The Serbian Man Purse

Nicholas Comrie RSS / 08.08.2007. u 16:58



Serbian man purse [sur-bee-uh n man purs]

Part of speech: n

Definition: small leather, faux leather or cloth carrying bag designed to accommodate personal items, carried by members of the male sex. Predominantly found sported by males in Serbia and the Balkans.

See man bag



Wander around Belgrade for a while and you will notice a strange thing: big, muscled men with leather purses. No you haven’t stumbled upon the Balkan equivalent of Love Parade, but the essential addition to any Serbian man’s fashion wardrobe: the Serbian man purse.

The phenomenon was pointed out to me some years ago by a Canadian colleague. Her brother, who worked at the embassy, had noticed the numberof men with bags in the city and came to call their appendages Serbian man purses. He’d apparently seen nothing like it in his native Canada and had deemed it necessary to coin the term. The same was true for England and I. Not since my days carrying satchels to school and wash bags for stays at my Nan’s had I seen anything of the sort. And so, from that day forth, the name kind of stuck.

I suppose it’s a fashion statement of sorts. People can tell what kind of guy you are from what’s on your arm, and these days it’s getting to be more than the women. The trouble is deciding which one to carry. There is a veritable cottage industry of man purses in the city: from your high-end Louis Vuitton clutch bags to market stall faux leather bum bags, Belgrade seems to be awash with these items. Even one of my English mates, who lives in Belgrade, has taken to carrying one.

But aren’t they at odds with the mentality of a typical Balkan man? Serbian guys are taught and expected to be tough and macho. Any indication that they are in touch with their “feminine side” is frowned upon. Serbian society continues to be deeply homophobic and it is ironic that such a symbol of femininity should be worn by so many guys, that otherwise, so visibly fit the Balkan mould. And how is it that this single item has managed to penetrate Serbian male fashion when all other items of metrosexuality have failed?

Ok, I’ll admit it. They are useful. After all, you can keep your mobile, wallet, ciggies, lighter, keys, lip-gloss and mirror together, safe and clutched close to your chest. What self-respecting male wouldn’t carry one? Well, me for one. I just can’t help but associate them with mums, girlfriends and aunts, not guys. And it doesn’t matter how masculine they try to make them, purses will remain female accessories. Or perhaps I’m missing the point. Maybe they just want something to go with their shoes?   

What went wrong with pockets? 

Komentari (45)

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andjelija andjelija 17:17 08.08.2007

my boyfriend

has one, or two...I don't remember...square one, over the shoulder with short strap. I don't see nothing wrong with that picture especially when he caries my staff in that small back too (I don't like purses, and sometimes I have to use his 'purse' for ID and keys).
anyway, a lot of man in USA have those bags or even waist packs (which I can't stand but I use it anyway)
V-Tri V-Tri 17:48 08.08.2007


Wait a sec, I'm bit confused. Are you referring to a ubiquitous "pederusha" bag?
chakowsky chakowsky 23:53 08.08.2007

Re: Pederusha...

No, he thinks of "toplomerka". The one u carry under your armpit. One of the reasons it entered serbian male fashion is that criminals used to carry their guns in it. And since the 90's cultural heritage is still dominant in real and wanna-look-like-criminal circles you end up with something that is incomprehensible to outsiders. Actually toplomerka is quite macho under those circumstances.
m.agrippa m.agrippa 14:52 04.10.2007

Re: Pederusha...

Pederusha, yes... or 'bubreg' (if you wear it clipped around your waist). I think they're ridiculous. Like Nick said - what's wrong with putting stuff in your pockets?!?

1. cell 2. smokes & lighter 3. wallet 4. car keys

What else could a male possibly *need* to have on his person?!

Buy a pair of cargo pants/shorts, for Christ's sake. Or even a pair of painter's jeans. They've got loads of conveniently placed pockets.

Absolutely ridiculous.
dunjica dunjica 17:52 08.08.2007


lip-gloss and mirror together, safe and clutched close to your chest

Luc Luc 18:04 08.08.2007


The answer is simple. People (men) here don’t consider them to have anything with homo/metrosexuality.

