The year was 1990, and Kurt Boone, then a 30-year-old writer and entrepreneur, decided to become a messenger.
Growing up in Queens and going to school in Manhattan’s Washington Heights — where he was something of a track star — Boone and his brother always tried to find new and interesting ways to make the 2-hour journey home. And although he told the New York Times in 2009 that messenger work was never really a career — Boone’s speed and intimate knowledge of the city’s street and subway lines made him one of the city’s fastest “metros” or foot couriers.
“At my peak, I could ride 22 subway lines a week easily. I could go seven or eight subway lines a day and walk maybe 7, 8, 10 miles a day,” he told the Times. “It’s not running, but it’s a fast kind of walk that messengers do that pedestrians don’t generally see.”
In his nearly two decades of messenger work, Boone has published collections of poems, memoir and photography of the streets, subways and people of New York City. Most recently, Boone launched the Messenger 841 Project: a streetwear design group that’s inspired by New York City messenger culture and draws from Boone’s own messenger ID number, 841.
With the Messenger 841 Project, Boone has released shirts, caps, bags, shoes and watches all paying homage to the city and the people who make a living off navigating it as quickly and efficiently as possible. What’s more, Boone just released “The Culture of Messenger Bags,” an incredible look into one how a simple piece of gear crucial to the job of being a courier has become a powerful canvas for personal identity and expression.
At this year’s Philly Bike Expo, Boone will be selling “The Culture of Messenger Bags,” as well as other pieces of his work on urban cycling culture. While being a messenger is a job Boone knows inside and out, he is, above all, a storyteller. So swing by his booth this year, check out his work, and maybe you’ll get to hear a story or two from Boone.