In Sicily, Real Men Carry Purses

August 25, 2010

Who’s that man with the sweet-smelling basil bouquet?

It’s Ciccio Sultano, local hero, 2-Michelin-star chef at Ibla’s Duomo restaurant! But wait, what’s that strappy thing hanging around his person? Could it be … a purse?

Chef Ciccio Sultano with Basil Bouquet, copyright Jann Huizenga

In Sicily, they call them manbags. La borsa, gender feminine, is Italian for “purse.” Men shied away from carrying anything girly-sounding, so they quick coined a new word, il borsello, he-bag.

They’re all the rage. Yesterday I was last in a “line” of five at the post office, and everyone had a purse. (I was the lone woman, pity I had no camera.)  It’s curious how what was once taboo has become legitimate, thanks to Italy’s virile soccer players who started the trendy trend.

You can carry a manbag for a stroll in town…

Wearing a Manbag in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

… or for a romp on the beach as fashion accessory to your Speedo.

Man Carrying Purse in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaMan Carrying Purse in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Pretty figo (cool), eh? What do you think they keep in there?


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16 comments to In Sicily, Real Men Carry Purses

  • John Schinina

    In the late 80’s and early 90’s men bags became
    very popular in the US at least in NYC and NJ. I
    guess everyone has forgotten that fashion, I know
    I didn’t in fact I had many. They were very help
    full carrying personal information when meeting
    new clients, they had pockets for cell phones and
    wallet, business cards,credit cards and identity
    information. I do miss them and welcome them back.
    Enjoy La Bella Ragusa.

    • Jann

      Well, John, I hope you didn’t throw all your bags away! Now is the time to dig them out, I guess–at least when you visit Sicily!

  • That line with the second of the last three pictures cracked me up, “an accessory to your Speedo”. There’s some commercial here in the States (forget what it’s for), but a man says, with an Australian accent, something like, “Australian for man-purse”. Your post just made me think of it, and that made it even funnier.

    My boyfriend’s father carries around a man-purse/he-bag/borsello. What does he carry in it? His car keys, wallet, and of course cigarettes. I only know this because I’ve seen him pull said items out of his little bag.

  • I think they look great and I with Diana on making the women’s bags lighter! The guys won’t say, I can put my keys, sunglasses, wallet, camera etc in your purse?

    Love the name change to make it masculine … so funny.

  • Sam

    American men took to cargo pants in a big way because it gave them places to carry electronic gadgets, sunglasses, and large clumps of keys etc., so they may be ready for something like this.

  • catherine Billups

    Jann, I still do not find you on FB. Why don’t you put a FB icon on your page so that your readers can go directly. It must be easy to do as everyone seems to have that blue FB icon on his page.

  • catherine Billups

    You won’t see well dressed men in Milano carrying ‘purses’ although my plumber did call me to ask if he had left his ‘borsello’ at my house and it looked like a normal ‘borsa’. He is, of course, Sicilian.

    My favorite borsello’borsa is a man’s bag made by Prada which I bought years ago in Perugia and which I use always in Sicilia as it has a pocket on the strap for a ‘telefonino’ and holds my wallet, house keys and a lipstick. No Sicilian woman would wear this but I love it as it means no hands.

  • My guess is they carry condoms. Hope springs eternal. Unlike women’s purses, these are too flat, almost as if nothing in them. Jann, I think you should stop men on the street, or the beach, and ask, as a reporter. I, for one, want to know!

  • I bought John one as a Christmas present last year when I was in Sicily. Unfortunately he had to stay back in the States. He will be trying it out this year when we go back to Sicily for the Holidays! He’s asking the same question “what will I carry in it?” I’m thinking……camera, mail, paperwork……anything to make MY bag lighter!

    Hope you are enjoying the hot Agosto weather…..Salute!

    • Jann

      Ciao Diana–well that is just brilliant. And to think I had no idea what to get hubby for Christmas… I’ve already persuaded him to wear flowery shirts and blue suede shoes, so maybe a purse is the next step to Sicilian-dom for him. And I’ll make sure it’s plenty big so he can carry my laptop, camera, and so on. Re weather, I’m looking forward to winter!

  • wayne

    Piero and I have been wondering this forever as we saw the trrend starting a few years ago…. mostly in southern italy but it’s crept up north too. We think they keep their wive’s purses in their man-purses.

    Just like the speedo, you won’t see me with one of these either!

    • Jann

      Never say never, Wayne. I’m sure you will leave here a true Sicilian, purse slung over your shoulder.

  • I was just wondering that very thing the other day———I don’t know what they carry in them, but I think they’re great looking. American men need to get with it.

  • I think they keep cigarettes, cell/blackberry/ money/wallet, maybe a comb…Figo that’s cool? Cool? But the orange speedo not so figo! Have a great day!

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