This Thing Rules

I used to hate shoulder bags, but COVID-19 changed my mind

I used to be insecure about my masculinity if I wore a shoulder bag. Now, I realize how stupid that was.

I’m a huge sucker for dope bags. Backpacks, messenger bags, duffel bags — I own an unhealthy amount. But I never thought I’d own a shoulder bag.

Then the pandemic hit.

In the Before Times, I prided myself on keeping my EDC (everyday carry) as minimal as possible. Phone, keys, wallet, and watch. I keep a small Victorinox and a Geekey multi-tool on my keychain and a bandage (has come in clutch so many times) in my wallet. My maxim was: It needs to fit in my pants pockets or it stays at home.

COVID-19 changed all that. A small shoulder bag to hold all my COVID-19 essentials is now a must-have. Shoulder bags come in all shapes, sizes, designs, and brands. After months of indecision, I pulled the trigger on the Carhartt WIP Payton Shoulder Pouch.

Adding a pin is a great and easy way to personalize your shoulder bag. Don't go overboard, though. Too many and it's just tacky.Raymond Wong / Input

I picked this bag for its clean aesthetic, water-repellent Cordura polyester construction, and 1.8 litre capacity. Aside from the Carhartt branding, which I much prefer over the brand’s usual logo badge, there are no other gaudy elements. No flashy Supreme branding all over the shoulder strap. Just a minimalist and durable shoulder bag from a brand that’s known for its quality apparel.

I never leave my house without it anymore. Why? Because it holds all of my pandemic essentials. What are those? Besides the aforementioned items in my EDC, I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer (can never be too safe), a spare 3-ply surgical mask, an N95 or KN95 mask (Brian X. Chen at the New York Times has a great guide on how to buy real ones) for when six feet of social distancing isn’t always possible like on the train or bus, a pair of disposable food gloves, and hand moisturizer.

Current essentials inside of my shoulder bag.Raymond Wong / Input

The shoulder bag is also great for stashing my two phones (I always carry an iPhone and Android; most recently the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra), wireless earbuds, and sunglasses. There’s a zipper pocket on the outside and inside the bag, there’s a main compartment and mesh divider for a second pocket.

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If there’s one thing COVID-19 has made me more aware of, it’s that we’re all touching things outside that could be covered with bacteria (i.e. people sneeze and all that stuff lands in their hands and then that gets transferred to a door handle or your phone, or worse your face). I’m not saying be a germaphobe — just be conscious of what surfaces you’re touching and try to limit contact. A shoulder bag has greatly reduced the amount of times I feel compelled to manhandle my phone just to fidget with something. As they say… out of sight, out of mind.

Decades ago, I visited Hong Kong for the first time and noticed men everywhere wearing a shoulder bag. My uncles wore them! I wasn’t secure in my masculinity in my teenage years to wear a shoulder bag or “murse” (an antiquated term that has no place in society TBH). Now, I realize how stupid it was to care so much about what other people would think.

The Carhartt WIP Payton Shoulder Pouch rules; it’s functional; and it only cost me $29 from End Clothing. The retailer no longer sells it in black so you’ll need to find it elsewhere if you wanna go stealth like me. Otherwise, it also comes in “Cinnamon & Black,” this cool “Admiral & White” and “Cypress & White.”