"Murses" making their mark locally

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 18, 2011 - 12:20 PM

Yes, those are purses being toted around by men -- as long as they are utilitarian, stylish and not remotely feminine.

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The classic satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Co. (www.cambridgesatchel.co.uk).

Photo: Cambridge Satchel

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Lynx fans watching the WNBA finals might have noticed a certain accoutrement toted by rapper Lil Wayne. If it looked suspiciously like a purse, that's because it was.

The "murse," or man purse, might not sound like something that masculine types would even consider, but it's proving popular among not only celebrities but stylish Minnesotans of a certain age.

"Young guys like that kind of stuff, and the fact that other people notice what they're carrying," said Anthony Andler, who owns Heimie's Haberdashery in St. Paul and designs the men's bags sold there. "Guys want to go back to something artful, back to those personal items that are important to us."

More important is that the container not have a hint of girliness, said Larry Felitto, assistant sales and product manager of leather producer J.W. Hulme. "A tote bag can be perceived as feminine, so you have to have a tote bag that doesn't look like a tote bag," Felitto said.

Size matters to a degree; more important are the look and utility. "Guys are really into how gear works," Andler said, "so it's important that the object is easy to use and has an aesthetic that connects emotionally. If it resembles a messenger bag or haversack in smaller form, they are likely to like that."

Toward that end, Andler has designed a bag that can be a clutch, or have straps added (one for a shoulder bag, two for a backpack).

While containers such as J.W. Hulme's "correspondent bag" and Heimie's "bird watcher" look like 1950s throwbacks, they are built for 21st-century technology (tablets and smartphones).

"We're seeing a narrowing gap between big wallets and briefcases," said Sam Fehrenbach, manager of the Martin Patrick3 store in Minneapolis. "And as electronics get smaller, so does the demand for man bags."

So it's not just the rappers, actors and male models who are "manning up" with a small tote. "A few years ago you would only see this in New York or L.A.," Felitto said. "Now we're even getting customers in Texas."

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  • Man-purses were part of Burberry's line of menswear.

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