If we are to go by TV shows, movies, video ads, music videos and everything that portrays women as shopaholics and obsessed with everything in vogue, men seem to be somewhat lagging behind. It is true, some men simply don’t care. But then we have metrosexuals and other fashion-conscious types who do really care.
So the notion that men generally don’t care about their appearance is clearly false. Some years back it could have been the case but not today — urbane men are ready to spend loads of dough to look debonair and suave. And the fashion industry is booming with clothing lines, accessories and what not which cater to men.
From watches to cufflinks, floral shirts to shorts with plates, so how can bags be far behind? For it’s not just the ladies that need to carry their knick knacks. Guardian 20 talks to designers and some users of these chic bags called the man purses or murses.
“Men have been using bags like messenger bags since a long time. A utility bags being used by mail men and messenger boys were hardy, minimal, functional and practical. Eventually they made a transition to the fashion world as high-end accessories,” says Abhisek Basak a Delhi based designer.
“Interestingly, army cartographers have been using bags of similar shape and size for a very long time. It is a very handy piece in which one can carry his stuff around. It has evolved over the years keeping pace with the vogue of the day. So, it continues to get re-invented, re-styled and re-named from time to time.”
These bags were used to carry office documents and laptops. With the advent of smart phones and iPads, the need of carrying big bags has diminished. Today, the so-called man purses are seen more as fashion accessories. Most men carry wallets, phones, ipads, shades, cigarettes, gadgets and other stuff in their bags.
“Interestingly, army cartographers have been using bags of similar shape and size for a very long time. It is a very handy piece in which one can carry his stuff around. It has evolved over the years keeping pace with the vogue of the day. So, continues to get re-invented, re-styled and re-named from time to time. I, personally, hate the name man-purse. It is just a bag to carry your stuff around,” Abhisek further adds.
What is a man purse or murse you must be wondering? As per Aarti Mehta, the lead designer at Mohawk, “These are small cross body satchels, a stylish way for fellas to travel with their personal items.” A man purse or murse can have several other names depending upon its style and type. It can be called a murse, clutch, pochette, document wallet, male clutch or purse.
“It may shock you to know that a little leather/rexene carrier and concealer of valuables was actually first used by men not women,” Aarti adds.
If one thinks about it, Aarti is not wrong as even if look at the stone age, when humans survived on hunting and gathering food, it was men who would venture out with their weapons and tools wrapped up in a piece of cloth or animal skin that would be wrapped either around their waists or tied to their backs.
“We all have seen those middle aged uncles who either worked at banks or in offices and carried tiny bags which they fasten on their wrists. They used it to carry money or documents. So if you think about it, a man purse is not new, it’s something that always existed but has a new name now to keep up with the current times,” says Nikita Sharma of Odara.
The demand for murses is huge these days. As per Ipsa Bansal, business head at Mohawk, “Inspite of being just more than a year old, Mohawk boasts of dispatching 900 sku’s in a month from e-commerce portals like Flipkart, Koovs, Limeroad, Amazon, Snapdeal.”
But how is a murse different from a normal purse used by the women? Other than designs and choice of colour, the basic difference according to Aarti is: “The shoulders are narrower, as men have broader shoulders on average than women. So a pack that is made for women will be designed with this in mind. Having a comfortable bag — one that takes the weight off of your shoulders — is a combination of different features coming together. If the width of the shoulder straps is off, then that makes it harder to maintain a right balance.”
And there are other differences too. “The torso is shorter. Women typically have shorter torsos than men, so a strap length from shoulder to hip will be a smaller size. This isn’t really a big deal since nowadays many bags come with adjustable back pieces that allow you to shorten or lengthen the torso,” Aarti further adds.
So, it’s not like these bags didn’t exist before but the reason for a sudden surge of demand for these murses can be attributed to emergence of a breed of men who care for fashion and have a refined taste for it. “To put it simply, a murse is the glamorised form of a bag. People buy these urban bags because they need one to use on a regular basis, but they buy murses to unleash their fashionable self. Just like shoes, bags have become a common indulgence of bagaholics everywhere. They come in a variety of designs, labels, and styles that change every now and then,” says Upkar Sharma of Mohawk.
But things were different some years ago, these bags were once just used to carry stuff. Anyone hardly cared about their designs and the kind of material which was used in their making. “Like is the case with all trends, the change usually doesn’t happen overnight. The trend started in places like Milan in 2009, with designer such as Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Georgia Armani and Prada.While ‘Ghetto Fashionista’ happened in December 2006 that featured Terrance Howard and his man purse, which was infact a clutch (with no shoulder strap). There is no doubt that the trend is building momentum, more so in Asia and Europe than in North America,” says Ipsa Bansal.