Why? That’s another question. Probably because first men purses were of Mont Blanc and other very expensive producers and consequently were bought by rich macho guys as “statusni simbol”.
Maja Rabasovic Maja Rabasovic 18:52 08.08.2007

Re: ...

I don't know about the status symbol, but I agree that men in Serbia don't associate these so called man purses with femininity or homo/metrosexuality. My uncle, who's very much a Serbian male, has had one for years. Its use is much more utilitarian than anything else (ie. fashion).
Ataturk Ataturk 19:28 08.08.2007

male bag

"What went wrong with pockets? "
answer to this is simple, the jeans that this type of Serbian male is wearing is extremly tight so you couldn't put a needle in it.
I agree that they are not associated with homo or metro sexuality even though this type of purse had ,for a long time, a nickname refering to gay population.Nowdays urban youth calls that bag"Toplomerka" that is that thing that you use to measure body temperature( sorry i dont know the name of it in English).
darmar darmar 20:41 08.08.2007

Re: male bag

Nowdays urban youth calls that bag"Toplomerka" that is that thing that you use to measure body temperature( sorry i dont know the name of it in English).

andjelija andjelija 20:52 08.08.2007

Re: male bag

any pictures of those cause I don't know what you're talking about
darmar darmar 21:16 08.08.2007

Re: male bag

any pictures of those cause I don't know what you're talking about

andjelija andjelija 21:20 08.08.2007

Re: male bag

it reminds me on perverts. I don't know why.
Ataturk Ataturk 23:25 08.08.2007

Re: male bag

Yeap, thats the word! thermometer!:) :) :)
the pics of the bags that you've putted are the ones I am refering when I mentioned "thermometer bags" and i hope the author had these in mind when he posted this text, if not , I dont find this post funny anymore:)
Thermometer bags are a hideous thing and i hope they never existed:)
Bojan Zdravic Bojan Zdravic 01:47 09.08.2007

Re: male bag

I am pretty much surprised that nobody knows what is it used for. The majority of the people in Serbia use it to keep the gun there.
riddles riddles 16:16 09.08.2007

Re: male bag

Bojan Zdravic

I am pretty much surprised that nobody knows what is it used for. The majority of the people in Serbia use it to keep the gun there.

Yeah, 'cause the majority of people in Serbia are gun-totting, armed-to-the-teeth macho men ready to attack anyone that looks at them the wrong way.
Come off it.

Why do people carry these things? Try stuffing your wallet, ID card, driver's license, house keys, car keys and cell phone into your pockets and you may find out why this may be a more comfortable alternative :)
m.agrippa m.agrippa 14:54 04.10.2007

Re: male bag

andjelija andjelija 20:21 08.08.2007


I don't look to sexy with filled pockets :)
gaus gaus 20:34 08.08.2007

SMP (Serbian Male Purse)

This is sooo funny, I can't stop laughing. Really, wearing purse is characteristic only for Serbian guys, I have never seen such a thing anywhere else in the world. Looks so gay/feminine, but somehow people do not see anything weird about it. Male fashion in Serbia (just look at how football players or city trendsetters are dressed) is, generally speaking, pretty gayish. What can I say: "Serbia is a big secret"...
andjelija andjelija 20:57 08.08.2007

Re: SMP (Serbian Male Purse)

ha!! we got a brand :))))
darmar darmar 21:03 08.08.2007

Re: SMP (Serbian Male Purse)

ha!! we got a brand :))))

we should register it immediately! hihihi...
micatrifrtalja micatrifrtalja 09:18 09.08.2007

Re: SMP (Serbian Male Purse)

Well, when you say 'anywhere else in the world' I am not sure which world are you referring to. Mentioned SMP habit is characteristic for all Mediterranean countries - these are very popular in Greece or Italy.
Furthermore, these are very useful especially when modern habits include so many everyday accessories to be close to you; wallet, mobile, car keys, organizer, etc. All mentioned can not fit into your pocket unless you are not into military outfit with dozen of baggy pockets - and even than, unless you are not very organized mail representative, searching for specific item can turn into scratching dance or kind of compulsive/impulsive misbehavior.
So, my vote for Serbian mail sense for practical :)). And, don't judge Serbian man so harshly - they are very opened for metro sexuality they just don't have the opportunity (or the money) to show it.

