Backpacks Are Back

Actual backpacks. Not human backpacks.


I was an idiot in high school for a variety of reasons, the number one being that I didn’t appreciate my backpack’s worth. Halfway into freshman year I dismissed my faithful Jansport — navy canvas with a suede bottom, all covered in band names that I’d written in Wite-Out — and swapped it for various purses. The goal was to look more grown up and fashionable , but the result was me constantly dropping shit because I had to carry the books that didn’t fit. Still, once you ditch the pack you can’t really go back…that is, until I saw Leandra’s husband in a red one.

How could I have been so blind to the beauty of a backpack? They’re symmetrical, minimalistic, unfussy but not “mass” enough to be considered in the core of norm.  Wearing one is like having a utilitarian koala bear hugging your shoulders with even weight distribution. The only thing more convenient than that is if said bear understood human language and could hand you whatever you needed as though you were a doctor/nurse team in the operating room.

You: “Pencil.”

Koala bear hands over the pencil and then repeats what you just said: “Pencil.”

You: “Notebook.”

Koala bear hands you the notebook and then says, “Notebook.”

You: “Wallet.”

Koala bear leans in and tickles your armpit because they really have the best sense of humor out of all bears.

A backpack will not tickle your armpit on purpose, but it sure as hell beats developing a pimp-walk due to nerve damage on the right side of your body from a bag that weighs more than a fishing boat.

What a backpack will do is make your weekends feel more happy-go-lucky. And it will make your subway rides to work easier, and your commutes homes less cumbersome. It will make trips to the gym feel somehow more athletic — (does anyone else feel douchey showing up to the gym with a purse, or is that just me? Or is that “just me” because I don’t technically have a gym membership so therefore I have to jump over the fence in the back and sneak in through the laundry room?) — and, if for nothing else, it will make you feel like a kid again.

But it won’t make you look like one. Say you’re on your way to the office, or a dinner, or a any non-formal event where you have stuff to carry, need to look nice but want to go hands-free:

Or, maybe it’s a Saturday and you’re meeting a friend for an iced coffee and want to be weighed down by nothing other than the sunshine:

Choose your own adventure here. Go wild, ditch the purse. And if you still aren’t sold then may I just remind you that no Jedi got where he or she is today being burdened by an oversized clutch. Backpacks are the future — the koala bears of fashion.

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  • GapToothedGirl

    I agree. I never liked backpack, but this season I’d love to have one by Chanel…I still feel them uncomfortable, but I’ll love the graffiti on it.
    xox, gap.

    • Kristin richardson

      I have them
      Great price and great quality

  • BoyfriendsandBlazers

    I started wearing my mom’s old vintage Chanel backpack again a few months ago. SOLEY for the purpose of it being so convenient for my morning walk to work. (even though I took cabs all year) Within 2 weekends both of my best friends were wearing their old prada backpacks. I remember looking at them and saying you guys clearly suck if you’re coping my convenient ugly, I don’t want to carry anything because im lazy and only move in soul cycle self. It wasn’t until recently that I saw that breath-taking Chanel backpacks all over ads, that I realized it’s a good thing my idiotic friends follow my lead. I think.

  • Yes! Amelia, I totally did the bag transition thing going from sixth grade to middle school. 12 y/o girls were swapping their training bras for push-up bras and so while I was not on board to do that (mainly because I had zero fatty cells to do that with), I knew I could at least ditch the backpack. It was a ridiculous decision though because my walk to middle school was longer and more uphill, so I was totally screwing myself over.

    Post-middle school I quickly transitioned back. Now I don’t go ANYWHERE without my free, nylon replica of the 1892 Model Sierra Club backpack. It came free with the family membership and I snagged that shit before anyone else could. Slowly but surely it made its way passed the 2:35PM (end of school) Friday-to-weekend zone, and I use it carry things when I go out to dinner, go thrift shopping (stuffed 8 items in it the other day!), and so on. The only problem is that I end up carrying the baggage of friends who have small bags……and then eventually those bags that couldn’t carry other bags are stuffed into my bag.

