Whose Vanity is Visible Here?
Friday Ephemera

Sombre Jeans, Radical Bag

John Meredith steers us to another Classic Sentence from the Guardian. Two, actually.

I’d like to say that this encounter has propelled me to carry the bag with defiance, but instead it has left me slightly bruised. I’ve since bought an incredibly sombre pair of jeans – unusual for me.

So says Mr Charlie Porter, writing of his polite yet clearly traumatic encounter with Canary Wharf security. 

All I needed for the day was a notebook, my iPod Touch, a Kindle and some keys. They all slotted snugly into a patent red zip-up bag by the young London menswear designer James Long.

Looking sharp, Mr Porter.


And it’s not just rather fabulous. It’s also a political statement.

I find the word “manbag” such a bore: it is often used mockingly, and it categorises what I think should be category-free.

Then the horror began.

I heard someone behind me. I turned and saw a man in jeans and a plain top. "Security,” he said quietly but firmly, showing me some ID. “Can I have a word?” He asked to see my bag. “Is it yours?” I said yes, incredulous. This felt like a parallel universe.

An experience common to many of us who peruse the Guardian.

“It’s just that we’ve had a lot of women’s handbag thefts. You can’t be too careful.”

This man is clearly a gender fascist, at least in terms of couture and accessories. The plain top was a warning sign.

It was a disquieting and humiliating experience, this apparent fashion crime. Humiliating because first he thought I was a petty thief, and then he judged me as effeminate. It made me sad too, that the codes by which we interpret clothing are so entrenched, and that something away from the masculine norm can cause such an unexpected reaction.

Though in fairness, men wishing to look butch might do well to avoid the clutching of an ambiguous burgundy purse. Or describing their latest pair of jeans as “incredibly sombre.” It doesn’t exactly scream masculine gravitas.

Mr Porter is the deputy editor of gentleman’s style journal Fantastic Man. Previous classic sentences can be found herehere, here and here.