In Defense Of The Murse, Or Manliness And The Messenger Bag

Indiana Jones and His BagI, apparently, have a murse. A manbag. A man purse. I was informed of this recently by a couple of friends who took great joy in the announcement and my surprise. The exchange went a bit like this:

Friend 1: “Hey, nice murse.”

Me: “What?”

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.

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  1. May 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    I don’t understand why bags are looked upon with contempt. It just shows you’re well organized. Man bags don’t have to be frilly or purple like ladies’ purses, which is a common misconception. Do these friends of yours also wear ill-fitting khaki shorts and white socks with dres shoes?

  2. Brian said,

    May 13, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Well, I know that one of them is known to wear white socks with his sandals, the way only people in the Pacific Northwest seem to be able. I think they were more about giving me hell than ridiculing the man bag. (I think I’ve even seen one of them with something like a man bag.)

    Anyway, it was a well executed assault, I never saw it coming. 🙂

  3. babychaos said,

    May 14, 2007 at 5:59 am

    While I’d be the first to chuckle about anyone with a murse you posted that picture of Indiana Jones which has diverted me away from the argument and any other coherent thought. Very nice picture. Thank you.

    What were we talking about again?

    Ah yes, your crocodile-proof safety harness with handy, entirely incidental pouch to carry valuables…?



  4. Brian said,

    May 14, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Glad you’re back babychaos-

    You like that? As a follow up and visual one-two punch, check out the picture of David Beckham and his murse on “overpriced designer man bag’s” blog here. You’re welcome. 🙂

  5. James Gilliam said,

    May 15, 2007 at 11:07 am

    So when are you going to put up a post defending those awful hawaiian shirts you wear all the time? 🙂

  6. Brian said,

    May 15, 2007 at 11:41 am

    James- Just as soon as you write up an apology for your extensive line of pink shirts. 😈

  7. James said,

    May 16, 2007 at 9:09 am

    It’s Salmon – I only have one, and it still looks better than *any* hawaiian shirt that you have in your closet… 😛

  8. James said,

    May 16, 2007 at 9:10 am

    and your website doesn’t parse embedded HTML correctly BTW…

  9. Brian said,

    May 16, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Nope, it does a good job James, you just need to close your bold tag correctly. You gotta learn to finish the things you start! 😆

    And what are you doing in my closet? “James is in the closet… I said come out the closet…” 😈

  10. canvas bag said,

    June 3, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    […] utterly be sadden by there asinine comment. Made of heavy canvas, looking almost more masculine than…Reusable Shopping Bags – :All of our high-quality, reusable bags will help you […]

  11. Raffaella said,

    November 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Thank’s for sharing! Great post.

  12. Pamplemousse said,

    November 18, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I man purse is not the same as a messenger bag. This I know.

    The size and manner is which it is worn are the main differences.

    A man purse is most obvious in the effeminate way in which one is carried. A man should not show as much care for a bag. I don’t think it should be an extension of his essence, as a purse would be for a woman.

    I think this is one of those sexual differences which ought to be respected in public. Just like how birds can tell the difference by feather colours.

  13. arthur said,

    June 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

    really i am so tired of people saying that my messenger bag is a man purse. and @ pamplemousse the way a “man” take care of his bag dont make that bag a murse

  14. December 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I found messenger bags that look like note book bags don’t get criticized as much. Guys who carry man purse or designer hand bags are up for a challenge.

  15. May 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Does your site have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

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