    What I like about the backpack in its simplest form, as you hinted, is that it is unpretentious. I don’t think that in the aforementioned state it could ever be considered a trend piece or “it”-something, as anti-deemed-deemed by some weird cloister of trust fund kids that dwell in a once-sketchy neighborhood………………(cough: normcore, don’t swallow this one whole or half or even 1/8.)

  • Does this mean my father (nerdy professor) is finally on trend?! Couldn’t be more excited about the return of the backpack for everyday use!!

  • ee_by_cc

    My only issue with backpacks is not being able to get around on a crowded subway without inadvertently (and unknowingly) pissing someone off. It’s like another appendage that I don’t have control over and just gets itself all up in other people’s business.

    Besides the backpack discussion, I love the koala bear reference. I am a fan of just about any animal with a marsupial pouch.

    • Charlotte Fassler

      I carry a backpack pretty much everyday and it is definitely a pain on a crowded train but so is a large tote weighing you down as you try to hold the subway pole. I have sort of just accepted that I will be bumping into people either way, but at least with a backpack I feel like the weight I’m carrying is more evenly distributed

      • ee_by_cc

        Ah, touche! Well played point, madam. The lopsided look is definitely NOT in season 🙂

        • Hadas

          Orrr do what I do and get that great spot leaning on that little bit between the railings and the door. Actually don’t. That’s my spot! 🙂

          • ee_by_cc

            Ha, that’s a desirable spot with or without backpack! 😉

      • Public Transportation Bumpage is a very real thing.

        Honestly on a crowded subway your backpack is probably a godsend. I’ve found that on crowded rides on public transportation longer than 5 minutes, there’s always someone that begins to lean comfortably into my backpack’s exterior.

  • Tsui

    I’m not really a backpack person but I have seen some super stylish ones so I think I’m slowly changing my mind!!

    Fashion Ganache.

  • Tracy

    MY favorite one is the Chanel!

  • WRITING IN WHITE OUT. YES. umm, I didn’t see a link to where I could buy my own Koala bear? Did you forget to add it?

  • I just bought the asos backpack last week and in love! my back is also saying a big thanks!

  • Jake

    I also Hated my backpack, and switched to the Tommy Hilfiger Duffle Bag, ended up having aching arm or shoulders each and everyday….

  • Charlotte Fassler

    AMELIA! A+ reference on this hahahahah

  • Sweet Mona
  • still undecided, do I like it or not…

  • Brittany Girle

    Koalas aren’t bears. But backpacks are awesome.

    • are they marsupials? bears cannot be marsupials? my whole life is a lie?

      • Brittany Girle

        They’re marsupials. Everyone’s living the lie. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Here’s your time to shine.

        • Amelia Diamond

          Please don’t let my pet koala bear hear you say that.

  • Betsy Niblick Erickson

    I just bought a gorgeous suede one at Anthropologie. Can I get away with it in the summer in NYC or do I need to save for Fall?

    • Amelia Diamond

      No way! Summer for sure!

  • Warmleatherette

    Please, for the love of all things holy and sacred, do not let the tiny, small backpack handbag of the 90’s come back in style. You know the one, the miniature backpack. Horrors. I can’t do it again.

  • Elise

    Totally agree! Here’s a post I wrote about backpacks awhile back. Hope you enjoy it! Definitely doesn’t beat this one though – hilarious!

  • They add instant cool to any outfit! I love backpacks!

  • Agoprime

    I love this trend! I write about that months ago!

  • monkeyshines
  • francesca

    i have always been timid about backpacks only because of my height (am i right 5ft tall people?). i always feel like i look like a little kid from the back. i think i might play around with the idea again with my cole haan leather backpack.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Try wearing it so that it “fits” as weird as that sound, right in the middle of your back. TOO high and you look like a super excited kindergartener (not that that’s a bad look but you said you don’t want to look like a kid) and tooo low looks like a cranky teenager on her way to math class (I’m projecting from my former self).

