Author, poet, messenger and entrepreneur Kurt Boone breathes the city. Utilizing his unique voice and vision, he shares the knowledge and experience gained from a decades-long street-level view of life. Meet him at the Philly Bike Expo where he’ll have books to sell (and sign) alongside his Messenger 841 Project line of messenger bags and streetwear.
PBE What year did you start working as a messenger ?
KB I started working as an indoor messenger/mail clerk through a college summer internship in 1978 at the headquarters of United Artist/MGM. I didn’t actually start doing street messenger work until 1990.
PBE When did you start writing with the intention to publish?
KB I started writing in my senior year in high school with an eye towards being a freelance journalist. My senior year in high school, I was on the track team and manager for the basketball team. I also owned two ten speed bicycles. My first writing assignments came from being a student reporter for York College student newspaper Pandora’s Box. I started documenting messenger culture around 2003. A licensing agent recommended that I document everything in messenger culture, as this would help my brand grow. I also worked for Urban Velo Magazine for a number of years as a freelance writer.
PBE What influenced your decision to branch out and create “the Messenger 841 Project” business?
KB In the early 1980’s I moved to Los Angeles, CA. I lived in Los Angeles for 6 years and received my associate degree in business administration from Los Angeles City College. After moving back to New York City in 1989, I did various jobs before deciding to be entrepreneur. At that point I went back to being a foot messenger. It was being a foot messenger along with my bicycle messenger co-workers that I saw “the messenger look” being some sort of fashion trend. School kids were wearing messenger bags all over the city. I was not sure to believe what I was seeing in the streets. Then one day I was looking at books in a Barnes & Noble store and I came across this book entitled “Messenger Styles”. Because of Hip Hop culture, street art and skateboarding, authentic street wear was a growing business. So in 2001, I created the Messenger 841 Project to be a streetwear brand representing messenger styles.
PBE What’s behind the name “Messenger 841”?
KB The name Messenger 841 is derived from my radio tag in 2001. In 2001 my two-way radio tag was the number 841. When dispatch called me with a pick up, they would called me 841, not by my name. So when I decided to create a clothing brand in 2001, I named it Messenger 841 using my radio code as the brand name.
PBE What’s your favorite part of the business?
KB My favorite part of the messenger business is traveling around the 5 boroughs of New York City to pick up and deliver packages. I see so many different neighborhoods and people in New York. That it is a thrill and adventure to see where my next messenger run will take me.
PBE What inspires you?
KB What inspired me to design apparel and document messenger culture is the people I meet from around the world who love their messenger job. Messengers are a unique bunch of workers that thrive on city streets around the world. The pride that bicycle messengers have is worth noting and admiring.
PBE What advice would you offer to new/young messengers?
KB Young messengers ask me for advice all the time. I tell them to learn the job and be careful. Being a messenger is a street job. I tell young messengers to be careful riding on city streets. Many times the streets are unforgiving. It makes no sense losing your life to deliver a package. On the other hand, I tell young people to take as much from the job as you can. A messenger job doesn’t always pay the best or offer the best employee benefit package, but the knowledge you get from working on the streets is extremely valuable.
PBE What notable changes have you witnessed over the years?
KB Going into my 21st year as a courier. The courier industry is in transition from a paper document business to a digital business, where at the end of the day a courier spends less time delivering documents and more time delivering parcels and often times delivering food or groceries. Not to be overlooked, if your heart likes cycling and street wear, the selling of messenger culture that involves marketing messenger bags, rain gear, track bicycles or cycling caps is something to consider. The messenger look is now part of pop culture.