Crossbody bags, sling bags, man bags: whatever you call them, these handy little pouches are everywhere right now. And for good reason. Not only are they extremely practical – keeping pockets uncluttered and allowing you to carry more than just the bare essentials – they can also add a little something extra to your outfits… provided you pick the right one.
The crossbody bag was originally designed with security in mind, offering a safe place to store cash and valuables that could be worn close to the body and easily accessed. In more recent years, the style has been co-opted by the very demographic it sought to protect wearers from: petty criminals and so-called ‘roadmen’, who have adopted the sling bag as a sort of unofficial uniform. How do you avoid these negative connotations while still enjoying all the practical perks of this bite-size bag? It’s really just a case of shopping the right brands.
There’s a handful of designers we rate highly when it comes to crossbody bags. They’re the labels that have put their stamp on the style, whether by using premium materials, incorporating quirky design motifs or by producing one of the most recognisable versions. In short, if you want to be on trend this year, without looking like a drug dealer, these are the names you need to know.
What Is A Crossbody Bag?
The crossbody bag goes by various names – sling bag, man bag, shoulder pouch, etc – but the core design is the same. It’s generally used to describe any small bag (big enough for a phone, wallet and a few other daily essentials) that can be worn over the shoulder and across the body. Technically speaking, a bum bag/fannypack (delete depending on which side of the pond you live) can be a crossbody bag, if it’s worn as such.
The bag itself usually has one main pocket, an inside zip pocket, and often another small zip pocket to the outside. The strap is usually adjustable, and sometimes features a small buckle so that it can be opened and closed. It’s usually worn slung over the body, with the pouch resting either on the chest or the back.
The Best Brands For Crossbody Bags
Danish brand Mismo creates quirky bags with contemporary styling that are designed with everyday life in mind. The collection includes briefcases, backpacks, wash bags and wallets, as well as some of the most unique-looking sling bags we’ve come across.
The brand’s Drop Bag is the one that really caught our eye. It has an unusual teardrop shape, textured jacquard fabric and leather detailing that makes it stand out from the crowd. Or, if you’re after something more conventional, check out the Belt Bag, which has lots of the same materials and details, but with a subtler shape to it.
Porter-Yoshida & Co
Japan’s Porter-Yoshida & Co is known for its utilitarian nylon bags, ranging from totes to backpacks and beyond. They’re not cheap, but they look great, and offer an excellent alternative for anyone looking for something a little bit different.
There are a few crossbody styles available to choose from, like the Tanker, which features two zip compartments as well as pouch pockets to the front; or the Force shoulder pouch, which is a smaller bag, with just enough room for the bare essentials.
Carhartt has been doing sling bags since WAY before they went mainstream. The brand’s Essentials Bag has been a firm fixture in the label’s luggage lineup for well over a decade, and is still a great option today.
It’s a small square design with several zip compartments, including a short vertical zip pocket to the front, which is a good size to store a smartphone. There’s also a velcro pouch to the front, with a flap bearing the company logo.
Elsewhere, there are several smaller styles available, all of which are perfect for keeping a phone and cash safe while in the city or out and about on vacation.
Lots of brands claim to be eco-conscious, but how many of them really, truly practise what they preach? Not many, but California’s Patagonia is one of the rare few. Recently, the brand’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, made the huge gesture of giving his label away to charity in order to fight climate change. That means that by buying a crossbody bag from Patagonia, like the Ultralight Black Hole Hip-Pack, you’ll be giving a big chunk of the cost to a very important cause.
A.P.C. is always our first port of call when it comes to sourcing simple, everyday pieces with a touch of Parisian elegance. Take the Josh Mini Bag for example, it’s an elevated crossbody bag with premium materials and a sophisticated look. It’s made from soft, supple leather and comes in either brown or black to suit a range of occasions.
If you’re looking for a smarter alternative to the usual canvas and nylons options, this is a good place to start.
Swedish outdoor brand Klattermusen is a must-know for anyone into their gorp. It makes high-end kit for climbing and mountaineering, but with a very strong design language that revolves around asymmetry and off-kilter styling. In short, it’s technical, performance wear that wouldn’t look at all out of place on a Paris Fashion Week runway, and we’re here for it.
There are a couple of different sling bags available, including the best-selling Algir, and the slightly larger Hrid. Both feature a multi-coloured rope strap, diagonal openings and trademark netting to the front.
For a high-fashion version of the crossbody bag, Prada should be the first name on your list. The Italian brand makes a number of small personal pouches that can be slung over the shoulder for easy, stylish storage.
We’re big fans of the label’s signature belt bag, which features a recycled nylon outer fabric and Saffiano leather trims.
The North Face
You could try to avoid the crossbody bag’s roadman associations, or you could fully lean into them and buy one from The North Face. The American outdoor brand’s sling bags and pouches have become popular among tearaway youths dressed in all-black, but they’re still good bags, and it’s all about how they’re styled.
Steer clear of Nike hoodies, Stone Island joggers and balaclavas, and you should be alright.