Paddy Considine plays The Guardian journalist Simon Ross in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). And thanks to costume designer Shay Cunliffe, he wears a Belstaff man bag.
Nothing unusual about him carrying a bag, he is a reporter after all. Except that, somehow, there is; even in this day and age when gender blending style has never been more prominent, it still looks ‘wrong’. But why?
Male journalists tend to fall into two categories: those that shave on a regular basis, and those that don’t. Ross is the former, a squeaky clean type in inoffensive brown fine stripe moleskin jacket, white and blue stripe shirt and dark rinse jeans.
The man bag is essential for Ross. Being a broadsheet journo he writes about important things like top secret military experiments and has sources beyond Google. Ross needs something to carry his work around in, yet the man bag, while not exactly unacceptable, is still considered atypical.
It is as though we are questioning his vanity, even his masculinity by having this bag. The inference being, ‘why did he not use a backpack or a briefcase instead?’ ‘How dare he marry function and fashion in this way?’ If a potted history of the man bag teaches us anything, it is that the world is still far from ready.
In the late 1950s a group of five French tailors, unsurprisingly referred to as the ‘Group of Five’ proposed a shake-up of men’s fashion. Principally they believed in streamlining clothes for an uninterrupted, slimmer silhouette. They chopped all extraneous pockets from suits and adopted brightly coloured jacket linings so as to shout the difference.
However the world only really took notice when the group added a ‘man case’ to their collection. Though this handheld leather clutch was more like a big purse than Considine’s satchel bag.
If men were not ready to carry in the fifties and early sixties, they were no more ready in the seventies during the decade’s anti-fashion revival. The man bag came and then went again; the situation has been this way now for fifty years. It hangs around like the Norfolk jacket; somehow always there, yet nobody ever seems to buy one (or use it much if they do).
The sizable shoulder bag used by Ross in The Bourne Ultimatum is made by Belstaff, a British company established in 1924 and known primarily for motorcycle jackets. Mulberry is the popular choice for men’s leather bags, but this may have been out of Ross’ price range on The Guardian salary. That said, Belstaff is far from a budget brand for anyone.
Ross has enough room in his bag to cart research, BlackBerry, Evian, even a laptop. If Farringdon Road had become El Salvador overnight, he would certainly have been ready. Still, useful as it is, the bag couldn’t stop him catching a bullet in Waterloo station. Seems London was one step closer to a warzone than Ross realised.
© 2010 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.