Although the hand bag has been
regarded as being in
the fashion domain of women’s accessories,
it was originally a non-gender-specific item.
Yet, as fashion is fickle and cyclical,
it is to be expected that the fashion of
men and hand bags
would come full circle.
Egyptian hieroglyphic imagery and
Biblical text indicates the use of
cloth and leather pouches
to carry small personal items.
These pouches were worn by men and women,
secured at the waist and used for carrying
loose items – such as coins.
Medieval Outer/Inner Wear
During the Middle Ages, both sexes continued
wearing pouches either tied at the arms or at the waist.
At this time, pockets were not an element of garment,
so pouches served a practical purpose.
Pomanders were also tied around the waist.
These pouches served a specific function:
to hold aromatic substances –
ensuring that the wearer was constantly
enveloped in fragrance.
Hanging from a cord at waist, these girdle pouches
were also considered a fashion adornment,
worn for special occasions:
such as marriages and betrothals .
As with other articles of clothing,
they were indicators of the wearer’s societal status.
Ladies particularly desired detailed embroidery work
on their pouches. These richly decorated pieces
were known as harmondeys or tasques.
Due to dictates of fashion, the 16th century
witnessed the expanding of women’s dresses to
extremely voluminous proportions.
Externally worn pouches, would have been lost
among such yardage of fabric.
Pouches, previously worn outside the garment
were now worn under the skirts.
Men too began to wear pouches
under their clothing.
Leather pouches called ‘bagges’
were worn inside the breeches.
Bagges were the design basis for the pocket.
By the beginning of the 17th century,
pockets appeared as integral component
to men’s clothing.
Men’s pouch-wearing requirement
was no longer
en vogue or of necessity.
The pouch had become a
women’s only item for practical use.
Its later equivalent – the purse –
continued identification with
Centuries would pass before
hand bags solidly gained
gender – general status.
Fast Forward … 21st century
Today the descendent of the ancient pouch –
the modern hand bag is
gender universal –
gender liberated fashion wear.
Men’s dress has totally embraced
the hand bag as a statement fashion factor –
complementing even enhancing a total look.
Let’s hear it for the boys.
On the runway
Burberry by Christopher Kane
Street style Sass: nothing says it better.
(photo from pausemag.co.uk):
(photos by the urbanspotter.com):