Traditionally there has been many ways to prove your manliness, or earning ‘man point’s to give it a modern cultural reference. Building things with your bare hands, opening stubborn condiment jars, drinking to excess with little notable effect, single-handedly feeding the hungry masses with your amazing barbeque skills or kicking seven shades of shit out of each other after closing time on a Saturday night were all regarded as suitable ways of separating the wheat from the chaff at one point, but not anymore. Over time things have changed and it’s no longer enough to dismantle a car engine, light a match off your stubble and roar off into the sunset on your motorcycle if you wish to impress on people just how much of a guy’s guy you are.
True, all those activities are still likely to elicit murmurs of barely concealed arousal from certain females in the vicinity but they’re just as likely to see you labelled any manner of derisory terms also. You see it’s not enough for us to behave like Neanderthals and expect to sling a menstrual maiden over our shoulders anymore, now we’ve got to have feelings and stuff. Not only that, we also have to look good whilst doing so. But let us not blur the lines and imagine that the idea of men spending hours on their appearance is a relatively new phenomenom. Look at those dandies from the 19th century, how did their wives ever get near the bathroom?! Right through history the male of the species has always had an innate desire to look their best and although it might seem like those ponces in pink are going that one step too far they’re just following in the footsteps of ancestors who continually pushed the boundaries of the fashion world.
But amidst all this metro sexuality there’s one accessory item which has divided opinion almost from its inception. It is at once practical and pretty, fetching and fey and is likely to garner as many nods of approval from men in horn rimmed glasses as guffaws from gangs of garrulous girls. You can possess hair styled in the manner of a tropical parrot, clothes more garish than Joseph’s amazing Technicolor dream coat and exude an aroma similar to that of a 1920’s brothel just before opening time and still be considered one of the lads but woe betide anyone who goes that one step further and takes possession of this one item which will instantly see their sexuality brought into question. So what am I talking about then? Those dapper scarves which serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever? Nope. The myriad of multi coloured bracelets which adorn many the arm of today’s young men? Nope. ‘Wacky’ underwear proclaiming the feats of iconic superheroes? Certainly not! I’m talking about something as simple as a vestibule for carrying those items which you simply can’t do without on a day to day basis. I’m talking about the man bag.
There’s not many things which women have that make me jealous, well maybe their breasts but that’s for another time, but the fact that they can have bags full of mysterious delights whilst us poor plebs have to cram everything into our ill-fitting pockets has always been a bugbear of mine. What do they have in those bags of theirs? On the rare occasions that I’ve managed to sneak a glance into one of said bags all I’ve seen is endless junk masquerading as useful items. Next time you’re out and about in the presence of lady folk have a quick look in their unattended handbag and see can you make any sense of it all, go on try it. It’s like a war zone in there as a handful of discernible items desperately try to free themselves from the cesspit of carnage which they’ve become trapped within. I once attempted to carefully place my hand inside one of these bags before quickly withdrawing it just as the slavering jaws of some feral beast sought to liberate me of one of my fingers!
So why can they have knapsacks full of what quite frankly is nothing more than rubble while we have to go about our day in constant discomfort thanks to our keys accidentally grazing our nether regions through their temporary home in our pockets. That’s what the creator of the man bag must have thought and fair fuckin played to him I say. We have stuff too you know. It might not have the same levels of importance as those bits of paper with illegible writing on them that ladies have but it’s important nonetheless and it needs a suitable means of transport. Thus the man bag was born and from almost the first moment I saw one I wanted one. No longer would I carry my newspaper under my arm all day, yearn for a blast of Nivea dry impact to soothe my perspiring pits, wake up all furry mouthed at an impromptu session and curse my lack of a toothbrush or attempt to smuggle a bottle of an ambitious sized spirit into a nightclub. Life would be different now.
So as you do I mentioned to a few mates over a pint or two my fondness for these bags for men and my ultimate intention to purchase one. Such was the reaction I may as well have informed them that I was planning a fortnight’s holiday at Michael Barrymore’s house with Julian Clary and Graham Norton as my fellow companions. Once the array of limp wristed actions and high pitched voices had died down I enquired as to what exactly was the problem. “They’re for gays”, came the erudite response. Now I consider my friends to be a quite liberal minded bunch so this blunt retort was wholly unexpected and my new position as group pariah an uncomfortable one. “Well I like them”, I meekly replied, but in my heart of hearts I knew I could never get one now. How manbags had gained this affiliation with the more camp element of the fashion world was unbeknownst to me. But I instantly understood that any attempt to purchase even the most manly of man bags would have me looking over my shoulder in anticipation of not only insults from uber-hetero blokes, but also lascivious looks from those who saw my man bag as a symbol of my rather gay intent.
At this point I feel I should insert the requisite “I’m not a homophobe” disclaimer, although the fact that I’m willing to talk with such frankness about my desire to own a man bag should be proof enough of my liberal minded nature I hope. But as liberal minded as I am I still couldn’t bring myself to buy one of those bags no matter how practical it appeared. I was haunted by my friend’s jibes and feared an incessant volley of insults rendering me nothing more than a shell of a man with only his man bag to soothe his broken heart. But wouldn’t a real man just buy the fuckin bag and not care what people think? Go on get that bag, cram it with your bloke’s stuff and to hell with the haters! I considered this, weighed up all the options with the end result being that I wasn’t a real man. I was fine with this but what I wasn’t fine with was continuing having to carry my worldly belongings in just a few pitiful pockets.
But just when I thought all hope was lost and I was destined to eye those brave, real men with ever increasing envy fate dealt me a quite fortunate hand. There was many great things about heading to college as a ‘mature student’ to finally fulfil my dreams of writing nonsense such as this for a living but one that I never foresaw was the chance to become a proud man bag owner! In the weeks leading up to my first day at big boy’s school it suddenly dawned on me that I’m going to need somewhere to store the endless textbooks, notepads, pens and folders which I would surely need. Now’s my chance I thought with glee. Not for me a sturdy backpack to fill with college gear. No, I was getting a man bag, and the best thing was it was ‘for college’ so no one could accuse me of going all soft.
I now have my man bag and I’ve never been happier. It fulfils its primary purpose of storing my daily college necessities whilst also doubling up as a perfect means of ensconcing any other vital items I may need to call upon throughout my day. Fear of reprisal is nonexistent in this brave new world as us liberal minded learners wouldn’t dream of judging someone purely based on what accessories they flaunt. As I and my man bag strut proudly around campus I see nothing but other proud carriers going about their day with the contented air of someone who can call upon an array of suitably secreted sandwiches should they so wish. I know I’m one of the lucky ones and there are many other suffering men out there terrified to take this biggest of steps. But my advice to you is don’t make the same mistakes I did, don’t take the coward’s option, don’t apply for college just so you have an excuse and don’t allow yourself to look back on your life and curse the fact you never had the cojones to get a man bag. Because real men wear man bags. And I’m a real man. Finally.