Mastering the Man Bag *Here's one for Vlad!*

  1. Mastering the Man Bag
    July 5, 2007; Page B11

    James Ferragamo, head of Salvatore Ferragamo SpA's handbag division, is no stranger to the anxiety some men feel in abandoning their accordion briefcases for the more feminine contours of a calfskin bag -- a "man bag," as some call it.

    Even the word, a portmanteau that seamlessly melds the word "man" with "handbag," carries connotations that Mr. Ferragamo, 35, carefully sidesteps. "We simply call it a 'bag,' " he says.

    But the growing number of hand-held gadgets that men these days carry around everywhere, he says -- citing "BlackBerry, cellphone, iPod plus keys, wallet and quite possibly a laptop, camera and sunglasses" -- have led him to embrace the man-bag phenomenon. "Whenever a guy struggles to fit his daily necessities into his pockets, it's time to upgrade to a bag!"

    Mastering the man bag, Mr. Ferragamo says, is a subtle art. The relationship between man and bag should not be monogamous, like that of man and wallet. A man should feel free to mix it up, rotating bags to fit the rest of his attire. Since he owns a number of different bags, he says, "I tend to let the shoe style dictate the kind of bag I carry. Suited up with lace-up, cap-toe shoes for a business meeting, I'll choose a more structured briefcase. More dressed down in a sport coat and loafers -- a messenger bag."

    The one time when men shouldn't carry a bag is in the evening. Then, he says, "men should pare down their necessities to only what can fit neatly into their pockets."

    Men shouldn't feel ashamed of doting over their bags. If a leather bag is exposed to water, feel free to blot it with a soft cloth, says Mr. Ferragamo, grandson of the Florentine shoemaker who founded the namesake brand. Bags should also be stored away from sunlight and direct heat, preferably in a felt bag, to keep the leather from cracking.

    But don't fight the aging process. Leather is meant to wear over time to gain "new character," Mr. Ferragamo warns. And when a bag reaches the end of its life span, don't cling to it. "Bite the bullet and buy a new bag," he says.