Proud SMP Practicer:))
gaus gaus 17:41 09.08.2007

Re: SMP (Serbian Male Purse)

Well, when you say 'anywhere else in the world' I am not sure which world are you referring to.

North & South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, that's pretty obvious – I’m not saying that I’ve been to every country on this planet, but I really travel a lot. I have never noticed that much male wearers of the SMP in Italy, and it's not because they tend to wear IMP (Italian Male Purse), as you are implying. The problem we are discussing is, as Nicholas said, the way some freakin' fashion statement from "the world" is applied is such an environment as Serbia. You would probably agree that our country is open (extremely open, I'd say) to metro sexuality, but is hostile towards homo sexuality. I wonder why? Maybe the answer is : “pokondirena tikva”? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to insult all the guys out there who enjoy wearing SMP, but you’ll probably admit that it is a little bit weird for a society like ours to accept something that is so gayish as SMP, don’t you think?

All the best…
codex_casti codex_casti 00:17 09.08.2007

serbian man purse..

Serbian society continues to be deeply homophobic ...

who told you that? what makes you say that?
sheila sheila 03:50 09.08.2007

Re: serbian man purse..

I hope this is just a sarcastic comment...
Nicholas Comrie Nicholas Comrie 17:36 09.08.2007

Re: serbian man purse..

Oh come off it. You are trying to tell me that Serbian society isn't? When members of a gay parade were beaten up and the police stood by and did nothing? And when a lot of guys that I have spoken to were actually proud of that fact. And I know of at least two gay guys that have been attacked randomly by people on the street for being gay.

I am not saying that everything is perfect in England (far from it) but we are much more accepting of gay people. I would particularly point to London as a city where being gay is widely accepted. Capital cities do usually lead the way in the liberalisation of society but I would say that Belgrade lags behind a number of European cities in its acceptance of Serbia's gay society. I don't think that I am wrong when I say these things...
codex_casti codex_casti 23:58 09.08.2007

Re: serbian man purse..

so u let them parade.. and that makes u less homophobic? i dont think so. averige english hooligan will kick some gays ass like an averige serbian hooligan. there is no difference at all.
Daniela Stojkovic Daniela Stojkovic 00:45 09.08.2007

purse bearers in Amsterdam

Dear Nicholas,

Funny that you have notice "the man purse"! I didn’t thought that they exist in Belgrade too. For some time I'm observing my fellow-man-citizens here in Amsterdam and a phenomenon of "the man purse"!

Man wearing it is mostly of a younger age, between 15 and 25, but this is not the rule. The most important thing is that the purse has to have a BIG Louis Vuitton, Gucci or similar sounded brand name all over it.
Purse HAS to be worn crossed over the chest and very often with matching “baseball cap” with again Gucci, Vuitton … Some purses are original, but mostly they are cheap fakes bought on the local markets.

If man is over 18 years of age and in a possession of a driving license he would be usually accessorized with a car keys in one and a mobile phone in the other hand. Some also wear “hands-free sets” so they are frequently seen talking to themselves. This is apparently a brilliant trick to attract attention. All this nicely tights-up the appearance of the purse bearer.

The younger fellow-purse-wearing-follower is mostly heard before seen as the car keys here are replaced with some sort of music producing gadget, Mostly rap or R’n’B music. Gadget is in a later life of a purse wearer replaced with above described attracting attention trick. These sorts of purse-worshipers usually move in groups, are loud and obscene.

All of the purse bearers are seen with full hands. I can understand that that is for a simple reason - to show off their dowry. But one thing remains a mystery to me to the present day - what do they wear in the purses?

Nicholas Comrie Nicholas Comrie 17:39 09.08.2007

Er, lip gloss?

Like I said, lip gloss and mirror. Hell, some of my friends back in the UK have been using moisturiser for years. Girls had better watch out, guys will be wanting to store their "stuff" in your handbags soon enough (that is, if they don't bring their own).
Pape Pape 01:17 09.08.2007

Long ago

Seinfeld 1998: Jerry complains about carrying all his girlfriend's stuff and Elaine tells him about Peterman's small men's carryall. "It's not a purse, it's European."

