UK paperback

Slightly bruised

Manbag overboard

I dare you to read this tragic tale of fashion fascism without a tear coming to your eye:

Last week I had to visit London’s Canary Wharf and all I needed for the day was a notebook, my iPod Touch, a Kindle and some keys. They all slotted snugly into a patent red zip-up bag by the young London menswear designer James Long, which I’d been given for my birthday last month.

But on arriving in Canary Wharf, our hero was then detained for some tens of seconds by a security guard, under suspicion of carrying a stolen women’s handbag. I know! “Disquieting and humiliating” doesn’t begin to cover it!

I’d like to say that this encounter has propelled me to carry the bag with defiance, but instead it has left me slightly bruised. I’ve since bought an incredibly sombre pair of jeans — unusual for me.

I’m sure the writer, in claiming to be “slightly bruised”, isn’t actually accusing the security guard of having assaulted him, because the right place to do that would be in a police station rather than the features pages of the Guardian. It is a beautifully wan formulation of whimpering psychic vulnerability, though, isn’t it, this slightly bruised? Not really bruised, just slightly bruised. Just almost-imperceptibly-damaged enough to express one’s suffering by buying more fashion product: a pair of jeans that is so “sombre” you wouldn’t actually believe it. I know I don’t?

  1. 1  Richun  November 27, 2009, 11:40 am 

    Your last line reminds me of Glenda Slagg?!?

  2. 2  dsquared  November 27, 2009, 11:55 am 

    completely offtopic, but isn’t it a wonderful piece of Unspeak to have a holiday commemorating the beginning of a process of killing people and stealing their land and call it “Thanksgiving”? At least our old “Empire Day” pretty much did what it said on the tin.

  3. 3  Paley  November 27, 2009, 12:32 pm 

    Pray God that this brave young man’s self-imposed moratorium on the purchase of wacky, colourful trousers is swiftly reconsidered. How I abhor a sombre jean.

  4. 4  organic cheeseboard  November 27, 2009, 12:56 pm 

    Humiliating because first he thought I was a petty thief, and then he judged me as effeminate.

    no, he judged your BAG as effeminate. And he’d be right – in fact Porter goes on to agree (‘something away from the masculine norm’).

  5. 5  organic cheeseboard  November 27, 2009, 1:01 pm 

    I like this phrase from a different Porter piece best:

    Cloth bags announce your place in the eco-caste system.

  6. 6  Torquil Macneil  November 27, 2009, 3:40 pm 

    I think you have treated this far too flippantly, after all the real meaning of the event was:

    “But to me the implication felt very clear: we don’t want your sort round here.”

    And if you DO come round here, we will mildly inconvenience you until you regret it.

  7. 7  sw  November 27, 2009, 4:00 pm 

    From your commentary above, I wasn’t quite expecting this piece to be so dreadful, which made re-reading the commentary such a pleasure: unsure quite sure what I was seeing, I followed the link and read the piece, came back, and could sit down and properly enjoy the show.

    Another moment in Porter’s piece made me want to go out and buy sombre jeans:

    But to me the implication felt very clear: we don’t want your sort round here.

    Isn’t this one of the laziest formulations, slanderous and daintily uncertain at once, damning another person while couching this damnation in one’s own (no doubt “slightly bruised”) subjectivity? I had found myself fairly sympathetic with the guard who is, after all, worried about purse-snatchers, and this bloke is carrying a purse; the next moment, the guard has been slandered as a foot-soldier for the bigoted elite who own Canary Wharf. We don’t know precisely what kind of bigotry is at work here; Porter doesn’t need to say, but he can nevertheless imply that the guard and the Canary Wharf owners are – what, exactly? – gay-bashers? Or metrosexual-bashers? Or [modern-man-comfortable-in-his-sexuality-unless-it-causes-a-moment-of-public-confusion-and-is-not-entirely-admired-at-which-point-he-becomes-a-vulnerable-bunny]-basher? Of course, Porter’s not saying the security guard or anybody else is a knuckle-dragging bigot; he just feels it. And isn’t there something that hints of the paradoxical in saying that an “implication” is “very clear”? At what point does something become so clear it is no longer an implication? The expression is just a way of weasling out of an accusation whilst making it.

    Anyway, dsquared at 2: no.

