lot faster than winding everything up.

The eyes of half-commando laptop packer-uppers are likely to glaze over as they view most highly compartmentalized laptop-ready man bags. So many little zippered pockets! What they need is something a little more casual: a messenger bag with a notebook sleeve. Or a backpack with a laptop compartment, but plenty of space left over for cramming in a messy web of wires.

The North Face Modem Day Pack

The North Face’s option for all you half-commandos out there: The Modem, a day pack with a slightly retro name. It’s similar to the Jester, but features a suspended computer sleeve in the main compartment, so you can treat your machine more gently than your cords.

The Modem comes in six color combinations, and it costs the same as the Jester. There’s also a pocket in front that features a headphone port that you can thread your earbuds through. You can go half-commando but still be fussy about your headphone cords, we guess.

Backpacks for laptops: The commando option

June 13th, 2006

Here’s a quick quiz. When it’s time to pack up your laptop for a short trip — say, to go home from a cafe, or to take it to work, are you more likely to:

A. Shut down the machine, carefully unplug the power supply and any attached peripherals, then fold and tie all cords, inserting each item separately into its proper case

or

B. Slam the lid shut, unplug cords only where they are attached to something other than your laptop, and pile them with the mouse and any extra peripherals on top of the machine as if it were a tray — then shove the whole shebang swiftly into a large open compartment in your bag?

Each approach, of course, has its advantages. Option A probably will keep your cords pristine longer, while Option B will always be faster. On the other hand, neither is ideal: All that plugging and unplugging in Option A might eventually wear down a laptop connector or two, while a few months of Option B will likely strain your cords and turn them into a tangled mess.

Laptops that are two years old or newer, we figure, are more likely to receive the Option A treatment. But we have a certain fondness for Option B, which we’ve decided to call the “commando option.” As in:

Honey, we need to leave in five minutes. Why don’t you shut down your laptop now and start packing up all the cords?

Screw that. I’m gonna keep working until we’re ready to leave. I’ll just go commando!

One advantage of the commando option is that it allows your choice of man purse to be a far less fussy affair. You won’t need compartments matched exactly to your wares — just a bag with a big enough mouth, and maybe enough padding to make you feel comfortable.

The North Face Jester Day Pack

Today’s commando option recommendation, then, is a simple backpack with a gaping maw: The North Face Jester Day Pack. Yes, it has an organizer built into its back panel (well, actually the front panel, but we have trouble labeling either side of a backpack as the front), behind laced bungee cords that merely hint at the intricate web of cords you might have shoved inside. There’s also a removable hip belt and a carrying handle, plus two mesh side pockets for water bottles. The Jester comes in ten different color combinations, and it’s listed for $49 on the North Face website, though it’s available at a discount at various on- and offline retailers.

The Jester’s best feature for our purposes is the big open space inside: 1850 cubic inches (that’s 30 liters) of unstructured space for your tangled mass of hastily untethered tech gear. Plenty of room for a knotted web of mouse cords, headphones, and poorly packaged CDs, too. Just shove and go.

A Tumi messenger bag for laptops

June 6th, 2006
Tumi T-Tech Pulse Eldridge Computer Messenger Bag Style 5506

Tumi says today’s featured bag has “the styling of a messenger with the organization of a computer brief.”

We’ve noted a hybrid bag from Tumi before. We’re not exactly sure the T-Tech Pulse Eldridge Computer Messenger Bag breaks any new ground — who hasn’t stuffed a notebook computer in a messenger bag, with or without a sleeve? But it does seem an attractive way to carry a laptop.

The Eldridge comes in a lightweight nylon and has a nice array of details, including a retractable key leash just under the front flap, a dedicated laptop-sized pocket, and a side pocket that seems appropriate for a cell phone or phone-and-organizer hybrid.

Detail of Tumi Pocket Allowing Bag to Mount on Extended Luggage Handles

Our favorite part of the bag, though, is a panel on the back that has sets of zippers at the top and bottom. Unzip a space in the center of each and you can thread the extended handle of a wheeled bag through the panel. If you get the balance right, that’s a pretty secure way to mount a computer bag onto a carry-on.

Is that a feature borrowed from messenger bags or from computer briefcases? Does it matter? We’ll take it.

Answers to your questions about Jack Bauer’s man purse

June 2nd, 2006

Speaking of 24, over at Yahoo! Answers a reader named Miss D writes in with a query:

If Jack Bauer is so badass, why does he carry a murse?

Twenty would-be wise guys try to explain. Including Dave, who lays it out:

That’s where he carries all his whoopass. Sometimes he has so much of it, it spills out. That’s where he carries the spillage.

Which serves us fine. But Miss D chooses her favorite response, from OpnThFludG8, which reads in part:

ever notice how much stuff jack uses throughout the show? he has his guns, ammo, pda, lord knows whatever else…he also seems to get himself in trouble physically so i’m sure he has some other med kit accessories in there.

it’s the jack-pack! it’s his bail-out bag.

We like bailout bags, but we also like an answer from John Ross, who clearly always keeps one foot on solid ground:

Easy. That’s where he carries the extra batteries for his ALWAYS FULLY CHARGED CELL PHONE!!

I mean, seriously, I can buy him never running out of ammo, and never missing, ever, but how the hell does his phone always stay charged and always have signal? I love the man, but the lame cell action has got to go.