History of Small Pouches: A Cultural Look

History of Small Pouches: A Cultural Look

Ever wonder where those cute little pouches, like a coin pouch, change purse, or wallet come from? According to classic scholars and historians, some of the earliest evidence of these pouches can be traced back to around 5,000 years ago in Ancient Greece, from the remains of a mummified “Iceman” called Otzi, and is continued to be used till today. In fact, one of the most popular depictions of a coin pouch was on Hermes, the messenger of the Greek Gods. These adorable accessories have been so deeply ingrained into global fashion culture, so much so that it has become a mainstay in worldwide fashion even today. In fact, all cultures throughout history probably had used some form of these small pouches regularly to store small coins, knickknacks, and precious valuables. Let’s take a look at the history of these small pouches, and what it means for us today:

1. Global Style & Culture

Due to the rise of pouches from ancient times, the concept of a small bag made from textiles, or leather has moved across the globe and has been adopted by many different cultures. Today, some of the most popularly seen styles of small pouches are from the West, commonly made of leather or luxury materials and sporting a more modern look. Meanwhile, in some regions such as Asia, fashion accessories come with designs and patterns that relate to their distinct aesthetics, such as the floral and nature based designs that are usually found in various Asian countries. These Asian pouches, including the popular Chinese coin purses are made of soft materials such as silk or velvet, conveying an elegant and refined feel. Other ethnic groups, such as the Native tribes of the Americas or the Aborigines of Australia, focus on beads, woven threads or fabrics, and leather,  portraying a rustic and traditional look.

2. Vintage Malaysia

Malaysia, on the other hand, provides a unique and interesting look into the combination of different cultures and its effects on their fashion. Malaysia has always been a melting pot of diversity, offering and adapting many styles from its various cultures and ethnic groups, composed mainly of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures. The aesthetic of vintage Malaysia reflects its cultural influences as a global trade hub in the days of yore, where international transport can only be done by sea. Contemporary Malaysian fashion has always taken into account these factors and creates a fusion with their own style, which can also be seen in their fashion of yesteryears. Some of these include the old traditional art of Anyaman Mengkuang or the weaving of leaves from the Mengkuang plant, which is similar to Pandan, that can still be seen nowadays. In the context of small pouches, many communities within the rural areas of Malaysia used to dye and weave the Mengkuang leaves in a checkered pattern to create their own pouches. In line with traditional arts and materials, Batik cloth is a Malaysian traditional fabric, made with wax to form intricate patterns. It was also used in the making of traditional pouches in the olden days of Malaysia and was highly popular due to it being a valuable commodity that was traded internationally with merchants and travelers. For the more affluent of the Malaysian community, they opted for brocade as their material of choice, which is a class of richly decorative woven fabrics, often made in colored silks and sometimes with gold and silver threads, reminiscent of the fine fabrics and materials prevalent during the era of global maritime trading. The brocade style was so popular in clothing designs that it was also used for making accessories such as small pouches and is still beloved by Malaysians today.

3. Modernity and Minimalism - Mixing the Old & New

Over time, fashion has evolved, adopted many trends and has split into different approaches and designs. Nowadays, much of the current fashion is based on minimalism and the modern, sleek aesthetic, made up of muted color palettes and the adage of “less is more”. In a recent Vogue article, Malaysian fashion leaders and designers made waves on an international level in the global fashion industry, popularizing Malaysian traditional wear and designs - the styles and aesthetics of vintage Malaysia are being brought to the world stage, with a twist; the historic materials and outfits were adapted to fit with modern tastes, creating a delightful fusion of fashion. This goes to show that tradition does not necessarily have to go out of style, ensuring the longevity of the old contemporary Malaysian aesthetic. To emphasize the factors of nostalgia and the Malaysian cultural identity, some choose designs based on cherished Malaysian treats, loved by all Malaysians, while others put an emphasis on the nature-based designs that relate to the Asian aesthetic of flora and fauna.