Excellent purse for 40 y/o man
August 27, 2017 6:12 AM   Subscribe

The man bag search is not going well. He carries a backpack and wants something smaller and more professional. Smaller things look fairly feminine.

He wants to carry:
Mini umbrella
Baseball cap
Chewing gum
8.5 x 11 file folder with a few sheets inside
Half-sheet notebook
(Maybe) lunch

He does not want something large enough to hold a laptop or look like it holds a laptop. It shouldn't scream "mug me." It can't look like a woman's purse but he's straight and doesn't care if it gives people the impression he's gay.

We're probably talking about a cross body bag, maybe a small messenger bag. Open to other options.

Leather or treated canvas probably. Max $150.

Looked at Manhattan Portage but smaller bags were too purse-y and larger bags too large. Also maybe just borderline "professional enough."
posted by OrangeVelour to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Tom Bihn Cafe Bag? This blog post compares the different sizes. I own the small and large and love both.
posted by stefnet at 6:17 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you checked out Waterfield bags? Some of their smaller tablet bags might fit.
posted by bluecore at 6:19 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

This Jack Spade looks a little laptop-like, but otherwise seems like it would do the trick.
posted by functionequalsform at 6:49 AM on August 27, 2017

Your requirements sound close to my boyfriend's requirements and my boyfriend has the small Timbuk2 classic messenger bag. It's just a plain well-designed messenger bag, big enough for letter sized paper and a clipboard but not too big, no laptop padding, looks professional enough in black. He's 6'4"and it does not look like a purse.
posted by yeahlikethat at 7:16 AM on August 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I like the look of Chrome bags and saw a small profile, roll top backpack out in the wild the other day that I really liked the looks of. They have a European look to them and seem to be well made.
posted by amanda at 7:20 AM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Filson has several products that may fit his needs.
posted by cribcage at 7:21 AM on August 27, 2017

I also have the Timbuk2 and it doesn't look like a purse
posted by crocomancer at 7:43 AM on August 27, 2017

I always recommend Duluth Trading Company, as the quality is super nice and the guarantee is rock-solid. They have a bunch of styles and sizes, and the materials they use are great. This one in particular looks about right for your requirements.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:08 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tom Bihn has some nice bags that might fit the bill, like one of their smaller café bags, or the co-pilot (which is just big enough to hold a small MacBook Air but doesn't look that big). Bonus: they're made in the USA by workers with a decent wage and benefits.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:50 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tmibuk 2 do smaller bags. If the messenger bags are still too big, he might want to look at the crossbody bags which are smaller still. While aimed at women as a handbag replacement they are pretty gender neutral. Oh and it looks like they are having a 30% off sale right now
posted by wwax at 9:04 AM on August 27, 2017

Thirding or fourthing or fifthing the Timbuk2. I've recently migrated back to a backpack because I need the space, but the smaller messenger bag is excellent and not in any way dainty.
posted by lhauser at 9:52 AM on August 27, 2017

If he's interested in something from Timbuk2, I can certainly say that their stuff is very well made. I have a couple of bags from them that have been through some pretty rough abuse over a number of years and still get used daily, and they've held up great. Rock solid construction, would buy again except I don't expect I'll ever need to.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2017

Oh, and while most of their bags are cordura (which is crazy hard-wearing but maybe a little more downscale of a look than he's interested in) you can get custom versions done in waxed canvas which is really nice-looking and only costs a little bit more. Still plenty durable, too. My "big" messenger bag has one panel in waxed canvas and it's holding up fine. It's beginning to wear through to the vinyl underlayer in one corner, but it's in no danger of any kind of catastrophic failure. It's been stable for over a year now, and it didn't happen until it had been through at least five years of being stuffed full of crap and tossed about with complete disregard for the health of the bag.

Timbuk2s (at least their more classic ones) are real messenger bags, as in they were originally popularized by actual bicycle messengers who needed something comfortable, accessible, rainproof, and completely reliable. As far as I know their bags are still made to that standard; mine certainly are. There are other equally good brands out there of course, but I don't have personal familiarity with any of them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:24 AM on August 27, 2017

Most bags will look like they carry a laptop. What about a one-shoulder sling bag? Cooler than a backpack, but similar functionality and more masculine than a small bag. Something along the lines of this or this!
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:23 PM on August 27, 2017

The Cambridge Satchel Company - Men's collection

Top quality, excellent craftsmanship, and sharp looking. Also? Started by a single mom!
posted by Amor Bellator at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could have a look at the Fjallraven bags. I bought the Foldsack no. 3 this spring and I swear it's the nicest designed bag I've ever owned and fantastic build quality. It's small and non bulky but it's one of those bags that's bigger on the inside. I think it would hold all the things he wants to carry, except maybe the lunch. But they also have larger bags. Not all the shoulder bags are cross-body, but some can be worn as backpacks.
posted by bluebird at 2:16 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Military surplus map bag, maybe? (can't vouch for that source specifically, but they're fairly commonly found at your local surplus store or from many sellers online). Pretty plain style, available in several colors/styles (but weighted toward the "military" look: black, tan, olive drab, camo) but usually rugged and seems about the right size.
posted by brentajones at 4:26 PM on August 27, 2017

Millican makes pretty cool bags
posted by speakeasy at 5:17 PM on August 27, 2017

Maybe a Healthy Back Bag? (I'm male, I like mine) - it can be slid round to be either a small backpack or be on the hip like a messenger bag.
posted by BinaryApe at 2:30 AM on August 28, 2017

I have a custom Timbuk2 messenger bag in waxed canvas that I ordered in November 2015. Two corners of it have frayed through, revealing another layer of canvas underneath. It does look more professional than one of their original ("bombproof" is what I think they said) or Cordura bags though. My big complaint about it isn't the fraying corners, though, it's that the Velcro that holds the flap down has lost most of its grip strength. When the bag was new I could pick it up by the grab handle and be sure the flap would stay shut. Now, I have to make sure I clip the flap down, or it will flop open awkwardly when I use the grab handle.

I'm still happy overall with the bag and the custom ordering process, but it doesn't seem as robust as my older Timbuk2 bags. I'd probably still buy it again because it looks more sophisticated than my old bags do, but it's not a home run.
posted by fedward at 8:40 AM on August 28, 2017

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