Opinion

Call Me a Convert: I’m Now a Big Backpacker

Once the staunch skeptic, now I (sort of) swear by them.

Lately, I’ve been really into the idea of a pouch

You know, those chic, buttery, soft, under-the-arm accessories that require a limb to be dedicated to carrying them at all times and oftentimes cost as much as one, too? The epitome of laid-back luxury that instantly proclaims you have a chauffeur in waiting? One that oozes authority and femme formidable – I’m a woman, hear me roar?

Yep, that’s the one. And even though I don’t actually own a real specimen of these assertive accouterments, I have found solace in holding onto my existing roundup of totes and satchels à la the high-fashion model, i.e., scrunched up into the crook of the arm like a colossal clutch, not a care in the whole wide world.

Perhaps for this reason, it came all the more as a shocker when an educational excursion I left for recently as part of my final year credits stipulated a backpack! In an instant, all the traumatizing recollections from high school were back in full force, and I was left gasping for my breath.

How was I, the backpack-hater at heart, to navigate this new challenge the cynical fashion fairies had so cruelly decided to throw my way?

Fendi Runway
Inspiration from the Fendi FW24 runway to carry every bag like a pouch.

A Question for the Ages

If you know me, you know that right from the outset of my journey as a collector, I’ve been opposed to the very idea of a backpack, the fundamentally mule-adjacent, sack-bearing epitome of modern-day hustle culture (RIP Wall Street finance bros).

And I’m not alone in my aversion towards the accessory.

Since Miuccia Prada’s high fashion-ification of the backpack way back in the 80s, they only returned next to the fashion scene in the mid-2010s, when it suddenly seemed like every brand out there was trying to sell us one of these co-ed carryalls, much to the (justified) dismay of a not-insignificant portion of PurseBlog readers.

After all, we’d thought the rucksack had been safely left behind in grade school. 

Streetstyle UES Summer 2021
The mini-backpack had become a big contender in the mini-bag race.

Yet here it was again, receiving the mini-treatment from Louis Vuitton and Fjällräven alike, made into one-shoulder sling bags to euphemize its not-so-subtle, juvenile undercurrents (Is it a backpack? Is it a fanny pack? Who can tell?), and even getting spray-painted on by someone at Chanel (possibly Karl Lagerfeld, but I refuse to believe that) to go onto sell for $23,000 (yes, you read that right).

Nonetheless, like every other trend we’ve hated in the past, the hysteria around the holdall reached critical mass around 2019, before our very own Kaitlin officially declared it over in 2021; thank heavens. 

Back Into the Backpackers’ Pack

Like most regular fashion people, I, too, rejoiced at the “fashion death” of the backpack. Because it isn’t quite a purse at the end of the day, it isn’t limited to school (at least, not anymore, courtesy of Ms. Prada), and neither is it appropriate in a workplace context. It simply occupies the murky middle ground that’s uncomfortable for everyone involved.

And now, this involved me since I was required to have one on our excursion. 

Of course, like every novice collector, I too had gotten my hands on a (small-ish) metallic Burberry Rucksack on resale for a steal early on (who among us hasn’t been there?) – more to relive my Cher Horowitz fantasies than anything else. 

But, as fellow PurseBlogger Kristen Pyszczyk rightly notes, there are times when you need a backpack that’s “going to be more Cheryl Strayed in Wild than Cher Horowitz in Clueless.” A field trip to the remotes of rurality would be one of those times. Did that mean I would give up on style so easily? Nope. 

Enter – my latest acquisition, an MCM Stark Visetos backpack in black monogram. Spacious enough to cart around my laptop, water bottle, umbrella, AND an extra pair of jeans (not to mention spares of the unnamable), the piece proved to be (a heavy but also) convenient and fashionable solution to my dilemma.

Could it be that I was back into the backpackers’ pack yet again?

MCM Backpack
Since I’m terrible at taking photos of my bags, here’s the next best thing.

Is Convenience the Ultimate Luxury?

Now, not just over the course of the ten days of our trip, but since having returned as well, I continue to find myself smitten by my new acquisition. So much so, in fact, that I’ve gone on to dig out and style my old Burberry in that quintessentially cool kid-adjacent, one-shoulder sling, too!

