TUNG’S TRAVEL JOURNAL: Welcome to Man Bag World

Senior Manson Tung is teaching at Hong Kong Summerbridge, a sister organization to Breakthrough Sacramento. During his stay he will regularly blog about his travels and experiences.

I have multiple strange addictions: colognes, my cell phone, kimchee, iced water, espresso and man bags. Of my aforementioned obsessions, I continually receive the most flack for the latter. Even amongst my closest friends, I get withering looks whenever I carry my favorite rucksack, satchel, messenger bag, man bag or, as my friend senior Jake Sands would call it, “your man purse.”

So one of the first things one would notice upon arriving in Hong Kong is the ubiquity of man bags. While back home in the U.S. they are usually relegated to the most hipster guys (or the most comfortable in their masculinity), generally I find the post-40 crowd who have already sired multiple children to be the most receptive Americans. However, in Hong Kong almost every man/boy older than 11 carries one.

A subway goer wears a black leather messenger bag, the "typical Hong Kong bag."
Photo by Manson Tung
A subway user carries a black leather messenger bag, the “typical Hong Kong bag.”

I think there are three main factors at work here. First, Hong Kong is one of the most intensely cosmopolitan cities in the world, and as such it was a beach head for the creation of the Asian metrosexual male, otherwise known as the male yuppie. Young, high-earning, professional and not tied down with kids, he pours that excess income into clothing and personal maintenance. In a city with over 7 million people, it takes effort to get noticed.

In addition to a large yuppie population, Hong Kongers lack a major expense that we Californians have – our cars. Without a two-ton hunk of metal shuttling them around the city, guys here have no choice but to throw their headphones, gum, umbrellas (you don’t want your lady getting drenched in the torrential tropical rain) and face masks with them in their bags (more on the Asian fascination with facial protection later).

Finally, the man bag is infinitely functional. In a city where men are arguably the more profligate spenders and customers loathe paying the 10-cent surcharge (.014 USD, that’s right only slightly more than a penny. Hey, I never told you the Asian stereotype of thrift was a lie!) on plastic bags, the man bag becomes the vehicle of choice to carry anything and everything.

It’s not just tourists and yuppies either. It’s commonly known that Hong Kong gangsters carry designed man-clutches stuffed to the brim with cash.

Therefore I have some advice for my compatriots back in America: get on the man bag train. Yes, we have cars in America. But it is far more convenient to simply fling a satchel over your shoulder. Furthermore, when you travel, a man bag is much safer than a backpack (no pesky scam artists to blindside you).

Until then, I will continue to hoard my burgeoning collection of messenger bags, in anticipation of the day when Americans will finally accept that bags are not only fashionable and utilitarian but also masculine.

Another user carries a Louis Vuitton satchel with navy blue accents.
Photo by Manson Tung
Another user carries a Louis Vuitton satchel with navy blue accents.
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