In Praise of the Satchel

Bookbags are heavy, unfashionable, and reminiscent of Mormon missionaries and high school students.

Messenger bags, while wonderful, are sizable. The whole thing is vaguely fashionable and utilitarian, but in the end is a very large bag. For a day on the bike, they are great. For a night out, they are not.
A briefcase demands to be carried, and having one’s hands free is a plus.  What’s more, it is far too businesslike for social occasions.
What is a guy to do for those times when he’s going out, but doesn’t need a huge carrying case? How can one carry around a say, book, phone, iPod, and notepad, but not have to carry the aforementioned pieces of luggage?
The answer is simple: the noble (and unfairly maligned) satchel.
Call it a man-purse if you like. You may even shorten that to “murse,” if you so choose, or make a facile scrotal pun but calling it a “man bag.”  Call it whatever the hell you want. I don’t care. Your complaints that my trusty shoulder bag looks sort of swishy and effeminate are dwarfed by the sheer functionality of the item.
What do you need when you go out? I always carry a book with me, for those times when I’m waiting for/riding on public transport, or in the event that I simply want to spend a bit in a park or coffee shop reading. Not having a book make me feel naked and exposed, like I’m missing something essential.
I also carry around my iPod. You know, for music and podcast whilst walking. Striding through the streets of Portland, satchel on my shoulder, with the dulcet tones of either the Dirty Projectors or NPR’s Planet Money in my ears truly does put me in a specific demographic, one which I completely enjoy occupying.
In the off chance that I need to write something down, I carry a pen and notepad. This is a very, very handy item to have on you. When someone says “do you have something to write this down on?” I can say “Yes. Yes I do.”
All of these handy items (and oftentimes more!) are toted around in my trusty black satchel, an oiled-canvas bag that I’ve had for a few years now. I got it as a going away present, and it is, far and away, one of the most useful gifts I’ve ever received. It has been to Japan, China, Korea, and even as far as California. It’s held a camera, voice recorder, bottled water, an amplifier, and even a marriage license. When handed a stray piece of paperwork, I need not fold it up awkwardly- it goes in the satchel.
I am proud of how danged handy, how wonderfully useful this item is. As widely-used as it might be, though, by urban types such as myself, the satchel is unfairly spurned. There seems to be a stubborn subset of men who reject its use because it vaguely resembles a purse.  Certain kinds of men, insecure in their masculinity, deny the obvious usefulness of the satchels.

On the off chance that any of those guys are reading this, I would like to address them specifically for a moment. All of you guys who, for some reason or another, think that the satchel is vaguely girly.

Guys, let’s talk about that for a moment. Women, you might have noticed, wear pants. So do we. They wear shirts, just like us. They also get haircuts, much like we do. Would you walk around sporting women’s pants, shirts, or haircuts? Okay, some guys would, but for the most part, dudes, you’d get pants, shirts, and haircuts designed for you. Our pants are designed for a dude-waist rather than lady hips, our shirts are made with guy shoulders in mind, and our haircuts are generally a different species than those the ladies favor.
Thus it is so with the satchel. The satchel is no more a purse than any other dude-designed item. Try it! It is useful! No longer will you have to stuff paperwork in your pocket or keep five things in your hands at once. No more will you be without a writing implement or reading material. Your iPod and phone will not rest awkwardly in your pockets, and if you get sick of sitting on your wallet, it can go into the satchel. Glasses and sunglasses fit easily inside it, as do any other doo-dads or whatever you might have on you at the time.

Men, do not let this obvious bit of utility pass you by. We have the technology to carry around day-to-day items. You need not shirk from this innovation, this satchel. It is useful, it is nice looking, and (don’t worry) it’s definitely not a purse.

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