Does anyone remember the Camel Filters Man? A Mark Spitz lookalike, he was always climbing mountains in Nepal or panning for gold with a Farrah Fawcett lookalike, or several, by his side. He carried rope and a Swiss Army knife not a messenger bag. He did not seem to hold a day job.
If you told the Camel Filters Man that one day American men would be pushing strollers, hearing “erectile dysfunction” on TV or carrying “purses” called messenger bags, he‘d think you were smoking something. If you told him gay marriage would be legal, shaved heads would be cool and men would ride “step through” Divvy bicycles (nee “girl’s bikes) he’d expect you to talk about UFOs.
Of course, the Camel Filters Man was not the only man who would not carry a messenger bag. Businessmen in the city, as they were called back then, also didn’t carry messenger bags. They carried 8 pound, spit-shined, Mahogany-colored leather brief cases with gold plated combination locks and feet--the better to stand up on their own. Some were accordion style to accommodate extra papers from the office. The brief case told the world the men had jobs like the hats their fathers wore twenty years earlier (and the newspapers they hid behind on commuter trains).
Of course laptops were the first reason men (and women) renounced briefcases. But the second reason was cell phones. As soon as cell phones debuted, no one wanted to waste a perfectly good dialing or texting hand holding a brief case. Overnight, the only person still using a hand to hold a handbag was the Queen of England. Of course people also wanted to keep their hands free for the upcoming trends of swipe cards, carrying water bottles and the obligatory Starbucks container.
Messenger bags did have an ancestor that could have predicted their future popularity. It was called the flight bag. A few brave men risked “Purse Stigma” for the incredible convenience of carrying everything they needed on their shoulder in a flight bag and having their hands free. In those days, the hands were free to smoke cigarettes.
Purse Stigma was such anathema before messenger bags, there were cartoons about men refusing to hold their wives’ purses while their wives tried on dresses in department store fitting rooms.
Flight bags were the first sign that plastic-molded luggage of the day that usually resembled fuchsia granite was on its way out. Bulky, heavy and not on wheels yet, hard luggage often rode on the top of the family car, telling the world you were going On Vacation. Hard luggage had only three benefits. It was waterproof, crushproof and it kept Red Caps in train stations and Sky Caps in airports employed.
Women also carried molded plastic cosmetic cases which were supposed to be kept upright at all times. But since they always tipped over, even during a car trip to the airport or train station, they all had broken mirrors and residues from spilled Prell or Breck lining their insides.
Imagine telling the Camel Filters Man he would one day reject smoking and talk to his girlfriend on a cell phone while climbing mountains in Nepal! Then imagine telling him the stuff some people were smoking would one day be legal.