Convenience and Style of Crossbody Smartphone Bags Drives Trend

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman wears a smartphone crossbody case around her neck in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 10.

Carrying your smartphone in a mini crossbody case is both a functional and stylish way to keep your hands free.

Cell phone crossbody bags, which can be worn around the neck or across the body, have become so popular that they are seen frequently on the streets.

The prevalence of this item, which was shortlisted for the 2022 prize for new and fashionable words in Japanese, can be attributed to the widespread use of cashless payment.

“As there is no need to put my phone in a [regular] bag, it has become easier to pay for purchases and check social media,” said Yui Mori, a 16-year-old high school student from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, when she was interviewed on a street in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

“I can casually carry my smartphone even in clothes that don’t have pockets,” she said.

Courtesy of Hands Inc.
A pouch-type smartphone crossbody bag

A student in her fourth year at university from Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, said, “I often use cashless payment for train rides and shopping, so I go out more often with only my smartphone crossbody.”

A smartphone crossbody case with a shoulder strap varies from a simple style with case and strap, to a wallet type that also accommodates some credit cards and coins, or a larger pouch type.

According to Tokyo-based Hands Inc., a major household and lifestyle goods company, the crossbody trend was sparked in spring last year via social media, mainly among women in their 20s and 30s.

As the item began to sell out quickly after arriving at Hands outlets, the company had to increase its stock to keep up with demand from last summer.

Sales of smartphone crossbodies for the year were approximately eight times higher than the previous year, the company said.

“They are also popular among women who take their small children out with them, as it is convenient to have both hands free,” company official Shingo Gomi said.

Although there is an impression that smartphone crossbody bags target women, they are gradually gaining popularity among men as well.

Ueni Trading Co., a Tokyo-based company that deals mainly in clothing and accessories, sells the Sonne line of wallet-shaped crossbodies made of cowhide leather, targeting male customers.

The company sold approximately 2,000 smartphone crossbodies in the six months since it began carrying them in June of last year.

“There are now smartphone crossbody products for various demographics, such as for men and the elderly. It will become a bigger fad in the future,” said Tetsuya Ushijima, the company’s brand manager.

Kobe Gakuin University Prof. Yukie Tsuji, who specializes in marketing said, “Many people have come to consider smartphone crossbodies convenient because more people want to take their phones out quickly, and because smartphones have become larger and more difficult to put in your pockets.”

Another benefit for a smartphone crossbody bag is that it adds flair to an outfit. Since the 2000s, young adults have preferred clothes and accessories with simple designs, so crossbody bags match the current fashion, she explained.

Courtesy of Glam Baby
A decorated flip phone

Cell phone accessories

Courtesy of Antenna Technology Inc.
A glowing antenna

Since the 1990s, when flip phones became widespread, there have been several booms in cell phone accessories being used as fashion items because they appeal to people’s individuality. In the late 1990s and 2000s, when flip phones were common, there was a boom in luminous antennas that would light up when there was an incoming call.

Flip phones decorated with brightly colored stickers and rhinestones also became popular.

Tokyo-based Glam Baby, which began its cell phone decoration business in 1997, said it received tens of thousands of orders a year at that time.

Although the number of flip phones has decreased considerably, the company still receives about 3,000 orders a year for smartphone decorations.

“Consumers still have a deep-seated desire to express their individuality with familiar items,” Glam Baby President Tetsuo Watanabe said.

When smartphones appeared on the market, accessories became more practical, such as a ring that can be attached to the back of the phone and hooked onto your finger to prevent it from being dropped, as well as glass screen protectors.