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Our Last 50 Referrers

« Fast Food and Immigration | Main | Charlton Griffin »

March 29, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This is a question for the da guyz. You're going out -- for an hour, for a walk, to do some chores, or maybe longer than that. You have various items that you need to take with you: keys and wallet at a minimum, but possibly also cellphone, pen and paper, reading material, eyeglasses ... What do you do with all of it?

I confess that I've never come up with a solution that has made me very happy. Pockets aren't sufficient for what I tend to take with me. (Note professional white terrycloth backdrop.)

pocket-stuff3.jpg The minimum

Not being a suit-and-tie kind of dude, I've never owned a briefcase. And, given my age, the backpack I often use is starting to look mighty silly on me.

What to do? Men in Italy, preferring very tight, you-know-my-religion pants, and not wanting to distract from their man-curves, used to carry little leather man-purses. But I'm not a man-purse kind of guy, let alone a tight-pants one. The film producer Samuel Goldwyn favored expensive bespoke English suits; he had an assistant carry his keys and wallet so that they wouldn't "spoil the line" of his own attire. Alas, at the moment I can't afford an assistant.

I'm happiest for a few weeks in spring and fall. Light jackets with a variety of zipper pockets suit my needs well. But then the weather changes. I hit my low spot when I head off to yoga class. The backpack is too big yet I do need something to contain the coins and doodads ... So I drop 'em into a plastic shopping bag. Good lord: I've become a shopping-bag person. Thanks to the mellowing effects of yoga, this doesn't bother me much.

There's always cargo pants and safari jackets, I suppose. But cargo pants reek of college in the '70s, and safari jackets are little too nature-photographer/film-directorish for me.

What's your solution? Or your favored way of contending?



posted by Michael at March 29, 2006


I suppose if a safari jacket is too field correspondent, a fishing vest is also out of the question. But aren't there variations on the theme of vest? Maybe you could invent one--how about leather? -- and get rich so you wouldn't have to wear one anymore.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 29, 2006 3:51 PM

I guess the jacket was invented for this, whether it belongs to a suit or not.

Posted by: ijsbrand on March 29, 2006 4:02 PM

2 words: Sport Coat.

Looks good, even over jeans. Very utilitarian. Stick with Navy and camel hair and avoid wierd patterns or gray and black.

C'mon fella, it's good to be a man!

Posted by: MS on March 29, 2006 4:10 PM

Here you go:

and here:

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on March 29, 2006 4:46 PM

Simplify. Wallet in back pocket, keys in one front pocket, sunglasses in the other. I don't carry a cell, pager, camera, etc. routinely. If I did, the cell would go in one of those belt-holsters, and the camera in a small camera bag. (Well, in reality, the cell would be left at home. I've never understood why anyone not a doctor or Volunteer Firefighter or some-such would need to be in contact 24 hours a day.)

For birding, I have what is essentially a glorified fanny pack with a shoulder strap to support the weight of the book, notepad, pen, snack, and water.

For work, I've substituted a softsided nylon laptop case for a briefcase - it is much less formal looking than a regular hard-sided briefcase, isn't purselike or out of place with casual wear, but doesn't look stupid in the hands of a 35 year old in a suit, if necessary. (No actual laptop in it, since I quit being a grad student.)

Posted by: rvman on March 29, 2006 4:47 PM

What you showed in the picture could be accommodated using a shirt pocket (the pen), pants pockets (the keys and wallet) and a sport jacket (the camera and glasses case). You might even eliminate the need for the sport jacket by wearing your glasses all the time (unless they're reading glasses) and putting the camera in your shirt pocket. (BTW I just bought a Nikon S5 that's even smaller than the one you show and easily fits in a shirt pocket.)

Commuting to work I use a briefcase. But for travel I have a Victorinox (Swiss Army) computer bag that I find really handy. And if you put the strap over your neck instead of over a shoulder you'll have both hands free and be less likely to have the bag snatched from you.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 29, 2006 4:55 PM

Ugh, wallet in the back pocket is something I could never handle, and not even primarily becaused it's so much easier to get lifted in a crowd. Sitting comfortably without adjustment is pretty high on my list.

Michael must be talking about the summertime; otherwise, jackets across the full range of formality and warmth should easily accommodate anybody short of Batman. In the obliterating heat and not very formal context, my answer is: cargo pants, with deep main pockets, secondary front pockets, and extra loops for attaching things. Besides the normal stuff, I often want to carry a few stacks of index cards for reviewing anagrams.

Posted by: J. Goard on March 29, 2006 5:08 PM

Well, Michael, if you come up with an answer for that one, let me know! I have a half dozen solutions in my closet, none of which has any qualities that make me want to carry them. The fanny pack would be perfect if it weren't a ... fanny pack. Love your blogs!

Posted by: citrus on March 29, 2006 5:53 PM

My baggy/loose cut jeans hold my standard stuff - wallet, keys, pen, paper, cell, change. Sunglasses go on my forehead.

Posted by: ptm on March 29, 2006 6:37 PM

I use this:

They call it a briefcase, but it's more of a shoulder bag. There are pockets for sunglasses, keys, business cards, a cellphone, pads, pens and pencils, etc.

There's a deluxe model too if you carry a laptop.

Posted by: Bill on March 29, 2006 7:11 PM

-Instead of wallet keep money clip + a few cards in front pants pocket or shirt pocket.

-Pen & glasses in shirt pocket. Ditch the glasses case.

-Camera in front pants pocket.

-Keys in rear pants pocket.

-Use messenger bag or backpack for heavier loads. I just bought a Swiss Army computer backpack that works well as a briefcase and leaves my hands free.

-If in doubt, leave it out.

