After I profiled the lovable performance artist Kirk Read recently for the SF Weekly, he wrote to me with a sartorial concern. Without checking with Kirk (which I hope does not make him feel violated), here is an excerpt from the email I received:
“I have been influenced by certain Sister Spit individuals, who approached me like a loving mob while on tour, to shift out of my bike messenger late 90s punk rock dyke hoodie era toward a more age-appropriate look. I actually wholeheartedly agree and accept the challenge. Now, to replace my everpresent backpack with a leather messenger bag. I don’t want to spend more than $200. Any pointers?”
Kirk Read knows that accessories are a man’s best friend and I agreed to aid him on his quest! He wanted to look into leather first, so I offered up the example of my satchel. Behold a shitty cell phone picture:
I made the argument to Kirk that a beat up leather bag with a lot of character works just as well business-casual as it does city-weekend as it does laptop-on-the-plane. Also, this bag is my talisman. Seriously. Here is the abridged story: I bought this satchel from a nice woman at a yard sale across the street from my house for two bucks on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Not long after, my partner and I were mugged at gunpoint in a terrifying experience that is well chronicled (by me) on the interweb. The mugger was super fixated on this bag. He threw my Truman Capote book on the ground (RUDE) while rifling through it a million times searching for my nonexistent cash. The bag was the star of the scariest moment of life. Later, a transphobic jerk of a cop taking the police report kept traumatizing me by referring to my bag as my purse.
Flash forward three months.
Another, nicer cop calls from East Oakland. A good citizen found my bag behind a dumpster with my checkbook, my smartphone and all my stuff inside of it and then flagged down a cop in a place where the locals and the police don’t exactly have a fantastic relationship. The cop drives twenty miles out of his way to bring me my bag.
So, in conclusion: this bag will never leave me again. It is the best of time and the worst of times. Humanity is complicated, man.
Style can have substance. Objects can have meaning. That’s what I’m trying to get across right now. ANYWAY, BACK TO KIRK READ!
One solution is to scour ebay for leather satchels like mine. And yard sales! Plus, yard sales are fun.
If that sounds like too much work, the following bags from Topman are all under $200 and they are fantastic, fancy around-town carry-alls:
I love beat up leather! I’ll say it again. Also, there’s nothing wrong with fabric:
If you’re going a little more traditional, this is an excellent choice:
I like imagining Kirk Read in Clark Kent glasses, looking like a businessman. You imagine it, too:
Okay, final option. Typically, Filson is out of the assigned price range but check! it! out!
I would never cheat on my satchel, but I’d definitely consider having this one in the back of the closet.
My rules for a good bag: beautiful, functional and flexible. It should dress you up but not make you feel like you need a tie to wear it. Everybody’s got their sweet spot for how fancy their bag should be, but I think backpacks and most messenger bags require a level of skill to pull off in an adult way that most dudes just don’t have. Anyway, you can always graduate to a super sweet Scout backpack. A satchel is a perfect place to start.
Good luck with your search, Kirk Read! Keep me posted!