CLE Innovations: bolstr – The Perfect Crossbody Bag for Fellas


By John Benson

Women may or may not have penis envy, but it turns out men have their own “p” envy.

That’s purse envy, and before you laugh [insert Seinfeld’s European carryall joke here] think about it. For generations the masculine sex has been attempting to disguise the fact they carried a handbag or pocketbook in the form of a fanny pack or male purse. OK, so maybe masculine is the wrong word, but you get the idea.

Now Highland Heights resident Jay Yoo, who owns travel apparel and accessory manufacturing company Koyono, is hoping to break barriers with the modern bolstr. The small carry bag – looking like a mini-backpack – is already turning heads as the focus of a Kickstarter project that met its $10,000 goal in less than 24 hours and is sailing past $50K.

Cool Cleveland talked to Yoo about how bolstr may change how you carry your iPhone, keys, iPad mini and sunglasses.

Cool Cleveland: How exactly did you come up with the concept for bolstr?

Jay Yoo: In the past I did travel jackets, and I have a very popular slim wallet line. For me, it’s about getting more with less. It’s about what not to carry, not what more to carry for your day and to get through life in general. In this case, I’ve been thinking about a bag as an extension of a coat, and looking at what didn’t work there. You can’t wear a coat in the summer but we still need to carry stuff. So I wanted something that could be worn that wouldn’t look like a purse, was smaller than a laptop bag, that men would feel masculine wearing like a holster.

In terms of the bag industry what has the response to bolstr been?

I went to the outdoor retail show two years ago and a bag specialist saw the bag I designed that was a crude prototype. She said it was the coolest bag she saw yet. I was shy about it. I said it kind of looks like a purse. At that time it did. At least I thought it did, and I was really shy about trying to get into this market because of the stigma about a man purse. But she pushed me over the hump and said, “You gotta do this.” So I developed prototypes. It took a long time to come up with the concept.

In looking at the bag, it can’t rest on your hip or it’ll look like a purse. If it hangs in the front, it’s clunky. It seems as though having it on your back made the most sense.

Right, you can ride it low, ride it higher and put a waist band so you can secure it on your back and ride with it. But what’s important about it, like a holster, you need a right-handed holster and a left-handed holster. This is the same concept. This is a right-handed version and people are clamoring for left-handed versions. So it’s different from a fanny pack that’s universal and a man purse that’s square. You can throw it on either side. This is like a holster in that regard.

Will we see the left-handed bolstr?

I’m left handed but I thought let’s go after the big market here. I’m working with a manufacturer to come up with a specific left-handed version that is totally different. Because if you wore it on the right side if you’re left handed, the access pocket is resting against your body. So for someone who is left-handed, it wouldn’t work right or look right.

Considering the bag will target millennial men who for the most part are quite open-minded, isn’t there a sense that perhaps the time is right for this barrier to the male purse to come down?

I don’t know. You talk to the bag specialists and they think there’s a huge barrier still. While I agree in long-term sentiment, I think there’s still a big barrier. A millennial or anyone who goes to the party doesn’t want to have somebody call them out like the guy in The Hangover. “Hey, that’s a man purse.” “No, it’s a satchel.” “No, it’s a man purse.” It’s like the George Costanza’s wallet, nobody wants it. It’s kind of reached that level. So I think that while the barriers may come down over time, I just don’t see it happening right now.

Maybe bolstr will bring the male purse to the mainstream?

Who knows. People will probably call it a purse, I don’t know. It’s my best attempt at it, and I’m taking a crack at breaking the code. So far I’ll let the dollars speak for themselves.

Speaking of which, congrats on the Kickstarter campaign. You’re already over $50,000 of your $10,000 goal with weeks to go. Obviously there are others who believe in bolstr.

I think there’s definitely something there. What’s awesome is the immediate feedback is great. That’s what’s really exciting.


Be sure to check out the bolstr’s Kickstarter page. The campaign, as of right now, is still on.




Freelance writer John Benson spends most of his time writing for various papers throughout Northeast Ohio.

When he’s not writing about music or entertainment, he can be found coaching his two boys in basketball, football and baseball or watching movies with his lovely wife, Maria. John also occasionally writes for

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One Response to “CLE Innovations: bolstr – The Perfect Crossbody Bag for Fellas”

  1. ALL THAT techie crap…. PANTS have OVERSIZED pockets for PDAs to other such…heck…that froggy recharger thing made by that Tremont Ohio firm… that kinetic energy thing…(I cant remember name of the outfit. You know which I mean…). THAT aside….

    PS…. auditorium nite time pic…least defeats graffiti guru taggers….. rather NEAT looking scene actually….

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