Why everyone is carrying cross body bags

— by Nilgin Yusuf

Arket Packable Crossbody Bag


Have you arrived at the hands-free stage of life yet? This Mother’s Day, I received something useful. I wasn’t handed the standard gift-wrapped cliché of scented candles, or a bouquet. My khaki, nylon Eastpak cross body bag (the perfect size for the accompanying bar of Tony’s Chocolonely) was decidedly un-mumsy but, I was thrilled. Durable, utilitarian and practical (Eastpak used to make bags for the US Military) I could see it fitting into my life and wardrobe immediately.

As much of our lives has been streamlined, miniaturised and computerised, our essential accoutrements take up less space. Once, we might have carried around a ton of objects in our bag: an address book or Filofax, A-Z, bulky purse, camera, Walkman etc. but mobile phones have absorbed most of these functions, cards and mobile banking have largely replaced cash; ergo, bags can be lighter and less obtrusive.

City Pouches, Cross Body, Travel or Sling, these bags have numerous monikers (the worst is ‘man bag’) but these names don’t accurately convey the significance of these understated accessories. I prefer Portable Pocket (all busy women know the importance of pockets.) And they aren’t a trivial or incidental thing, or as their names might suggest, used primarily for vacations or sightseeing. Once you reach the point where carrying one of these works for you, it signifies an important life stage.


Cross-body bags at Baggu


As pupils and students, we lugged around satchels and rucksacks rammed with school books and homework. In professional life, we heaved something more substantial to protect laptops or folders. Family life and motherhood often meant carrying a baby on one shoulder and a bag on the other stuffed with all the kit and caboodle required to care for another small person. But as all of these life responsibilities subside, the load lessens. We literally have less baggage.

Portable Pockets are the polar opposite to designer handbags big enough for their own parking space and with a price tags to match. Understated and virtually invisible, there are no lary designer toggles or insignia to signal success, status or wealth. Pockets also have a surprisingly political history and the inclusion or exclusion of pockets in garments reveal a gendered bias. The Rational Dress Movement – around the time of the Suffragettes – saw pockets as a mark of practicality and equality.

But if you detach the pocket from the garment, you get all the practicality and none of the fuss; style wise, cross body bags allow for more streamlined garments.  How great to be able to power-walk around the park, with both hands free. What a relief not to have some heavy ruck sack pulling at your back and shoulders. The Portable Pocket shows you’re not just in transit but that you’ve arrived, unencumbered, independent and ready for anything.


Alyson is still using her Uniqlo sellout nylon cross-body bag



There are loads of reasonably priced nylon bags to choose from but if you want something in leather, and a bit more special, try the styles at Coach. I like the red Camera bag and Polly Crossbody both available at 24S. There’s also a zingy number at All Saints, and a buttersoft navy option at Jigsaw.


Best cross body bags (aka portable pockets):




Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer and regular TNMA contributor. That’s Not My Age is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

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  Have you arrived at the hands-free stage of life yet? This Mother’s Day, I received something useful.