Serbian, to bi precise.
bobo bobo 01:59 09.08.2007

Re: Long ago

Seinfeld 1998: Jerry complains about carrying all his girlfriend's stuff and Elaine tells him about Peterman's small men's carryall. "It's not a purse, it's European."

Serbian, to bi precise.

In USA you can hear commercials like "It's not gay! It's European!" mainly because straight men dress awful so if you wanna sell them some accessory you have to emphasize on European lol
bobo bobo 01:57 09.08.2007


LMAO reading this blog! :))))))))
This is great!

Men in Serbia like to wear colourful tight shirts with numbers written on it, capri pants and pointy sneakers lol
ChainReaction ChainReaction 11:03 09.08.2007

How many

prejudices at the same place- I'm shocked!
Yes, you are missing the point about everything said above. About what it means to be a man, a citizen of Serbia or to be with a different sexual orientation...
Nicholas Comrie Nicholas Comrie 17:54 09.08.2007


What's prejudice about describing a man-purse and saying that I associate it with women? You evidently didn't get the point of my article. It wasn't to say that it is gay to carry a SMP, rather that the people who carry it, many of whom are probably homophobic, don't recognise that it is a feminine item when they wear it.

And what does it mean to "be a man"? Do we have obligations? Not to wear SMPs? Not to be "prejudice"?

And a "citizen of Serbia"? Under this category, is it a necessity to wear an SMP, or appreciate them? Or as a citizen am I not allowed to criticise the country that I live in (and otherwise love and enjoy)

And as for "different sexual orientation" what does that mean? What way are we supposed to be orientated? I am quite happy the way I am. And why can't a gay person laugh at a male item described as feminine? Must gay people defend all things feminine or aren't you slipping into the prejudice stereotypes that you accuse me of harbouring, and failing to find the funny side of something that really doesn't have anything to do with being gay?
darmar darmar 22:39 09.08.2007

Re: Prejudice

Dear Nicholas,

OK, all this started as a joke... at least it should have been one. In the end it went into some more serious discussion. You were right about some things, like in the last comment of yours, especially in the last paragraph ("different sexual orientation" - I congratulate you on that! Becoming your fan!!! hahaha... But the famous SMP, as you call it, isn't really Serbian. There are a lot of men around the world wearing them.Personally, I do not wear it 'cause I think it's ugly, not my style, though I don't see it like a feminine item. But still, you have to admit that it can be useful for keeping many items like keys, cigarettes, a lighter, ID and credit cards, a wallet, a mobile phone, chewing gums, tissues and God knows what else! Someone would say: "OK, but men can wear briefcases, or attache cases!" Yeah, if we talk about businessmen... they go with the style. But a lot of men are quite of casual wear these days, so big and bulky briefcases aren't really acceptable. So, let's put aside this topic, cause it should have been just a joke, don't you agree? And the "S" in SMP... no real justification for standing there.

Regards, Darko
AlexTheVeliki AlexTheVeliki 22:29 09.08.2007

The whole gay thing in Serbia...

It crossed my mind that there may be a relationship between the level of (in)tolerance of open homosexuality in a society, and the level of "gay" behaviour that is considered normal. This man purse is just one aspect of it. The other, which always strikes me, is the constant physical interaction of males in Serbia. Kissing, touching, slapping, etc.. You know, like guys walking down the street with their arms around their shoulders, or one guy hanging of another etc... I'm pretty sure that here in North America that would be considered pretty gay... Short of some kind of frat house / college party setting, but then an argument can be made that there are elements of homosexuality in those settings as well.

What I wonder is whether homosexuality, which is present in every society, just needs an alternative in conservative manifestation since its openness is frowned upon, like in Serbia? And is this outlet the pseudo-homosexual or latent homosexual behaviour that's considered "normal". I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, just wondering if these two factors are related...