So, color me surprised, but I’ve realized that flash-in-the-pan trend or not, perhaps backpacks do have a place in my wardrobe after all. 

Does it make me look like I’m constantly commuting, even when traipsing around town? Absolutely. But does my monogrammed MCM number, studs and all (and not to mention a giant middle finger to stealth wealth and any semblance of minimalism) look swanky when doing that? A resounding yes!

LVR Style Lab 2
A backpack is quite a liberating carry at the end of the day.

And where backpacks succeed over other purses is purely in place of their functionality. Sure, as SSENSE’s head of digital content, Steff Yotka, says, “I think the epitome of wealth is being able to sacrifice one appendage to only carry an accessory. It just implies someone else is around to do all the things you might need two hands for a drive, open doors, carry groceries.” 

But then again, it could just be that the freedom of having both hands to yourself is perhaps the ultimate crux of luxury (at least, for us plebeians). 

Now, should you choose to carry it unceremoniously, a veritable Pilgrim-style sack on your back, or like that infamous Prada from 10 Things I Hate About You (“I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack”) is entirely a personal choice. 

After all, so what if I’m slinging my snazzy new backpack with scuffed sneakers and faded denim? In my mind, I’m still living my best life, and that’s what counts.

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Sandy
Sandy
20 days ago

I have always loved backpacks! I have several, Chanel, LV, Gucci, and Prada. Seems like practicality can be part of a bag purchase decision, useful hands free, what is not to love?

Thefashionableteacher
Thefashionableteacher
20 days ago

I’m no longer a backpack person. I used to carry one for work, but now I just carry a tote. Probably because I no longer have little kids.

Katie
Katie
15 days ago

I was also a backpacker hater. All through my 20s, all the advice as a young looking woman was avoid backpacks, lest I look like a lost college student. I recently got a Rebecca Minkoff Julian backpack which is so chic, as well as a clear Lululemon backpack, for music festivals and other “clear bag” events. I am a convert!

NShap
NShap
15 days ago

I have loved them in the past when my kids were toddlers, it was a chic way to be practical but still hands free to chase them around. Agreed that I would not wear in a big city (subway etc) with valuables inside as yes they are to easy to pickpocket unless you have your wallet / phone perhaps in a crossbody or belt bag where its closer in reach and wear the backpack as larger storage for whatever ever else you need to carry- the weight distribution is far superior to a tote- I think open top totes are even more vulnerable to carry around a city for pickpockets… I don’t believe in judging and entire class of bag as being bad or good, wear whatever makes you happy and and makes sense to your lifestyle!

NShap
NShap
15 days ago
Reply to  NShap

BTW I LOVE MCM totes for traveling! I have three open top totes that are literally indestructible that I don’t feel as bad beating them up due to them being much less than a Louis Vuitton or Goyard. Plus the large pouch with shoulder strap that it comes with is so great and large enough for all the essentials!I stuff all my carry on needs/ sweater snacks etc and carry a small cross body/belt bag I can pop inside before boarding the plane, love that I can overstuff it a bit unlike a zip top. I was thinking about buying the stark backpack though, love the size and that fact that it’s a clean androgynous style that my teen boys/ husband can use too.

Zhenya
Zhenya
17 days ago

I have vintage Gucci bamboo backpack and i love it. Cause for me it’s not sporty it has more classy vibe and works nice with my casual wardrobe. I even like to wear it with maxi baloom skirt or short dress. This is the only style backpacks i love

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
16 days ago

I wear my LV Christopher backpack to work most days. It’s so convenient.

10chris10
10chris10
15 days ago

Just NO! First, they are ugly IMO and distort the lines of whatever you’re wearing, even plain white T-shirts. Second, they are not secure. If you are wearing one in an urban environment, you are begging for someone to pickpocket you even if you think your inside pocket is invinceable (it isn’t to any thief armed with a pocketknife or razor blade!). Third, too many people jam everything but the kitchen sink inside them, creating a very heavy weight that can harm posture, hurt shoulders and make people with spinal issues (scoliosis and other ailments) suffer. Pare back what you must carry, but if you require heavy books or kitchen sinks to get your through your day, get a rolling case and wear your essentials in a smaller crossbody or shoulder bag.