Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why the Mysterious Absence of Diabetes Man-Bags?

Most women carry purses, while I don't know any men (gay or straight) who do. Now, truth be told, I have to agree with this guy when I say that a bag really needs to "be big enough to be useful -- that is, to hold substantially more stuff than a wallet, or for that matter one's pockets -- but not so big that you might as well be carrying a briefcase instead". They should also have a shoulder strap that's adjustable in length. At one time, it was a social faux pas for a man to carry anything other than a briefcase or gym bag around, except maybe a backpack if you were on a college campus. But those days, thankfully, are now history. In fact, today, there are a number of startups by people with diabetes including MyabeticStickMeDesigns and Adorn Designs that sell well-designed bags for people with diabetes that have special compartments specifically designed to hold testing supplies, vials of test strips, a tube or two of glucose tablets, and all the other miscellaneous other d-stuff that PWD's are expected to carry around 24/7/365.

But in spite of these social advances, virtually ALL of these products are desgined for women exclusively (based solely on the designs and color schemes of these products) while men with diabetes are pretty much left to fend for themselves, and let me add, the pickings are pretty slim!! That really needs to change.

For a number of years, I used a "half backpack" I bought at either the Gap, Old Navy, or Eddie Bauer, which was a lot smaller than a regular backpack used by kids in school, but did the job and wasn't too much of an embarrassment to carry around. But eventually, after about 4 years of daily use, it ripped from wear-and-tear, and I was forced to find some kind of replacement.

By the late 1990's, the advent of the "messenger bag" or "courier bag" emerged, which were frequently used by bicycle delivery couriers/messengers in big cities like New York and San Francisco (see here for some more background), thus the name. It became more acceptable for guys to carry a bag other than a cheap old grocery sack around. I guess we can thank metrosexuality for that not-so-small advancement, although truthfully, many things that carry the name "messenger bag" today are really just inexpensive briefcases in terms of size, and I should note that I don't need yet another bag to carry my laptop around in, thank you very much!

But I do have to carry a bunch of diabetes crap around everywhere in some kind of bag (although likely carry more stuff than I really need, but inertia is the main reason I haven't cleaned my bag out recently), including: my primary glucose meter, as well as a smaller, secondary meter I can use as a back-up in a pinch, a replacement meter battery (and when I wore my insulin pump, some batteries for the pump, as my Animas pump had an alarm that sounded like a fire engine's siren), some lancets, a syringe or two, and a bunch of pen needles. When I wore a pump, I also carried a new infusion set, IV prep and a container of Skin-Tac adhesive as well medical tape or a patch to cover the infusion set to ensure I'd get more than a single day from it (I either take long showers, or the adhesive just is inadequate). These days, it's an insulin pen, and maybe a second if the pen is approaching empty. I also have a prefilled syringe case for my evening dosage of NPH, which eliminates the need to carry a vial of insulin around with me and takes about the amount of space as an insulin pen. I use the disposable insulin pens these days, but I will give hats off to Novo Nordisk for the soft cases they include with the Novopen Junior, which has room for another cartridge of insulin as well as three pen needles. With disposables, I need to carry the pen needles separately. I also carry some hand sanitizer around (I prefer the Lysol Healthy Touch foam hand sanitizer over gels, because it doesn't leave a gross feeling or smell after using it and dries almost instantly) but I haven't found it in my local stores lately, possibly because flu season has finally passed. In the absence of that, I'll have a spray hand santizer that's about the size of a ballpoint pen, but I don't really like those as much because they don't last very long (like 5 uses and they're empty). I also carry a box of 100 test strips (which I draw from throughout the week), a pair of reading glasses and a pair of bifocals just in case I lose a contact lens or my eyes bother me, some contact lens drops, and a full container of 50 glucose tabs so I'm never without some (1 tube might be exhaused treating a single low if I don't get to eat after treating a low, because tablets don't usually provide permanent low relief, only rapid relief for me, meaning I'll have to eat more tabs in about a half hour if I don't eat something. And it has a pocket on the outside for both my cell phone and iPod. All of that's an enormous amount of crap to carry around, and its nice to have it all together in a central location so I don't have to search around gathering all the pieces every day.

