On Carry Culture

Ivan Hong
5 min readNov 30, 2017

I probably spend more time in bag stores than any girl I know. I think bags fascinate me because they are staples of everyday carry, and what we wear. The average person owns more clothes than bags — that means that the bags you carry are a cornerstone of how you look on a daily basis.

“What” we carry. Bags — and what’s inside them — fascinate me because they tell a story. What you carry inside your bag tells a story of who you are — the places you go, the things you do, the stuff you use, the things you read. It’s the reason why a whole new social media movement of “pocket dumping” is trending. When people dump the contents in their pockets and post it for the world to see, they are telling a story of who they are. A pocket knife or flashlight speaks to ruggedness and adventure. Brown leather speaks to heritage. Nylon speaks “tactical”. Colored leathers create couture. The timepiece you carry tells more than just the time of day in this digital age.

The quest to define ourselves in the things we carry is what lies behind the #edc, or Everyday Carry movement. Admittedly, much of this is driven by a very specific demographic; mostly male, often outdoorsmen, military or tradesmen.

Because Nothing says “Noble Savage” like a Notebook and a Knife

There’s a reason why most pocket dumps include pocket knives, multitools and mens’ watches. But then again, most female clothing doesn’t have pockets to begin with. That said, I’m certain the same is true for the girls as it is for the guys — what we carry is a reflection of who we are; we just don’t get to see the everday carry of ladies as much.

How” we carry. Pockets are just one way of carrying stuff. The different kinds of bags we use to carry our stuff around as we go about our lives is about “function” as much as it is about “form”; how it feels on you, how it works for you, and how it looks on you.

The fanny pack screams baby boomer. The hard briefcase has become a symbol of travel or white-collar work. The drawstring bag is synonymous with leisure and sport. The bucket bag is emblematic of feminine chic. The nylon duffel bag signals a sportsman; leather, a weekend traveller. The backpack is a motif of school, adventure — and increasingly even the workplace. How we carry, is also inextricably tied to what we carry, and ultimately who we are.

If you carry a fanny pack, you probably don’t need the Dadbag ‘cos you probably already have the real thing

Like all the boys my age, I spent two years in the military. We were issued a body armor vest to which you could attach an endless combination of small to medium sized pouches and carriers. There were “buttpacks” for gore-tex raincoats, slim ones for flashlights, flat-long ones for water bladders and armor plates, boxy-shaped ones for ammunition, and smaller pouches for fist-sized grenades. Putting that gear together before every mission felt almost like a religious ritual— like how native American Navajo tribesmen would pray to the sky and land for protection before going into battle. Kitting out my carry, getting my gear together was an important part of stepping into the identity of a warrior.

I still use the hydration carrier with extra pouches whenever I go trail running.

Now granted, most days we just shove what we need into a sack; like a tote or handbag. We don’t think about it because we develop repetitive routines that don’t require a lot of thought. But there’s something about the deliberate mindfulness of getting ready for something out of the routine — like packing for a trip, or even for the gym, or dressing up for a date — that reminds us of who we are, or the people we want to become.

Its the same reason cinematographers in action and superhero films often feature a scene where the main character is getting ready to go do something important. Its filled with close up shots of the hero holstering a pistol, clicking on a belt, or tightening a necktie. Then we get to see a brief, glorious full-body shot of the hero, all kitted-out: dressed to kill, ready to rumble. It’s that same process of thinking about how we want to carry the things we need, to be who we are.

You know that feels.

About Carry Cuture. I’ve decided to devote a series of posts here on Medium where I write my observations on carry cultures. Some of it might get more technical as I dive deep into reviewing certain carry goods, but I hope that my pictures will also speak more than I can tell. To me, “carry-ology”: is more than just the brand we know. It is both about telling human stories, and about taking a scientific approach to understanding why people carry what they carry, where they carry, who they are, and how they carry it. This is my way of capturing the culture of carry — part ethnographic research, part product review.

About me. I spent 3 years in the defence industry designing modular vests and uniforms. I’ve since left to explore the world of carry. When I’m not doing online research related to bag designs, or sketching product ideas, I’m in retail stores studying interesting soft goods’ construction methods. In my free time, I sew backpacks for my friends on my Juki industrial sewing machine.