Posted by: Jonathan on March 29, 2006 8:31 PM

Wallet and any coins go in my left front pants pocket, keys and cell phone in the right front pants pocket. Glasses, when not in use, hang from the front of my shirt collar. My lunch and whatever I'm reading at the time (currently War and Peace, quite a hefty tome) go in a plastic shopping bag - supermarket bags generally have to be double-bagged, Target bags are strong enough to work singly.

Posted by: Peter on March 29, 2006 9:25 PM

You leave the house without a knife?

Wallet, swiss army knife, and keys go in pants pockets, everything else goes into or onto the leather daytimer folio.

Posted by: KevinM on March 29, 2006 10:07 PM

Michael, why do you say spring and fall are good because of jackets? What's wrong with winter?

Posted by: L on March 29, 2006 10:21 PM

Pen, mechanical pencil, "chamois" for eyeglasses go in my shirt pocket

I usually wear jeans with:

coins, keys, swiss army knife in right front pocket

folding money in watch pocket

handkerchief & albuterol inhaler in left pocket

my rear pockets are empty most of the time

8 months of the year or so my wallet is in the left pocket of a down vest

4 months or so it goes in the left pocket of a sport coat

If I need to have more stuff with me (laptop/phone/notebooks/CDs etc.) I use an L.L. Bean book bag.

Posted by: Chris White on March 30, 2006 7:44 AM

Thank you, gentlemen, that was highly entertaining, especially a pocket knife question.

I am trying to remember some fiction I've read about 10 yrs ago, where the heroine (a stylish vamp model) appeared everywhere emptyhanded and all her clothes were pocketless. When asked where she keeps the stuff she said: my car is my bag-and the god created underwire bra for the carkeys". Or something to the effect.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 30, 2006 12:19 PM

Carpenter pants/jeans have extra pockets and loops without the sometimes bulky look of cargo pants. I know you said this one was for the guys, but I hate carrying things (in the sense of purses or briefcases) too.

Posted by: claire on March 30, 2006 3:35 PM

I agree with MS up yonder. I'm a sport coat/blazer kind of guy. If you're worried that it's too formal, remember you can get them in cotton, linen, corduroy, etc. Even seersucker, if you think you've got what it takes.

The blazer handles index cards (left pocket), pen knife (right pocket), one or two felt tip pens (inner bosom), and pocket handkerchief (outer bosom). Zippo lighter goes in left pants, keyring in right pants, wallet in right ass.

Anything more, and a leather shoulder-strap briefcase can be brought into play, not unlike one of these - which look very nice, BTW.

Posted by: Brian on March 30, 2006 4:44 PM

Another thing to consider is one of these groovy card case/money clip combos, here.

Posted by: Brian on March 30, 2006 4:55 PM

Another vote for ditching the wallet. Still, really, with man jeans, why do you even have a problem? I have to wear girl jeans (you have no idea. Low-rise jeans may be worse than heels when all is said and done and not only do these pants continue to be the style, but also the age limit for getting out of them keeps creeping up.)

Two cards and ID in a clip, clip keys to a belt-loop, use shirt pocket or neckline for glasses (are men allowed to loop glasses in the neck of a T-shirt? I can't remember) or just keep them on your head, and use one of your giant, roomy man-jean pockets for your camera.

That, or date someone who always wear a sport coat and thank your lucky stars none of us have to wear gloves. My god man, you could be forced to tote a fedora everywhere you go - how much trouble would that be? Doffing and undoffing everytime you turn around, always having it reblocked, keeping spiders out of the band...

Posted by: j.c. on March 30, 2006 10:03 PM

BTW, I usually wear a fedora, except in the summer when I wear an aussie hat, or with those younger than I, where a beanie or hairband might be appropriate.

Posted by: J. Goard on March 31, 2006 4:56 AM

I love the way everyone's got a system! How to organize your life seems like one of those subjects that people have very strong preferences about. Thanks for tips, btw -- I'm checking them out. NYC makes its own funny demands. I got mugged and pickpocketed several times in my first few years here, so I avoid putting anything besides coins in my pants pockets. And even sport coats are a prob -- *very* easy to pickpocket. Hmmm, maybe carpenter pants ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 31, 2006 10:49 AM

Some late afterthoughts: In the Powell's travel bookstore (the one that built under the praised public square in Portland Oregon) and probably in other places, there are suites of kinds of carriers for people traveling overseas where they must not only guard against clever fingers but also carry along passports and airplane tickets. Some of them are very nice designed in sensible colors and might hang in front or under a coat like a shoulder holster or threaded onto a belt or even built into a flat belt that will go under a shirt.

Another alternative that I keep is soft insulated lunchbags, the kind that are only big enough for a sandwich and packet of cookies. They're good for things that might be hurt by heat, like chapsticks, or benefit from cushioning, like cameras.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 31, 2006 2:56 PM

"I got mugged and pickpocketed several times in my first few years here, so I avoid putting anything besides coins in my pants pockets."

How about a money belt? Maybe a clip for small bills, a belt for big ones?

Posted by: Brian on March 31, 2006 7:21 PM

I vote for one of the 11-pocket leather toolbelt, available at Canadian Tire, retails for $29.99 CAD.

I'd buy it and ship it to you if you promised to wear it with your yoga outfit.

Posted by: Peggy Nature on April 1, 2006 7:12 PM

If you're willing to consider a shoulder satchel, these are cool:

Posted by: MG on April 4, 2006 5:48 PM

I have a palmtop (with camera function) held in a special wallet, I wear my glasses and the key chain and cellphone are in my pocket.

Does it help ?

Your blog is wonderful.


Posted by: look and sook yin on April 5, 2006 12:15 PM

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