For several years I’ve been casually looking for a bag to carry all my everyday stuff. If I was a woman this would be called a “purse,” but I’m not yet confident enough in my sexuality to call it that, so we could agree, perhaps, to call it a “shoulder bag” or a “carry-all” or, if you must, a “murse.”
Back in the 70s all a guy needed to have on him was keys and a wallet. These days I’m carrying around keys and a wallet and an iPod Touch and a mobile phone and a notebook and a fountain pen and my passport and who knows what else. I don’t carry scotch mints and Kleenex, but otherwise my personal carting-around needs are closer to my grandmother’s than to the Marlboro Man’s.
In the winter I solve this problem with an L.L. Bean jacket with an over-abundance of pockets. In the summer, though, I either end up wearing a coat that’s too warm for the weather or trying to cram everything into my trouser pockets.
I finally decided that enough was enough and that it was worth putting up with the catcalls from the muscled men in Camaros (yes, this has happened to me: “nice bag!”, not a compliment) to solve my problem.
Which provided me with a whole new problem: finding the right bag. I’m particular about this kind of thing: needed to be free of Velcro, small enough to not weigh me down but large enough, and with enough pockets to store and compartmentalize everything I need to cart around.
Being in Berlin for the summer provided me with the perfect opportunity to bag-shop: in Berlin everyone carries a bag, and having a bag on your shoulder offers no assault on your manliness. As such, the skies were full of bags of every design, colour and function.
I ended up finding a lot of bags that almost worked out for me: I’m a big fan of Freitag bags, made in Switzerland of recycled truck covers, but Freitag bags are drenched in Velcro, and I just can’t abide all that scrunching-sound every time I need a pen. There’s a great store on Rosenthaler Straße called Waahnsinn Berlin that sells a good selection of bags, but none of them quite met my specs.
Just as I was on the cusp of giving up, I wandered into the Marimekko store on Alte Schönhauser Straße. I’d walked past Marimekko stores before — the airport in Helsinki seems to be one giant Marimekko outlet and there are branches in Malmö and several other cities we’ve visited — but never been in, thinking them to sell only fabric and household goods. It turns out they also sell bags.
I spent a good 30 minutes looking through their selection until I found the perfect bag for me, the model they call “Cash & Carry.” It looks like this:
I bought it — “ah, you’ve settled on a classic,” said the clerk — and I’ve been carting it around ever since. The bag has a lot to recommend it:
- It’s just the right size for my everyday stuff, and can hold some extra things — a paperback book, or a CD — if called upon.
- There’s is an outside pocket at the front for my Nokia N95 and an outside pocket at the back that holds my iPod Touch.
- There’s an outside slot for a pen on the right-hand side.
- Inside there’s a pocket for a passport.
- All the pockets, and the main closure, are zippered, not velcro.
- It’s all made out of a space-age fabric that’s tough, somewhat waterproof, and is easy on the hands.
- Like the clerk said, it’s a classic: it was designed in the 1970s by Ristomatti Ratia (son of Armi Ratia, Marimekko’s founder) and is free of ornamentation or other superfluous elements.
The bag has worked out well — there’s not really anything I would change about it. My only challenge is learning the everyday skills of bag-management that, I presume, come as second-nature to bag-carrying people (where to put it in a restaurant, how to remember not to leave it behind, etc.).
If you’re ready to take the leap into bag-carrying, I highly recommend this model; it will be easy to find in Europe, and Marimekko has several shops across Canada (including one in Thunder Bay, Finnport, that will ship).