In Defence Of Matey Bags & Man Purses

I do not like matey bags.  Don’t like them.  Never have and probably never will.  Do you know what I mean by a matey bag?  In Jamaica, it’s what we call those tiny  backpacks that some women use as purses.  No judgment on you if you own one but I’ve always thought they looked ridiculous and wondered what the point of them was.  I mean, why do you need to carry your handbag on your back?  That’s not where your handbag belongs!  Your regular backpack?  Yes.  Your purse?  No.  Just, no.

Same for man purses.  You know those, right?  The small handbags that some men carry?  A man has no business carrying a purse, unless it’s his woman’s purse and he’s holding it for her while she handles her business or whatever.  I mean, what is a man carrying that he needs a purse for?  A wallet and his keys – that’s all a man needs to bring when he’s heading out.  What’s he doing with a handbag?

Having lived in Yakutia for all of one autumn and the beginning of winter, I would now like to amend my position on matey bags and man purses.  I finally see their worth.

Having now become accustomed to wearing a bulky coat every day, I see that a woman living in a climate like this needs to carry her personal items in one of three types of handbags.  The first is that type of handbag with short handles or straps that slings across her forearm and can stay secure there while her hands are buried in her pockets, or she can carry it gripped in her glove-covered hand.  The second type is a cross-body bag but this can be difficult to manoeuvre around a bulky coat and hood.  The third type is a matey bag.  It’s small, it’s light, it holds all of a woman’s necessities and it’s easily navigable around her outer clothing.  It’s practical.

As for the men, you try getting your gloved hand into your ski pants or coat pockets and see how that works out for you.  It’s not easy to do it and keep your dignity.  The glove has to come off, which is not necessarily good in below -40⁰C temperatures.  So I understand why some men here carry a man purse.  It’s practical.

My autumn jacket has a high collar and no hood.  That’s because when I was buying it almost two years ago, I was thinking about western fashion.  Hoods belong on sweatshirts and cute hoodies, not on jackets and coats.  Nix that for Yakutia.  A hood is an absolute necessity.  It doesn’t matter how good your knit cap is, your coat needs to have a hood.  And the deeper the hood, the better, I’ve come to realise.  It may totally kill your peripheral vision but that deep hood can keep snow out of your eyes and help protect your cheeks as you walk about town.

Another thing I’ve noticed here is something I haven’t seen anywhere else.  Most women and children wear their scarves outside their coats.  Stay with me here because it seems weird but it makes sense.  Here’s what they do.  A person puts their coat on, flips up their hood then wraps the scarf around their neck and the lower half of their face.  Many people wear infinity scarves this way, wrapped tightly around their necks and faces, outside of their coats.

I asked someone why people here wear their scarves that way and she said she doesn’t know, they’ve just always done it.  My theory is that it keeps any hint of the cold out of their neck and chest area.  Think about it.  When the scarf is inside the coat – a regular coat, anyway –  the zipper usually can’t go all the way up, so some part of the person may still catch a bit of cold air.  When the scarf is wrapped around the outside, it decreases the chance of cold air making its way into your clothing through the neck area.  Totally makes sense.

I tried wearing my scarf like that once but didn’t repeat it, simply because my coat zips right up to my nose, which made it rub uncomfortably against my jaw and neck when I moved.  I recently made some adjustments to my coat hood (it’s not called an Arctic Down Jacket for nothing – there are several adjustments on it!) and I’m giving the scarf outside the coat thing a second shot this week.  If it’s comfortable, I’ll keep wearing it the Yakutian way.  Otherwise, I’ll go back to wrapping it around my neck and face inside my coat.

Anyway, back to matey bags and man purses.  I’m still not a fan of them for my personal style but I totally get why they’re necessary here.  Here.  Only here.  I absolutely still do not endorse them for any place that’s warmer than Yakutia.  Ladies, get a proper handbag; men, put your stuff in your pockets.

I guess there really is a place for just about everything, after all.  And Yakutia is the place for matey bags and man purses.

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