A bottle of Crown Royal with one of its custom embroidered bags
Photo: Mike Coppola (Getty Images for Spike TV)

In the black American community, there are a few cultural items revered historically and across regions of blackness without question: the Afro pick with the black fist on it, plastic coverings on furniture, pictures in Grandma’s house of white Jesus, and the Crown Royal bag.

Yes, the Crown Royal bag. When you buy a fifth of Crown (or 750 ml, for you drug dealers out there on the metric system), upon opening the box, you see a purple felt bag that contains one of the vaunted brown liquors of the African-American North American continental Diaspora. And if you’re feeling like you need a healthy alternative to classic Crown, you can always get a box of Crown Apple (apples are healthy, like chocolate cake), which comes with a green felt bag.

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I don’t even like Crown Royal—I can’t determine if that’s blasphemy or treason—but I’ve purchased several bottles just for the bags. I don’t know why the bags make for such wonderful mini satchels, but they do. The gold drawstring that keeps the bag closed is a treasure unto itself.

Once, many moons ago, while I was managing a nightclub, in an attempt to spruce up the VIP section at the request of the promoters for the evening, I grabbed a bunch of black draping we had laying around the building, stapled it to the ceiling, and tied the gold drawstrings around them to give them the look of fancy draping and curtaintry. I’m pretty sure “curtaintry” is not a real word and is covered by draping, but I just saved 15 percent by switching to GEICO, so fight me, bro.

In the black community, winos and pastors alike can be seen carrying Crown Royal bags, the mysterious contents typically some combination of fine collectibles and valuable personal effects, like really old pennies or matchbooks from jazz clubs long since burned down for the insurance money. Sometimes your pastor is a wino, and he has two.

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Nobody knows when the Crown Royal bag became such an important accoutrement in the community, but where there are more than two gathered in the name of brown liquor, there will be Crown Royal bags. Legend has it that a black man named Adolphus Rhinedhold Jenkins was the first man to match a Crown Royal bag with his Easter outfit, setting in motion a fashion trend for the ages, but there is no paragraph on Wikipedia to verify it.

If you see a group of black men over 60 years old, ancient Negro mythology has it that if they all put their Crown bags in a circle, the black leprechaun from Alabama shows up. Nobody can confirm this (either), as most of the people telling this story are drunk off Crown.

Despite not being a fan of Crown—as I said—I have two Crown Royal bags, one green and one purple. Why? Shit, I don’t know. I just feel better having my belongings in them. What do I have in Crown bags? My green Crown bag is used on the daily basis. I keep all of my computer accessories in it, for survival. I keep my phone chargers, my laptop power cord, my laptop USB adapters because I have a MacBook Pro and Apple never saw a function and popular option that it didn’t want to fuck up, my iPhone headphones and AirPods, and any other cables necessary to make several other connections to both electricity and my computer.

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Basically, if I lose this bag, my day is fucked. Sure, I could get to the store and replace everything, at a great cost, but the inconvenience would be tremendous.

My purple bag—the classic—is a whole different story. While it’s purple, I call it my black bag. Why do I call it this? Because inside this bag is the following: two decks of card, a set of dice and a blade. It’s been referred to as my nigga starter kit, but I view it more as my financial opportunity and security bag. A deck of cards always represents an opportunity to make money, as do dice, obviously; and, well, blades are blades. In case you need to cut up some sugar cane or something.

Now, I realize that carrying around a Crown bag is a little ... old school. But if you buy a bottle of Crown, how can you resist the urge to grab the bag and toss some change or some hair products in it? A little pomade never hurt anybody. Am I right or am I right?

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As a Steely Dan member of the black community, I carry around my Crown bag with pride and never miss an opportunity to share with the people that I am holding fast to the traditions of yesteryear. Where there have been marches, there have been Crown bags. Where there has been progress, there’s been a Crown Royal bag with a brush and Duke in it.

The Crown Royal bag has been there for us through thick and thin. I carry mine proudly. And I really hope I’m not the only one who still does this because I have no idea what it says about me that I think it’s normal and I am under 40.

So, you still carry around a Crown Royal bag ... right? Right?