All man-bagged out

He was young and well-dressed with a handbag over his shoulder. He was passing through the food court of the shopping centre. Cute. And gay, my friend thought idly. He's so together, and there's that bag.

Then he was joined by an equally well groomed female cutie bearing a handbag that matched. Hmmm. Man handbag was manbag and man was very obviously hetero. Ahh, the young. What have I missed?

Time was when men had little in the way of baggage. A briefcase for the office, a suitcase for the holidays, an attache case for those occasional spying missions behind the Iron Curtain. And of course a blue adidas  holdall for footy training. But that was that. Any man seen sporting what might be described as a 'handbag' would be called all sorts of names.

Stupid times, those olden days, but some of the old thinking dies hard.

I thought I was pretty much a non-bag person. The wallet goes in one pocket, cigarettes and matches (not a lighter) in another, a bit of bus change and a hankie and that's it - for work or play.

But times move on. It took the wife to point it out but I'd been carrying a L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival 2008 handout handbag around for months - and had been too proud to notice. That's because it was full of nappies, wipes, toys and other baby paraphanalia.

And it's not just me, or other time- sleep- and testosterone-depleted new fathers. Most men these days can't function without an over-the-shoulder or clutch bag. We need them for our i stuff (-Pad, -Phone, -Pod) and for our important work stuff, our glasses and loose change and our magazines and novels and spare novels in case we get to the end of the first one on the way home and scrunched up photocopies of important documents and lunch from home at least once a week to save money when there's enough bread left.

We need bags for the supermarket, goddamit, because it's often us who do the supermarket shopping and those places don't like giving you bags any more.

Men have become like women - we can't go anywhere without our bag. I know I can't. I step out of the house with 50 kilos of stuff dangling from my neck. The fact the stuff is in a rather fetching light tan leather postman-style bag from Fossil doesn't amuse Kane, my physio. But he gets paid handsomely for putting my twisted frame back in place. The Fossil bag was joined last Christmas by an olive green, waxed canvas briefcase-style Country Road bag (thanks kids). Better in some ways - it's got handles and a shoulder strap. And two bags means I can rotate if needs be.

But neither of them are a patch on my favourite ever - the Ralph Lauren lux leather number I got for my birthday with a zero on the end. It was lovely. But it got stolen. In a pub after work while I was looking the other way. And that's the thing about bags. The bigger they are, the more we end up cramming into them. And the more we have to lose when they're lost. I can live without the empty sandwich wrappers and the cheap old book and half-read National Geographic. But I'll never get that baby photo back.

Have we put too much into the cult of the bag - or is there something to be said for going around unencumbered - like the Seventies, fags in the shirt pocket, comb in the jeans?  Are manbags really manly in 2011? And what are the girls thinking?