I always hated back-to-school time. It’s not that I particularly liked summer or disliked learning, but I just resented the loss of freedom that going back to class represented. The only part about the whole process in which I found any redeeming value was back-to-school shopping. Naturally.

And every year, my favorite part of the whole process was picking my school bag. Two weeks ago a commenter asked for a roundup of book-worthy options, and since it’s getting to be that time of year again across the United States, we’d like to take the opportunity to do just that. From totes to backpacks to messenger bags, we’ve got the best of the best at a reasonable price point.

During college, I tended to use a solid-colored tote bag for school because most tote bags I could find had patterns that were far too girly for my taste. The only downside of solid bags is that they tend to show more dirt than a pattern, and when you’re hoofing it around a two-mile-long campus in all kinds of weather, sometimes things happen. If the Tory Burch Olympia Tote had been available during my college days, everything would have been solved. Not only is the denim material tough and durable, but the pattern won’t show stains or wear. I wish it had a top zipper, but I never really carried enough small things to need one. Buy through Bloomingdale’s for $295.

The Fossil Vintage Reissue Backpack is slightly smaller than your average North Face nylon contraption, but for those whose majors are short on oversized textbooks, this is a perfect option when an enormous bag isn’t necessary. Most of my journalism classes didn’t even have textbooks, and a MacBook and a few smaller books will fit in this bag just fine. If you’re a chemistry major, you might want to stick with something more traditional; if you’re a comparative lit grad student, this is just the touch to accent your erudition. Buy through Nordstrom for $218.

The Cambridge Satchel Company 14″ Satchel is easily my favorite of this group, so excuse me while I gush for a moment. When I first saw this company’s bags, I couldn’t believe how incredibly attractive and reasonably priced they were. The company manufactures all of the bags by hand in the UK when you order them, and they come in a range of sizes and colors. The leather is smooth and sturdy, the bags are made to take a certain level of abuse, and they’re possibly the chicest school bags I’ve ever seen. They even make a small size if you’d like to carry one as a mini crossbody purse, but the 14 and 15 inch sizes are the best for use as school bags. All bags are also customizable with your initials. Buy through Cambridge Satchel Company for $115.

I could have picked a number of bags from the Marc by Marc Jacobs Pretty Nylon line, so this particular Tate Tote is just a representative for some great utilitarian bags. Not only do the Pretty Nylon bags come in a variety of colors and patterns, but Marc has recently added a backpack to the line that would be perfect for school. If in doubt, choose Marc by Marc Jacobs for these kinds of bags – the brand has been a major pioneer of the category. Buy through ShopBop for $178.

P.S. Please consider supporting our small, bag-loving team by clicking our links before shopping or checking out at your favorite online retailers like Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, or any of the listed partners on our shop page. We truly appreciate your support!

Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • 19yearslater

    My favorite is the satchel too. That’s adorable and scholarly.

  • mochababe73

    I always get a new bag for the new school year. I like that you highlighted back to school bags. However, I was kind of hoping to see the Coach Poppy backpack. That’s the one that I’m coveting.
    Out of all of them, I would take the Tory Burch or the Marc Jacobs.

  • HappyLucky

    I absolutely LUV my Marc by Marc Little Tate in black. It’s chic, lightweight, holds a lot, and packs flat in my suitcase, ready to use when I need it. I love the logo lining inside and the metal plaque on the outside. The quilted exterior is unique as well. Overall, a cute, functional bag.

  • Jocelyn

    The satchel is my favorite! Thanks for putting together this post. I’ll have to place an order soon!

  • Staci

    I love the Cambridge Satchel Company Satchel! I’m all over it, and have been out of school for 10 years! lol

  • Noel

    Anna Cooperberg just sent me this link when I told her I was looking for a book bag! Just bought The Cambridge Satchel Company 15″ “batchel” in red and gold embossed initials! Super excited about finally having a practical book bag. Thank you for this post! ox