  • Whitney McCabe

    A small, plain, tan leather one with a hard-case structure that I found at Goodwill ages ago is my go-to for concerts or nights out when I ride my bicycle. A grass-green Northface one gets me through my days as a high school teacher who *occasionally* goes to the gym after work. I love a great backpack! I think I need funky Jansport one, though, just because 😉

  • LiberalGilt


  • kb

    a bit off point, maybe (if a backpack is for setting your hands free), but i’d like to read an article on holding things when you walk or commute. i hold a pen when i make presentations. i get some comfort in holding one strap of my backpack, a wallet, a drink, a jacket over your shoulders, etc… it seems so silly but i feel better when i figure out what to do with my hands–and a book, a clutch, a lamp or whatever else i can hold for a bit (however innately pragmatic) does this other thing for my confidence that has nothing to do with whatever this STUFF is actually supposed to do.

    • Amelia Diamond

      hmm…me too. this is really interesting! thinkin on this!

  • Annie

    Would you carry it on both shoulders, or just on one?

    • Amelia Diamond

      if I wore it off one shoulder it wouldn’t be a stylistic thing, just more of an — i put this on then got distracted thing

  • I ditched the backpacks in high school, too. What I really needed was to take the ones from my fashion magazine collages and transport to real life. Realized how amazing they really are when I began college and never thinking twice again. Two strap club.

  • Kate Wilson
  • Mon

    backpacks back, ALRIGHT!


  • lavieenliz

    I was just thinking the same thing about high school the other day! I hated having a backpack so I would use a bag. Now, all I do is bring my backpack to work. They’re so cute and amazing!!

  • tinylittlesoprano

    Love you dearly, but as an Aussie it hurts me like a thousand papercuts every time I see the words ‘koala’ and ‘bear’ side by side.

  • Sarah

    And Angela Chase wore one.

  • yeesss bring it on! I’ve been loving back packs ever since i came home one day and my arm was nearly dead from lugging around my ridick heavy shoulder bag.

  • claudia
  • girlinmenswear

    Just did a post on backpacks myself as am totally and utterly hooked on them. Particularly loving all the boxy leather ones that are about at the moment.

  • jessi

    I love the Chanel and Alexander Wang backpack, I just feel like they’re a little annoying to use at times though. Other than that, all these ones you have shown look amazing

  • Élora

    I LOOOOOVE me a backpack but I’ll have to disagree about it not being “mass,” at least here in Montreal EVERYONE has a Herschel backpack. They’re cheaper here because it’s a Canadian company so it’s all over town, on the back of every single person aged 15 to 30. That being said, I love mine and wouldn’t get rid of it for the world.

  • Isabelle

    A Yoda-backpack – genius! But which brand would you suggest if I want to wear it in school and not spend that much money? Kenzo, Marc by Marc Jacobs?

  • yep! i ditched purses last year in favor of small 90s style leather backpacks precisely because i was tired of that knife-like pain in one shoulder from wearing a purse with my life in it every day. i like them because you stand out from the crowd—it automatically makes you look cuter than everyone (this could JUST be my opinion)—and they are actually comfortably convenient. Plus, you can find really nice vintage ones online/in thrift stores that make you say ‘i’m so fanc-ay’ without breaking the bank. this post is v true, if a little LATE on the take!! git on it. i’ve included a picture of myself wearing my most recent thrifted backpack becos y not?

    <3 Maria

  • Love all of these! Dying to get our hands on the Balenciaga Le Dix… More leather accessories at

  • Katie

    Recently on a night out, a friend brought out quite a small, simple and chic brown leather back pack. I was completely gobsmacked that I hadn’t thought of this before, it has so many advantages. Arms completely free for wild dancing, no stress of having to hold on to a clutch or annoyance of a bag swinging around on you shoulder, plus less chance of drunkenly losing anything as a backpack has a much harder time falling off. Only danger being that you might forget its there and spend hours looking for your wallet, but i think the pro’s outweigh this minor con.

  • I`m a fan of backpacks! Great selection! Absolutely necessary now a days and in style 😉
    Good Job Leandra! Love your blog

  • john
  • Deluxemoda Moda

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  • what are some good backpacks for traveling?

  • Kristin richardson

    I love this backpack I have them