Exploring life and the world with wide eyes and curiosity.

The Milanese Man Purse

Two “fashion” trends persist for men around here: orange-colored pants and the Milanese “man purse”, a sleeker, chic-er version of the multi-pocketed, safari vest. U.S. travel outfitters sell them as “travel vests”, but here in Milano, they are daily wear for the 60-80 set. Now that winter has gone, these functional garments have come out of the closets to populate the streets.

Yes, the term “man purse” has been used to describe the over-the-shoulder messenger bag and all its variations in which men carry cell phones, keys, PDAs, cameras, laptops, chargers, files, books and everything else they’re tethered to for the day. But man-purse-as-vest distributes the load, leaving men hands-free yet porting all of their necessaries.

As seen around Milano, the man purse vest comes in many colors, in both light and heavy weight fabrics, with zippered, buttoned or snapped pockets. They are either bulky or streamline, pared-down-basic or over-pocketed.

Along the Naviglio Grande on Sunday, after a long day at the antiques market, I stepped into an osteria for a bite to eat. I perched at a window table and set my camera for stealth photography of the steady parade of men in vests. It was a concentrated show of vest styles and their wearers. These surreptitious photos joined those that I began shooting last summer.

Who started this trend? When, where and how did this begin? Does it extend throughout Italy, or only here in the north? Will it go away any time soon? (Doubtful.)

Double jackpot! Man Purse plus orange (or yellow) pants! Yes!
(I’d like to see the yellow vest with the orange pants.)

  1. lynnJune 2,10

    I want to get one for my dad! Although, of course, I would dread seeing him in it.

    Contradiction – they don’t look too bad when the pockets are empty. But – what’s the point of that?

    I also can’t help noticing that everyone in Milan is in shirtsleeves. In Seattle its 63 and overcast (again). Lacking summer isn’t so very terrible, until you realize every one else gets one. Brrrr…

  2. MaureenJune 2,10

    Hey, I’ve thought of getting one for my Dad, too.

    And yes, shirtsleeves, sleeveless or spaghetti straps these days. It’s been in the 80s since I returned. I hate to tell you how gorgeous it’s been. But we’re supposed to have some rain tomorrow, then high 80s this weekend. I’ll attach some in an e-mail for you.

  3. lynnJune 3,10

    I can’t feel too much sympathy for ONE day of rain, then back to 80’s. Although it was sunny here yesterday afternoon for about an hour – heaven! Seattle is so beautiful when the sun comes out.

    Look at the very last photo on this post – the bicyclist has a man-purse, plus a fat wallet in his pants pocket! I’m so confused.

  4. MaureenJune 3,10

    Sorry, Lynn. It didn’t actually rain. It just threatened to do so. And I also wondered why the guy had his wallet in his pants pocket instead of one of his twenty vest pockets. Yes, confusing.

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