Thousands of years of patriarchal oppression aside, women have it pretty good–when it comes to bags. Depending on the occasion, they have an arsenal of stylish ones to choose from without fear of reproach.
For gentlemen, it's a different matter. Men bear the curse of the murse, or man purse. Who can forget the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, in an attempt to avoid the stigma, calls his a "European carryall". Indeed, fancy man.
But the manly need to stow and haul is especially strong in an era of myriad portable electronic devices. Tighter jeans and slimmer suit silhouettes demand that guys keep that e-junk off their belts and out of their pockets.
Tetsuro Shigematsu, filmmaker and former CBC Radio host, is a paragon of the problem. Says Shigematsu: "I carry a lot of gadgets. Cellphones, the world's largest personal digital assistant, sunglasses, a great assortment of keys, thumb drives, a laptop, and at least three spare batteries."
Shigematsu's solution is the Boblbee Megalopolis hardshell backpack ( www.boblbeecanada.com ). Made from, according to the Swedish company's specs, "a monocoque shell of impact-resistant ABS", the bag looks like something from outer space, say an alien parasite with a silver exoskeleton, or a jet pack.
In terms of style points, Shigematsu says, "The advantage of this bag is it's several magnitudes more sleek than a back-to-school backpack. Several times a day, guys ask me about it. And I met someone once who claimed the groove at the bottom was used once to dig out avalanche victims."
While the Boblbee may be useful during a mountaineering mishap on Mars, it's still a backpack that scrunches up the shoulders of elegant blazers and jackets.
A more down-to-earth solution can be found through a visit to Thriller (3467 Main Street). This skate and lifestyle store is owned and run by Mike Jackson, and features eco-sensitive bags designed by the Thriller man himself (Mike, not Michael).
"I saw guys [outside the shop] pulling down billboards," Jackson explains, "and I asked them what they do with the vinyl. They told me they [the billboards] went to the garbage, so I contacted the Pattison Sign Group and I had a handshake deal."
Jackson recycles the endless supply of vinyl signs into four types of shoulder bag under his Boris Brothers label. Ranging in size from the neat little M3 Satch'Elle to the roomy M2 Messenger, and reminiscent of Switzerland's Freitag bags made from old, flat-toned truck tarpaulins, Boris Brothers bags ($59 to $69) have more complex colours, a lustrous sheen, and great graphic pop.
"I pick signs and banners that have lots of words and colours," Jackson says. When asked about the versatility of the bag, he says he doesn't see a problem.
"At a board meeting, I don't think anyone is going to look down on a brightly coloured and recycled bag from Boris Brothers. I think it's a plus and says a lot about the person who uses it."