6 things we learned about man bags at ‘It’s a Men’s World’
Amsterdam’s Museum of Bags and Purses, located on the picturesque Herengracht canal, is turning the spotlight on the male of the species until August 2017 with a temporary exhibition documenting the rise, fall and rise of the ‘man bag’.
The ‘man bag’ gets a bad rap in modern society. Associated with flashy football stars and preened metrosexuals, the accessory has been maligned by the media over the years as a superfluous fashion garment not sported by ‘real men’ – as though the idea of needing to carry things around is somehow unmanly.
But the fact is that the man bag (or man purse) has always been here in one form or another, and in today’s world of laptops and tablets, sporting equipment and frequent travel, men need them more than ever before.
A new exhibition at Amsterdam’s Tassenmuseum calls time on man-bag-bashing, bringing the accessory – and the men who use them – into view. From 16th century hunting bags to inspiring contemporary designs, the small-but-perfectly-formed exhibition explores the theme of fashion or function, examining different styles of man bags through the ages – and what they were used for.
Here are six things we learned at the exhibition.
Purses have only been considered a woman’s accessory since the 17th century.
Historically, men always wore purses and bags attached to their belts, but the development of pockets in clothing from the 17th century onwards make these bags redundant and gradually led to them being associated with the female wardrobe.
Speaking of pockets, the English word ‘pocket’ was derived from the old Northern French word ‘poquet’, which means ‘bag’.
Tailors began sewing these money pouches into the linings of trousers, coats and waistcoats in the 17th century, and today they are seen as a functional feature used to carry only the bare essentials. Pockets remained men’s preferred method of carrying essentials around until the 1970s, when tight clothing made pockets so restrictive that they could fit barely anything inside. Enter: the return of bags for men.
The origins of modern gym bags can be found in the kit bags used by the army in the early 20th century.
It wasn’t until WWI that sportswear became classified as a separate component of fashion, and the origins of gym bags can be found in the kit bags used by soldiers during the war. In the 1980s, sports bags became name-brand accessories and today they’re used not just for sports purposes but for general travel and fashion purposes – just think of David Beckham and his trusty Louis Vuitton hold-all.
Backpacks were first introduced as a fashion accessory in the 1980s
…by Prada, whose minimalist nylon backpack hit the runways in 1985 and immediately developed a cult following. Before that, they were carried mainly by hikers, travelers and soldiers. Today, backpacks are used by men the world over, with hipster brands such as Herschel leading the way in practical yet stylish backpacks that are just as home in a trendy café as on a mountain slope.
Briefcases aren’t just for businessmen.
Rectangular, dark leather briefcases are usually associated with 20th century businessmen. But a bold red leather example used by King Willem I (1772-1843) on display in the exhibition shows that they were actually in use long before that – and didn’t always need to be such a dour shade of black or brown.
Sporrans (small pouches worn at the front of a kilt) are the most manly man bag there is.
Because they’re the only kind of bag worn only by men.
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