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China’s Man-Purse Mystery:Solved

October 8, 2010


A man about to board the subway with his (fake) Louis Vuitton Man purse stylishly at his side.


I have been trying to figure out the Man-Purse Mystery for awhile now. For some reason, lots of men in China like to carry around purses. Often, they are designer purses, like the ones only women would carry in public in the United States. There’s no man-purse stigma in China.

At first I thought it was just marketing geniuses, getting purses into men’s hands before purses became associated with women. Why be limited by the culture back home?

Now, a new piece of evidence has come to light that shows there may be a practical reason that this trend started among rich business men in China, then trickled down to the less affluent, becoming a stylish mark of status.

A recent article in the China Private Equity blog discusses China’s need for a larger yuan bill. The largest at the moment is the pink 100 yuan bill, which is about US$ 14. Because even very large transactions in China are still mostly done in cash (credit cards are rare), including the purchase of things like cars and homes, or paying medical bills, most people keep a big stash at home.

Here’s the kicker:

Among the affluent Chinese bosses I know, it’s common to carry both a wallet and a kind of ‘guy purse’ where they keep Rmb30,000-Rmb50,000 in cash. It’s like carrying around a small brick – and just as obvious.

Aha! So, affluent men started carrying around purses as a practical solution to their cash problem. A wallet just wasn’t big enough. Add to this the growing number of gadgets a rich Chinese man may want to carry around – his smart phone, perhaps a new iPad (just became available here), or an e-reader, maybe a hand-held gaming system – and you can see why this happened.

Flash forward a few years, and younger, less affluent men began noticing the trend and buying man-purses of their own, wad of cash or no wad of cash.

It’s like the opposite of how sagging your pants became popular in the US. (Extremely dangerous prisoners were not allowed to wear belts because they might use them to try and strangle people. Their pants sagged. The trend caught on.)

From a financial perspective, as I sit here at my desk at an investment bank, the purse industry can grow at double the rate here, as both genders are in the market. Check this out, from Investment Week:

Globally, luxury demand is more skewed to woman, with around 60% of products dedicated to woman and 40% to men. In China luxury is much more male dominated, approximately 70% of products sold are dedicated to men.

Amazing, right? This crazy place where I live…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick McCart permalink
    October 8, 2010 6:09 am

    Hi Morgan,

    We met years ago when you came to Denver with the Veritones, so I doubt if you remember me.

    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve read all of your work and i’m such a fan! Especially the piece about facebook… it was really poignant and made me think about what was missing in my own life. I didn’t even realize that I’m grappling onto the past when I should be focused on creating communities in any environment I’m in. So… thank you… and keep on writing, you may have more fans than you think 🙂

    Hope all is well,

    • November 23, 2010 3:26 pm


      This is one of the most meaningful comments anyone has ever given me about this blog. Thank you so much. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply – to be honest, I hastily approved comments on the day that I approved yours, and didn’t actually read it until now. (Lesson learned – read all comments right away!) Well, excuses for my laziness aside, I’m really flattered that you keep up with my blog and that it has influenced you, and this comment definitely inspires me to write more. Thanks 🙂

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