A handbag? Yes, `status' bags for men are taking off, says Melanie Rickey
he average British man lavishes very

little attention, if any, on bags. A

quick on-the-way-to-the-office survey revealed lots of battered attache cases, a couple of slick black briefcases and several sporty, or urban rucksacks. There were even a couple of plastic shopping-bags which were not being used to carry food.

Shocking. Or perhaps not. A bag is the kind of thing men would rather do without - and I have this on good authority. "If I don't have to carry anything big, I just use my pockets," remarked a colleague with unattractively bulging trouser pockets. Another said, "I have a car, I don't need a bag." Again those pockets were unsightly.

But there is a growing breed of male status bag junkies who dare to enter the territory of accessory-obsessive women. We're talking designer handbags and the names are familiar. Gucci, Prada, Paul Smith and Louis Vuitton have recently updated their attache cases to attract increasingly label-conscious (and laptop- toting) males. The more traditional Alfred Dunhill, Tanner Krolle, and Connolly have also entered the fray, with Tanner Krolle in particular enjoying a groovier market position thanks to their New York designer Cathy Formby (ex Calvin Klein, Tiffany, Donna Karan and Coach). She has created that unheard-of thing in the men's bag world - a waiting list, for a pounds 650 large leather satchel aimed at "young creatives".

This trend started in New York where it is normal to buy status bags, shoes and clothes for work. Here the mood is filtering through. A spokeswoman for Tanner Krolle, a British company and former saddlery that makes most of its men's bags in Islington, North London, says that men are choosing less structured, more unisex bags, and that they are now just as interested in the status of the bag as they are in the workmanship and functional aspects. This is true across the board. Attache cases are being given practical shoulder straps, (Alfred Dunhill), a complete monogrammed make-over (Louis Vuitton), and sensual black suede linings with silver locks (Gucci).

One confirmed status attache-case fan is British art director Colin Melia from Egan Melia, who recently spent pounds 800 on a black patent-leather Gucci attache case. "Our work is about presenting or creating a visual image so it is important that we appear to have a discreet style," he explains, "For me Louis Vuitton is too vulgar, but Gucci is perfect." And what, I wonder, does he carry in his slick black Gucci bag? Probably sandwiches