Aleksandar Vasović Aleksandar Vasović 11:45 10.08.2007


here inventory of what i carry on me on daily basis (this very moment):

1. cell phone
2. wallet ( for money - with not too much inside, but whatever)
3. separate holder for IDs (licna karta, drivers licence, press ID, credit cards, this cards, that cards, other cards etc)
4. apartment keys (six pieces on a key ring)
5. office keys (five pieces, including a 10cm-long one for steel doors on a key ring)
6. car keys
7. a ball pen or two
8. USB stick
9. all sorts of papers, receipts and other written stuff
10. swiss-army six-blade knife (comes handy)
11. medications
12. digital recorder

clearly it does not fit in my pockets, hence i am carrying a pouch. it looks like i am carrying an ammo pouch, it is ugly but it serves the purpose. a backpack is a liability as it's dangling around if half-empty. i had a camelback backpack from which i discarded the water bottle. that was perfect but i lost it somehow.

my "kum" has a purse. being a businessman, apart from above mentioned things he is also carrying a palmtop computer. purse has a meaning in his case. in most other cases i believe. actually in 99 percent of cases has nothing to do with status symbols, hidden gay aspirations or machismo. however a hand-crafted branded leather purse or a super quality thing made of toughest cordura nylon make a difference. also, a bad purse falls apart immensely quickly. a good one is an asset

m.agrippa m.agrippa 15:22 04.10.2007

Re: inventory

Obviously, your job requires you carry a lot of stuff (from what I see, all are absolute necessities). Do I need one?

1. smokes & Zippo
2. car keys (actually one folding key; I drive a VW - they use 'switchblade' keys/fobs)
3. house key (1)
4. thin leather wallet ($50 cash at all times, driver's lic., health card, citizenship card, debit & credit cards [5 cards total, at 0.5mm each])
5. sunglasses (if the weather mandates so)
6. cell phone (a rather thin one)

All this fits into the five jean pockets. I actually use the tiny pocket on the right-hand side! LOL! Perfect for the car key. Plus, the phone has a belt clip. There's a reason why belt clips exist.
Maja Rabasovic Maja Rabasovic 04:48 11.08.2007


I don't understand why this bag is seen as strictly feminine. As I mentioned earlier, its use seems to be strictly utilitarian. In my eyes it's more akin to a 'messenger' bag than a 'purse'. I suppose calling it a purse does add to the femininity. Is it all in the phrasing?
m.agrippa m.agrippa 15:25 04.10.2007

Re: Why?

Messenger bags are usually...erm... big. Way bigger than what those guys wear.

stellae stellae 22:51 12.08.2007


ha! well I guess as the years go by the number of gadgets grows. I When there was only a wallet to put in your pocket that wasn't a problem, but today when u have to squize in your mobile, some even carry two, your wallet , a pencil , cigaretts, a lighter etc you,d wanna avoid looking like you just robbed a local store and shoved all u could carry down ur pockets lol I bet if someone introduced this to our english friends in the uk ,they'd go for it in no time. Just like the case of 'kravica' yogurt :) Seriously guys, they dont have proper yogurt in the UK, they have something they call yogurt but it seem more like 'pavlaka' definitely:) Who ever gets our yogurt onto their market first is going to be a rich man in no time.
m.agrippa m.agrippa 15:26 04.10.2007

Re: :)

Not even like pavlaka. It's more like a watered-down mileram.
Bob Petrovich Bob Petrovich 16:27 13.08.2007

The origin


I first would like to commend you on the idea to highlight the funny differences between Anglo-Saxons and Serbs. Perhaps one day you migh even write a hilarious book, just like George Mikes did.

The story of "pederusha" (SMP) goes back to the 1970s, before the time when the short barelled Rugers came into fashion. They were mostly carried by middle-aged men who brought them from a vacation in Greece or Italy. I guess it had to do something with relativelly low use of credit cards and the need to carry a wad of money due to inflation. Nowadays, Mae West's quip ("is that a gun in your pocket..." can not be used in Serbia because "pederusha"/"toplomerka" is used for concealed carry, Serbian way. That's the answer to your question "what's wrong with the pockets".

According to Yoggi Berra, "you can observe a lot by watching", however, one has to be cautious of falling into the trap of "Channel under the fog, Europe isolated" type of misinterpretation. Anglo-Saxons and Serbs differ in many cultural patterns and cultural sensibility to them is needed, otherwise one risks to totally miss the point and got misunderstood.

I found the example of this in your claim that "Serbian society continues to be deeply homophobic and it is ironic that such a symbol of femininity should be worn by so many guys, that otherwise, so visibly fit the Balkan mould."

