Not recognizing the reference, I could only suppose that he had made a witticism, and I inquired to determine that it had not been at my expense. As it turned out, he was complimenting me on my Rothco military-style messenger bag--the "Jack Sack," as he called it, after Jack Bauer, the enhanced interrogator protagonist of the FOX hit series 24, who notably carried a very similar--if not, in fact, identical--shoulder bag throughout season 5 of the show.
I should point out that I was never personally a fan of 24, and it had not been my intention to cosplay Jack Bauer. I had no idea whatsoever, when I purchased my bag, that it was any kind of "Jack Sack." Indeed, it was rather a blow to my ego to learn that I was not only unoriginal but had even unwittingly aligned myself with the fandom for a show that I really didn't care for. I had been out in public with the bag several times already, and, although none had voiced the observation before now, I shuddered at the thought of how many more people might have recognized it as the "Jack Sack" and privately thought to themselves, "Watch out guys, we're dealing with a badass over here."
In case I didn't quite believe (or want to believe) that it was so, I was forthwith directed to an entire blog that was inspired by and named after the "Jack Sack." Sure enough, there was a picture of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) wearing an olive drab canvas bag that looked nigh indistinguishable from that I had so proudly obtained some three months ago and was even at that moment (now rather less proudly) still carrying. And, compounding my dismay, this blog extolling the virtues of the Jack Sack seemed written in an ironic tone! It referred to it as "the original manpurse," when I had specifically chosen this messenger bag, yes, because it was both practical and affordable, but also because, with its rugged military styling, it was the most masculine and un-purse-like that I could find.
Researching the business further on my own, however, I discovered that, although indeed the bag had been quite the coveted item once, made so by 24, and that Jack Bauer's carrying it had prominently played a part in making "man purses" slightly more socially acceptable, this was all years ago. Querying the Internet on "Jack Bauer bag," I found that nearly all relevant discussion dated back to 2006, around when season 5 of 24 was airing for the first time. Some more recent results discussed different sacks and packs that the character carried in later seasons, and, by the time the show ended its run, nobody was asking anymore where to buy any of Jack Bauer's bags. Meanwhile, if you read the customer reviews for the Rothco bag on Amazon, you'll find many positive appraisals, none of them describing or acknowledging it as "the bag from 24." It's a popular item still, but probably now again for the same reasons that people used to buy it back before Jack Bauer ever started carrying it--not because it's the "Jack Sack" but because it's practical, affordable, and fairly un-purse-like.
The occasional 24 geek notwithstanding, I now feel reassured that I can resume carrying my bag out into public without fear of any sane person misidentifying me as a Jack Bauer wannabe. Alas, there remains the fear, now greater than ever, that my messenger bag is yet not un-purse-like enough.
"Well, as long as you're going to carry a man purse, you might as well make it the manliest purse."