Friend 1: “Hey, nice murse.”
Friend 2: “Dude, you have a man purse. A murse.”
Me: “What are you talking about? This is a messenger bag.”
Friends 1 & 2: Uncontrollable laughter.
Friend 1: Murse. Laughter.
Friend 2: Manbag More laughter.
Before you start to feel sorry for me, you should know that I beat them both to death with my messenger bag while laughing in a deep, manly fashion. OK, not quite. I gave them cigars, and my masculinity was fully reinstated. It also helped that I pointed out to them that Indiana Jones, the single greatest man in myth or reality, carried one on all of his adventures. In fact, it saved his life several times, generally by snagging something and keeping him from falling to an almost certain, crocodile-chewed death. The Indiana Jones argument was a silver bullet. The subject was forgotten.
My History with the Murse
I’ve been carrying around some kind of man bag for years now. Sometimes in the form of a laptop bag (by definition, it qualifies), but often in the form of a messenger bag, and usually on the weekends when I’m running around. I wasn’t thinking about Indiana Jones laying the priceless head of an ancient Inca treasure in his bag when I bought my first weekend messenger bag. (Though the image has come to mind since.) I was in Malaysia, and all the young, hip Asian guys hanging around Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur’s “golden triangle” had one dangling behind them. And I thought, “well isn’t that handy?” I usually had a book and an MP3 player to lug around, and my pockets weren’t the best at keeping these things off the ground. A good messenger bag would do the trick. So I bought a cheap blue one with strong latches.
Fast forward 5 years to Christmas 2006 in New York City. My old lateral messenger bag is on its last leg. And somehow, messenger bags are still fashionable. (I don’t pretend to know how that works.) Only now the style is smaller and vertical. My wife is in a perfume/jewelry/who-cares shop and next door is a Tumi store. I walk in and 15 minutes later walk out with the murse in question. A true, rugged, canvas-looking, Indiana Jones messenger bag. One that roughly resembles the one in the picture above, except taller than wide.
Separating the Dr. Jones bag from the Murse
A messenger bag is tool, a murse is an accessory. It’s just as simple as that. When I selected my messenger bag, I made no attempt to coordinate the bag’s color or fabric with my coat, shoes, car or any else I own. The only consideration I gave to color was to avoid anything bright, trendy or eye catching. That’s because this bag is meant to hold things like cigars, cigar accessories, a book or a newspaper, and a small pad of paper and a pen. Stuff that comes in handy when you’re hunting treasure and running from angry indigenous peoples.
How do I know the difference between a murse and man’s messenger bag? Well, because I own what could only be consider a murse. Its a slick two-toned, hand-made, Italian leather briefcase, I bought in the Florence’s outdoor market years ago. The thing is beautiful, but the only time I’ve ever carried it was through the airport on the way home from Italy. I figure I’ll probably actually use it once I finally become a Wall Street stock broker in the 1980’s. (Unfortunately these things just don’t work in the common-sense, unpretentious, slacker-chic world of I.T. consulting.) Unlike my weekend bag, this briefcase was all about aesthetics. It would be absolutely impossible to carry unless you’re wearing an expensive suit. (Which is another slight problem, since I don’t own one.) So for now, it’s closet candy. Manbag closet candy.
So the next time you see a guy carrying a bag, here’s your guide to determine whether he’s metrosexual or a bull-whip slinging treasure hunter:
- Is the bag ugly, weathered or worn?
- Is the guy unshaven or kinda grizzled?
- Is he smoking or chewing on a cigar?
- Is he running from dogs or a group of angry indigenous people?
- Did he just shoot a guy showing off with a pair of scimitars?
If the answer 2 or more of these questions is yes, you’ve got a man’s man sporting a messenger bag. It could be me. If you answered yes to all of these, you’re watching an Indiana Jones movie.