The term "homophobic" (irrational fear of homosexuals) is not applicable to Serbian society. Serbs do not have fear of Homosexuals. They either practice homosexual lifestyle, tollerate it or fiercely oppose it, but none of them experience "an unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic."

I guess you have to find another word if you want to say that Serbian society is intollerant towards homosexuals.

Anglo-Saxon readers know what homophobic means to them. You can imagine how perplexed are my Canadian Anglo-Saxon friends with Serbian males kissing each other three times on the cheek on social gatherings, or casually touching "do not touch zones" of their male friends in a pub or sport event? Especially when gaydar
detects them as non-gays? You can imagine their terror if a Serbian guy wants to kiss them as well, or casually touch them? They are homophobic, Serbian guy is not. Physical interaction is not of sexual kind.

This misunderstanding can go beyond male/male interaction. Using an Anglo-Saxon yardstick, Serbs could be accused of being a nation of pedophiles because they are affectionate towards children, both theirs and of other people. They also could be accused of being a nation of sexual predators, because they tend to pay attention to women in general and attractive women in particular in any situation. This is cultural issue, not a sexual one.

Hope that this clarifes your puzzlement about the use of "pederusha" purse.

Keep the good work,

deadbeat deadbeat 12:41 14.08.2007

any alternative?

I find it curious that this post came up in a moment when I'm considering equipping myself with a SMP or something else of the sort. For a long time I avoided carrying anything other than a backpack, but that's awkward if you don't have enough things to fill it with - besides, it's not suitable to carry it when you work for a company with (albeit loose) dress code. A briefcase is out of the question - so I fill my pockets, and that certainly doesn't improve my appearance. AV made a list of things an average man carries (it doesn't include lipstick, a mirror or a moisturizer) - unless you wear skater pants, there's no way to fit even half of it in pockets. I agree that both "pederusa" and "toplomerka" look gay (whether Serbian macho males, with their keen sense of style, are aware of it or not), but what is the alternative? I'll be immensely thankful for any suggestions that would save me from joining the SMP club.

p.s. Serbian society is both intolerant/aggressive towards gay people and homophobic - the two are inseparable. I'm neither, but I don't like looking gay.
Lutkarka Lutkarka 00:33 16.08.2007

What is a "gay look"

Well, I remember when I first came to Canada how man people thought for my husband that he is gay, since he was so well dressed, with great attention to detail. The fact is that fashion is a very important thing in Serbia, and why is another sociological issue all together. It could be that people do not have money for cars and houses, so they show off in clothes; it could be the influence of Italy, which is also a very fashionable culture. Who knows. The fact is, I can pick a Serb out of a crowd since he would be the one best dressed at the company's picknic. North Americans are very relaxed in their clothing styles, plus they have these notion it's a gay thing.

My next husband (yes, I went through few) was Canadian and he was opposing all my attempts to introduce finer clothing in his life, from a fear of being seen as gay. It is all a cultural thing, stereotypes are very strong references in our minds, so for someone to view a man wearing a purse as silly while others don't see it that way is largerly cultural.

As for Serbia being homophobic: it is still a traditional society and has difficulties accepting open display of gay affection, I will give you that. Canadians are far more tolerant of others being gay, but at the same time Canadian men fear they will be misunderstood for a gay, hence their fear of physical contact and good fashion.
I doubt you will see gays holding hands openly on the streets of any Serbian town, people still keep deep in closet for the most part. The violence against them was a very common occurance in Canada some 20 years ago, and it sitll may be present, but far less than before, at least it is not obvious. Serbia is yet to walk that walk and become more tolerant towards gays. As I said, it is still a society with strong traditional outlooks on certain values. Because they are mostly unaware of the possibility someone may be gay, Serbian man do not even have that thought in their mind, that is why they are so comfortable with the purse.
Overall, it's just a purse, as the author said, it was a joke to begin with, but the discussion touched some interesting points. I laughed so much when I hear the name for it "toplomerka" (thermometer) - how witty.

m.agrippa m.agrippa 15:01 04.10.2007

Re: What is a "gay look"

The way some Canadians are dressed in public is just atrocious. My favourite combo:




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