I carry with me at all times what might these days probably be best described as a ‘man’s clutch organiser’.
It might, of course, also be called – usually with a whiff of obtrectation – a ‘man bag’.
This pejorative – with its invidious and somewhat mysogynistic insinuation both that the female of the species is in some way inferior and that a man who carries such an item is, by implication, somehow lacking – might in no small part explain why so few men – even in these enlightened times – actually carry one.
Such opinions trouble me not, as I have carried a bag in one form or another since the early 80s. I started doing so at roughly the same time that I cut my hair! Yes, when I left school in 1972 – having been required to keep my locks “above the ears and ‘orf’ the collar” throughout the fag end of the 1960s – I determined that I would henceforth wear it as long as I wished, and thus did not subsequently get it cut again until 1981 or thereabouts. Having surviving – from the unenlightened – the torrents of ‘humorous’ obloquy on the subject of my appearance throughout that godforsaken decade I am rendered completely immune to any such jibes.
I am frequently asked what I carry in my bag. The short answer is – ‘everything’! The slightly longer answer is – ‘all the things that other chaps stuff in their jacket, shirt and trouser pockets – then have to remember to switch to other clothes when they change – and have to remember to take out before they sit down or they’ll break their mobile phone”. That sort of thing…
The other question that I am asked is – “aren’t you afraid of losing it?”. Well – I never have lost one, but I have suffered several thefts. On one occasion my wallet was stolen from the bag… whilst I was holding it front of me… in a lift… in the Hotel Cosmos in Moscow! When – subsequent to the event itself – I worked out how it had been done, I was almost in awe of the execution of the heist. The setup had featured a little old Russian lady acting as the distraction, whilst the ever-so-helpful young Russian guy ever-so-helped himself to my wallet whilst ever-so-helpfully holding the lift doors open. Sweet!
On the other occasion the bag itself was stolen – in the bar at the National Theatre in London. This was particularly embarrassing as I had gone there to meet someone that I had not met before and did not know – to discuss a creative project. The bag – containing all my worldly possessions – was lifted from the foot of my chair as I sat in the bar having a drink with her. Without keys I had to abandon my car in the service road in front of the theatre, and without money I was forced to borrow from the stranger that I had just met in order that I might catch the train home.
I have replaced the bag at intervals as each has – one by one – fallen apart. As a result I have observed that these things go in and out of fashion, and that it is sometimes virtually impossible to get a bag with a sensible configuration – one that can hold everything without being ridiculously bulky. When I found the present incumbent – five years ago in Paris (don’t we sound cosmopolitan!) – I snapped it up immediately even though it was wickedly expensive, because it was the closest I had ever found to being the perfect bag.
Recently, however, it has started to show its age. One of the main zips has failed rendering it insecure and thus considerably less attractive. I enquired of Tumi – the manufacturers – as to whether or not it could be repaired, given that the leather itself is still in pretty good condition. Tumi hinted that they would need to send the bag away to Germany and wanted to charge me so much for the pleasure that it was really not worth doing.
It crossed my mind that – like me – the bag was ready for retirement and I took the opportunity of meeting friends in London last weekend to try to locate a suitable replacement. I was in for a shock. Tumi had discontinued this, the most useful bag in their range, and had no substitute that was even close. Further investigation revealed that – as far as bag manufacturers are concerned – this sort of thing is now distinctly out of fashion again. After a frustrating afternoon’s search I had to concede that I was not going to find a bag anywhere near as perfect as the one that I was about to retire.
Perhaps I should think about this a little more…
Naturally the InterWebNet provided the solution – a firm on Eton High Street called ‘1st Class Leathergoods Repairs’. Those that know Eton will, of course, not be at all surprised that in the end the solution was more or less on my doorstep, or indeed that it should take this form. The firm’s website announces:
“We are repairers to
- The Bridge – Il Ponte Pelletteria
- Jane Shilton
- Louis Vuitton
- Tula & S.American Hide leather Holdalls, Land etc
- new zip from £36
- ladies purse
- gents wallet
- passport holders
- shoulder bags
- luggage wheels repair
- antique trunks, storeage trunks, steamer trunks, wicker trunks
- vintage car trunks, door retainer straps, bonnet straps
- masonic cases , bags for freemasons
- straps and covers,
- custom – bespoke hand made leather case, hand made leather
- custom made bespoke gunbags, custom hand made guncases
- leather rip repair, leather scratch repair
- leather strap, canvas strap, webbing strap, luggage strap
- gun cases, cartridge bags, gamebags, refurbish , reline ,
- footwear uppers, ladies sandal straps, riding & polo boots
- fireside bellows
- leather Tankards
- leather grommets & washers
- fire safety leather straps
- experienced pilots have old cases
- pannier bags, picnic cases, pencases
- musicians have instrument cases – guitar , saxophone , mandolin , violin , cello , trumpet , horn
- laptop bags, holdalls, cases
- leather clothing, bike jackets, bike all in ones
- embossing leather, embossing on sewn on panels
- leather care products
- repair estimates for insured travel goods, luggage, suitcases
Customers over the years have been unusual and varied in their requirements, and include historically famous families, celebrities, and business and professional personalities, as well as meeting the every day needs of ladies and men and people on the go.”
I can’t argue with that – and my ‘man bag’ is now safe in their hands.
I did reflect – as I walked away from their shop clutching all my worldly possessions in a plastic carrier bag – if there wasn’t a message in this for my own retirement!
Can’t think what it might be though…