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Exhibition shows men’s bags’ evolution from practical carryalls to style items

Jan. 12, 2014 - 19:34 By Lee Woo-young
Exterior of the Simone Handbag Museum on Garosu-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam. (Simone Handbag Museum)

Men’s bags have become more than a practical means of carrying belongings. They are now much more like accessories, fashion statements or reflections of a man’s identity.

In step with changing perceptions about the nature of men’s bags, the Simone Handbag Museum on the trendy Garosu-gil in Seoul recently opened a small exhibition to examine the relationships between men and bags.

“Bags have become a style accessory, no longer a practical carrier. I think bags are one of the fashion items with which modern men express themselves. It is an artistic tool used to reveal your identity,” said Suh Jin-suk, director of Loop, the contemporary art space of the museum, where he curated the “Bag is History” show.

“Now, it’s not only women who try to match bags to their daily outfits. I, for one, have dozens of bags to choose from to complete my style,” he added.

A view of the exhibition “Bag is History.” (Simone Handbag Museum)

The exhibition, which will run until March 30, focuses on the hidden role of bags as items used to form relationships with people. In the first section of the exhibition, GQ Korea editor-in-chief Lee Chung-geol tells anecdotes about his bags. For him, a variety of bags, from backpacks to travel bags to tote bags, serve as stepping stones in tracing his memories of events involving friends. One of them, a black square shoulder bag, reminds him of hallyu superstar Bae Yong-joon, who exchanged the bag for a watch that Lee bought at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Surprising as it may sound to those who consider bags to be fashion items capable of thrilling only women, Lee said that he was really excited to spot a certain Mulberry bag displayed in a department store.

The second section features a video produced by artists 275C and Plaplax. They present images of high-profile men ― entertainment celebrities, musicians and even politicians ― each holding a bag. David Letterman, The Beatles and Korean politician Ahn Cheol-soo appear in the video.

The exhibition elicits comments on bags or answers to questions asked by GQ Korea’s Lee on his Twitter account, such as, “What bag has been the most memorable in your life?” Answers can be composed on a typewriter and posted on the exhibition walls for visitors to read.

The exhibition is being held in the basement gallery of the museum on Garosu-gil, Sinsa-dong, Seoul. For more information, visit

By Lee Woo-young (