What do I use to carry all this around? Well, I've historically had pretty decent luck in finding relatively small and inexpensive messenger bag with an adjustable length strap at H&M in such basic colors as black or army green. But even there, those items are usually only carried by H&M during the back-to-school rush in August and September, then they regularly disappear until the next school year begins. I've learned to buy a backup bag after the zipper on my first beloved black messenger bag died one year. Fortunately, my mother is a great seamstress and she was able to replace the zipper on her sewing machine without much difficulty, but if she wasn't around to do it for me, I would have been s#!t out of luck!

On Sunday, at a diabetes meetup I went to in New York City, a few people including the women from Act1 Diabetes, were discussing what they liked about the different Stick Me Design and Myabetic bags. I chimed in on the conversation by showing my beloved but well-worn army-green messenger bag, which frankly is showing normal wear-and-tear, although I think I can survive without a replacement until August. But that prompted some questions for me, specifically 2 things:

#1) What do other guys with diabetes use to carry all their diabetes crap around?


#2) Why aren't any of these entrepeneurs interested in the men with diabetes market, who constitute roughly half the market? Our needs aren't complex, but stick with basic colors like black, blue, brown, and gray -- not pink paisleys or flowers!

Anyway, with that diatribe, I'd love to hear from others, even the women who have done business with the folks at Stick Me Designs or Myabetic to see whether they've considered the needs of the other half the potential market for these products! What are things you look for in a bag? What would you like to see changed? Guys, what do you use to carry all your diabetes stuff around?


Jack Freund said...

A big problem, no doubt. I too have used the messenger bags, and am thankful they exist.

However, I've recently switched to the Fatboy and there's no going back for me:


Eternally manly, and also approved to carry concealed weapons, its a keeper ;-)

I've actually had some folks ask me if it was a camera bag. I thought that a compliment.

I'm looking forward to the other's comments.

Cara said...

I have often thought how glad I am that I'm a women w/ diabetes instead of a guy. I carry so much freaking crap around that I'm not sure how I'd do it if I were a guy. Why don't you invent something???? :)
By the way, it was so great meeting you this weekend. I'm glad you got to come!

Lili said...

I wouldn't say there aren't any. Just off the top of my head:



Scott S said...

A few people have Tweeted me and/or commented, asking why don't you sell something designed for guys with diabetes? That sounds like it could be a worthwhile business venture. But the reality can be summed up in a single word: insurance. First of all, entrepeneurs are risk-takers, which is fine, but how many of them really need to worry about day-to-day coverage issues? Many of the women in this field have the benefit of coverage via their husbands -- but as a man with diabetes, I don't have the luxury of that kind of safety net! Plus, I have zero talent with sewing and fabrics, all I can offer is what I want and need here. But if any of the female-owned startups would like my input, by all means, leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter and/or Facebook (I have the same handle on both "sstrumello").

George said...

I have a very dudely man satchel I tote around that everyone calls a purse!

I would love something Guy specific and that does not mean Camo.

BTW I checked out that Fatboy bag that Jack Freund has and it is pretty spiffy.

Virtue said...

There's also Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada. Their bags are pretty neutral and durable. I'm pretty sure they ship to the US... Just a thought...

Shoulder bags:

Some sling packs:

chris bishop said...

I have found the ultimate "Man Purse" that I am more than happy with and carry with me everywhere I go. It not only holds my Diabetes stuff but my wallet keys change and anything else I feel like putting in it.


Best thing is that you can make your own. This is the way to go...

Anonymous said...

