Big in the 90s? Found on almost every adolescent in the country? Ring a bell? If you thought “backpacks” (or if you looked at the title of this post…come on people) then ding, ding, ding! You’d be correct. If you think backpacks are a mundane subject, then you sir or madam, are mistaken. Full of nostalgia and old school charm, backpacks are making a comeback...or so claimed by InStyle.com.
My Mom, sister, and I ALL wearing backpacks on a trip to Europe.
Please note I'm ding the One-Shoulder Sling!!!
But, uh…did they ever really go away? As far as I’m concerned the backpack never lost its value because it provides an unmatched purpose and practicality. I donned this awesomely functional style throughout my formidable elementary and middle school years, throughout my days at South Salem High School, and even during most of my college career at Linfield (a backpack was a must when I ventured the few miles out the Nicholson library for a cram sesh). But these soft shells you carry on your back didn’t come in handy just when you wanted to carry a few books around. Oh no, backpacks were a fashion statement. And that’s what I’m going to tell you about. Hold on tight.
Like lots of kids in my generation, I was branded a Jansport backpack consumer at a young age. Jansport is like the Apple, Inc. of the backpack world. Circa the early 1990s Jansport was the shit—unparalleled by its competitors. However, as the years went on it became outdated and other companies outpaced it (enter North Face and the Microsoft). Although Jansport will never be the phenomenon that Apple is today or have the “cool” factor that Apple so mastered so well, Jansport will always be the original backpack creator in my mind.
Jansport packs were the basic and classic. They originals came in a few colors and only had two pouches. Everyone who was anyone had a Jansport backpack in my 4th grade class, and if you were the luckiest of kids, Mom would buy you the matching Jansport pencil organizer.
Elementary and middle school came and went, and as I entered high school I quickly realized that Jansport was out, and the North Face was in. I didn’t attend the local middle school that most of the other kids did, and therefore I knew that if I had any chance of climbing the social ladder and surviving the next four years of hormones and cliques, I would need to get me a North Face backpacks in a big, big way. North Face backpacks had multiple pouches with tons of zippers and cool hidden pockets. Some of them even had water bottle holders on the side of them and had buckles that went around your waist and across your chest….just in case those 3 books you needed were TOO heavy for all those pre-pubescent shoulders. Rest assured folks, my parents did not smite me and I did end up getting a NorthFace backpack. I don’t EVEN want to think about what would have transpired if I hadn’t have gotten my hot little hands on that thing. But I digress.
Sidebar: One backpack trend I never understood was the roller backpack. Rolling bags should be kept strictly to airport travel. Just sayin.
Not only was it the kind of backpack that one owned, but it was also the way that you wore your backpack that decided your coolness factor. There was the one-shoulder sling (this one-shoulder look was also popular at the time with overalls). Another “cool” way to wear a backpack is what I like to call the “Pack Sag.” I never really understood this (but God forbid I didn’t buy into it). The Pack Sag is when you loosen the backpack straps as far as they will go, and then let it swing in the air behind you. Why, I think to myself, would we do this? I have no idea. We looked like a bunch of assholes with our backpacks hanging below our butts. Then again—guys used to wear their pants below their butts, which is also completely idiotic. Not sure what it was about the early 2000s but apparently sagging was the word. Let me just say this: The older I get, the less I want things to sag. So boys, pull up those trousers, and ladies, buy some SPANX.
Finally remember the “Tiny Pack Trend?” Those tiny packs made fashionable and popular by cult teen hits a la like 10 Things I Hate About You:
“See there’s a difference between ‘like’ and ‘love,’ because like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack.”
“But I love my Sketchers…”
“That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack!”