Handheld bags for men have long been divisive. On the one side are those who swear by document holders; on the other, those who feel most comfortable when their bag comes with some sort of handle or strap. This stand-off has, however, recently been disrupted by the rise of the iPad case.
After all, the whole point of the iPad is to reduce the need for other stuff: papers, books, additional laptops. But if all anyone needs is on an iPad, does that mean that all any man will need is an iPad case? Could it offer a viable alternative, in other words, to all other day-bags?
Within the fashion industry, the answer is, largely, yes. “I definitely think of it as a folio rather than just an iPad case,” says Toby Bateman, buying director for online fashion store Mr Porter. “I have a Want Les Essentials de la Vie case. I like it because it zips up, has slots for my credit cards and a couple of sleeves for paperwork, invitations and so on, which makes it indispensable during show season, when I need to carry everything I need all day.”
In fact, iPad cases are so popular in the menswear industry that street style images from outside the shows can make it seem like they are becoming the norm.
Bateman says the iPad case has also helped him streamline business trips: “When I travel, I take an overnight bag or carry-on suitcase plus my iPad case rather than a day or briefcase-type bag. The iPad case has minimised my luggage and made working trips far easier.”
And judging by the response from the luxury houses, it would seem that the market is booming: iPad cases go from entry-level prices to examples of extreme ostentation. Prada, for example, offers everything from a demure leather case for £270 to a crocodile number for £3,590. It isn’t the only brand to involve exotics in its iPad cases – Lanvin has one that pairs python with leather for £460.
These are cases that focus on fanciness rather than functionality, often with a design to encourage their use as a bag in itself, such as Gucci’s design with a handle (either in vaguely affordable embossed leather, or in crocodile for many thousands). By contrast, the bestseller on Amazon, courtesy of OtterBox, has a built-in screen protector and its own stand. It’s not made from crocodile, but silicon. It’s price? £49.99.
However, whether men outside the menswear industry will actually carry iPad cases as their sole bag is another question. “I never only have an iPad with me,” says Todd Hart, an American corporate lawyer who works in London, “so I always carry it in a bag with other things.” Hart himself had canvassed colleagues for their opinions: “One guy thought that an iPad case looked too much like a purse and he wouldn’t carry it but most of them say it wouldn’t be a problem from a masculine point of view,” he says.
In fact, the problem may be the message that the iPad envelope conveys. “Most think you would either look like a nouveau wannabe just trying to show you had an iPad,” says Hart, “or would be worried that it would be more likely to get nicked.”
Other men he questioned had similar concerns: one was worried that a handheld bag would be so alien he would leave it somewhere and forget it.
And yet there is something very appealing about certain styles. Comme des Garçons has extended its successful wallet range to include zip-up cases in a variety of colours; Pierre Hardy has them in an eye-popping cube pattern; Smythson’s case comes with a peephole for the camera so that photos can be taken without removing it from its sleeve (it also makes a case for the iPad mini).
Which raises perhaps the most crucial issue: before the iPad, the fashion industry went wild making cases for the iPod, and consumers happily took the bait – at least until Apple changed the size and shape of the iPod so often that it made it impossible to keep up. iPads may be the rage today but they could be an anachronism in only a few years’ time. And with other tablet makers snapping at Apple’s heels, maybe soon no one will want an iPad case anyway. Maybe soon it will be all about the Samsung Galaxy tablet case.
Or not. The divisiveness continues.
Comme des Garcons at www.doverstreetmarket.com