OMG... This is the exact topic I've already been planning my own dblog on in the not-so-distant future: D-Fashion for Men! Well, looks like I got scooped! Oh well... I use a little PDA-sized man purse that's plain black, just with meter/strips/picker/Humalog bottle, syringes (one while pumping, 3 on my Pump Hiatus). I'm going to analyze your blog more during normal hours, and touch on this in the next week or so. Thanks for getting my brain working, and getting dialogue going Scott!

Unknown said...

I have the huge advantage that my wife runs her own handmade handbag company (www.stripykat.com), so she's made me a custom man bag in funky tweed and a matching diabetes kit bag is currently on the design sheet.

Sadly, she's not planning on selling them more widely just yet :-(

ShottleBop said...

Fossil makes a decent line of what they call "City Bags." I was in New York last week when my Swissgear over-the-shoulder "travel bag" started giving out (after only a few months). It had been a little small for me, anyways. (Carried the bare minimum for running out the door--I was still keeping my supplements in my briefcase, and I would have liked room for a book.)

I stopped at the Fossil store on Broadway to check out their line, and ended up with the "Decker":


It's a good size, and carries everything I'd like it to.

mollyjade said...

Stick me designs had a few diabetes "man bags" for a while. The same basic bag in less girly fabirc. I (a woman) have one of the cammo ones since I'm not into a lot of traditional woman's color schemes.

I wonder if they just didn't sell well. Even with the different fabric, the bag isn't very useful without a shoulder strap unless you're carrying it inside another bag.

chris cooper said...

Wow, how timely..I have recently started looking for something, I wish I had found this post first so I had a few more ideas/options.

I decided to go with an oversize fanny pack from Amazon, should be large enough for the Dstuff, keys, wallet and phone.. (I hope!)


michael plunkett said...

what is everyone carrying? the zippered pouch my Accu-Chek came with fits in my back pocket and im good to go. What am I missing here?

Jack Freund said...

@ pjnoir


Don said...

Thanks for your blog posting.
I've some patients here (men) who have used Xpress from Myabetic and seem to like it. Of course, if they could go without ever having to carry one at all...that would be great.
I've seen a case at Eastern Mountain Sports that was small, hard covered and wrapped around the waist like a small..dare I say it...fanny pack.

michael plunkett said...

my bad Jack- I don't use Insulin and forgot about that. Thank

Jack Freund said...

@ pjnoir

No problem :-)

Rickina said...

Hi Scott! Wow what a very insightful and eye opening post and host of comments. I certainly hear you loud and clear my friend. I've dipped my toes in the 'man bag' waters and for lack of words...bombed. So I guess I'm a clean canvas. I love designing functional accessories, this includes you guys too. I'm at a point now where I can crank out samples and have designs retail ready within a month or 2.

So here's my open forum: tweet me @stickmedesigns_ or facebook me suggestions, pictures and color fabric ideas I promise to take note. And we could see an official guy collection by Fall!

I'd love to see a new collection for guys take shape driven by you guys voice.

Thanks for sharing the insights...it's always appreciated.

GuyG said...

Yes, I understand the frustration. I too use man bags but finding the right design is impossible. I really don't like small shoulder straps too dainty and not strong enough. Would like a front zip open compartment to hold meters, etc. I have talked to Adorn designs, Medical & bag manufactures, in hopes that one would take the idea and run with it. My Wife has similar issue asthma, carries a portable nebulizer, but no purses are available just diabetes. Be nice to get bags designed for medical, tech etc.

Aaron Tweedie said...

Hey Scott, Check out the Man-PACK. (Just google it, I didn't want to post a link after reading your terms) Now there is a man bag for guys with diabetes. And it actually looks masculine! It is big enough to be useful, utilitarian, and stylish. Let me know if you would like to review. I'll give you a discount.

LeAnn S. said...

Hello Scott,
I have a mens diabetic messenger bag for you. I am the owner of aDorn Designs www.adorndesigns.com. I would be willing to send you one for free if you would blog about it for me. Let me know if you are interested.
LeAnn Sisson