  8. 8  Steven  November 27, 2009, 5:38 pm 

    sw — yes to all all the above! Really, the more I consider this article, the more it makes me want to join al-Qaeda.

    Happy ecumenical harvest-festivaltime, readers?

  9. 9  KB Player  November 28, 2009, 12:21 am 

    I take it that everyone commenting here is a bloke? Well, instead of sniping on a blog, why aren’t you marching in a body to Canary Wharf, wearing your sombrest jeans and each of you carrying a handbag in solidarity with the oppressed Mr Porter?

    “First they took my handbag, but I said nothing as I do not carry a handbag.”

    But I do, and so do millions of women. It’ll be us next.

  10. 10  sw  November 28, 2009, 4:32 am 

    I take it that everyone commenting here is a bloke? Well, instead of sniping on a blog, why aren’t you marching in a body to Canary Wharf, wearing your sombrest jeans and each of you carrying a handbag in solidarity with the oppressed Mr Porter?

    How do you know we didn’t try, KB Player? I myself didn’t make it to Canary Wharf, because I was viciously accosted by a jackbooted clerk at Marks & Spencer who asked whether I wanted the loose-knit jumper with floral cuffs I was purchasing for the Canary Wharf protest “gift-wrapped”. What? I said, bewildered. Do you live in such a small world that you assume I wouldn’t be purchasing this for myself? I lodged a complaint and was told by a loutish person on the phone that this was “the time of year when people are getting each other gifts so it is customary to ask.” I bit my lip so hard it almost got swollen, and I felt like I had been the victim of the fashion fascists, or the fashists, as I have come to call them. I found myself downstairs purchasing a very serious chicken tikka sandwich and a quietly-dignified bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, wondering how extraordinary it is that people should act a certain way to one another based on gender. Unfortunately, when it was my turn to pay – well, in my despair and trying to sooth my almost bruised lower lip, I had eaten half the sandwich and opened the chocolate-covered peanuts, but I realised I didn’t have any money. So, I apologised, looped around to the bakery section, snatched a woman’s purse, and made a run for it. At least I think it was a woman.

  11. 11  roger migently  November 28, 2009, 4:54 am 

    Précis of article: Oooh! You are awful! And I don’t like you.

    This felt like a parallel universe.

    Really? What feels like a parallel universe is the one in which a person gets paid to write nonsense like this and it gets published in a major national and international newspaper with a proud photo of the nong complete with his ischial callosities.

    I carry a manbag, too. It is big enough to hold a small truck but in public I keep it in my pants.

  12. 12  roger migently  November 28, 2009, 6:06 am 

    I was in Marks&Sparks the other day, waiting patiently in line in the bakery section when a madman came rushing towards me. He was wearing a lady’s loose-knit pullover with awful floral cuffs, pieces of chicken stuck between his teeth and chocolate smeared all over his lips – which, I now recollect, seemed almost slightly swollen. Modestly, I stepped aside to allow him to escape his demons but instead he rushed directly towards me, wrenching from my grasp my trendy men’s day-bag by Diaper Dudes. I was very proud of this bag which I bought recently from Purseuing. (“If it weren’t for the changing pad and diaper pouch you’d never know that this was a diaper bag and not another trendy men’s day-bag.”)

    He tore my bag from my fingers and sprinted off screaming, “Fascisti!” and what almost seemed like (was it?) “Cannery Row! Hero Gum!”

    Stunned and disoriented, I straightway removed my clothing, right there in Bakery, wrapping my self, instead, in my incredibly sombre dignity. It was, I nearly believed, all the armour I needed and although it was almost vaguely comforting it was no insulation at all against the freezing cold airconditioning.

    Bloody thought police have now apprehended me for “exposure”.

    I think I might be awarded bail on the grounds of social delicacy.

  13. 13  Euripides  November 29, 2009, 1:05 am 

    Maybe it’s just my underprivileged Luddite Yorkshire roots showing, but I find myself fascinated by anyone who needs to carry around an ‘i-pod touch’ and ‘kindle’.

    This person sounds like a modern-day Linus who would mentally disintegrate in proportion to the display of the power bars in his immediate possession.

    What came before the ‘i-pod touch’? Some device that was untouchable, powered by telepathy? Could you risk poking it with a stick?

    In my day, you were lucky to carry around a penny whistle and a second-hand paperback!

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