by Pat Jacobs
Before the late '60s, the only men who used to carry handbags, in a sense, were natives of New Guinea (and a few other indigenous groups), mailmen, doctors, photographers, medieval couriers, and Truman Capote.
Toward the decade's end, certain male celebrities used them: The designer Rudi Gernreich (he had an entire collection!), actor (and former football star) Jim Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Marcello Mastroianni (who wore his with matching pants) and Elliott Gould.
It was most likely the ascend of the hippie movement that made this acceptable to the common male, however. Carrying a handbag wasn't viewed any longer as just for the flakey famous or "sissies". But one had to be careful; large cities and metropolitan areas were safe, but the deep South, remote and rural regions were not conducive yet to this concept.
When male handbags first came out, they were available only in California and New York (but there was a Houston, Texas group that made and sold their brown suede "stash bags", priced at $3.00-$5.00.) High-end stores offered a variety of styles: I. Magin and Saks Fifth Avenue had a heavy vinyl satchel for $17.50, and a Vuitton convertible shoulder-strap model for $125 (!).
The "man bag" fad, by most accounts, started in Italy, in 1967, by native designer Gucci. And sales went through the roof; Italian men loved it! There were many explanations as to the social significance of this trend (Some have said it enabled men to "free" themselves, some said it was a breakdown of the genders and all hell would break loose.)
"It was because a lot of men had more things to carry that simply wouldn't fit into a wallet". And as long as the bag didn't look 'girly', I had no problem using it. I was probably the first one at my high school who had a bag. And just about everyone (the males) wanted to know where they could get one.
Within a couple of months, most of them were wearing and using a bag. And were glad to have it. Everything you had or needed for that day could all fit into one thing; that's it!", stated Mickey Foster.
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