Backpacks Making a Comeback

Whenever leaving the house these days, many of us men have the dilemma of wanting (or needing) to take a wide selection of items with us – but having nowhere to put them. With necessary items such as keys, wallet, mobile phone, chewing gum, mp3 player, breath mints, blackberry… the list is endless. There are simply too many items to fit into your pockets without a) creating all manner of unsightly bulges in an area where bulges are only appropriate in certain situations, and b) carrying such a combined weight that your trousers start hanging dangerously low until you begin to resemble a 15-year old boy going through his rebellious, hip hop phase. So what is the solution? Briefcases are for work, purses and handbags are for women, bumbags (or fanny packs to our American-based brethren) are for NEVER! In recent years, messenger bags, satchels and leather man bags have proven to be very popular – but it seems the retro, old skool canvas backpack is making a comeback.

The fashion press and online blogs, sites and magazines have all jumped on the bandwagon recently and publications such as Esquire, Attitude, Men’s Health and Shortlist have all featured articles specifically featuring canvas backpacks. ASOS also recently featured a section of their website and weekly newsletter which solely looked at the appeal of the backpack and they now have an extensive range available for purchase online. Even the Guardian featured a men’s fashion article back in late January which was simply entitled ‘Menswear Goes Into The Wild’ – and the primary feature of the beautifully shot photographs in the rugged English countryside, was a simple, canvas backpack. The message is clear – as Shortlist magazine states – ‘backpacks are back in a big way.’ And they support so many of the current trends which are popular such as military, nautical, preppy, fisherman, especially anything which relates to the great outdoors.

The appeal of the humble canvas backpack is its simplicity. There are all sorts of different styles out there in different shapes, sizes and colours, and the most recent versions contain many decorative and functional features such as toggles, ropes, buckles, zips, pockets and pouches – meaning there is a huge amount of variation between the different types of backpacks available to the modern man. The pure functionality of the backpack is also a very appealing factor. Canvas is an extremely sturdy and hard-wearing fabric, which explains why it is typically used by the military services to create hardy and durable backpacks which are built to last.

Canvas tends to resist punctures, stains and general wear-and-tear – and although it is not absolutely waterproof – it is naturally water-repellent, so perfect for the traditional British spring/summer time where light rain showers (and unfortunately for us Brits, torrential downpours) are always a possibility. Backpacks also trump their one-strapped, messenger bag counterparts in the functionality stakes simply due to the fact that they have dual straps. This means that the wearer has the use of both arms, and the weight of the backpack is distributed evenly across the back.

On The Runways

Christopher Shannon Backpacks on the Runways

The mass resurgence of the backpack is not restricted to high street stores such as Millets and North Face. Several high fashion designers are also tapping into the trend and backpacks have featured in recent designer collections and catwalk shows. Christopher Shannon [shown above] is one designer who made backpacks a predominant feature of his S/S 2011 catwalk show; under the name ‘Never Get To Go Anywhere’ which was a reference to the trips Shannon wants to take but hasn’t had the opportunity yet. The concept of travelling and backpacks go hand in hand so the use of backpacks on his models in this campaign was a perfect fit.

D&G Canvas Bags on the Runway

Burberry has also made a recent move away from their traditional use of soft calfskin and smooth suede to the use of rough, hardy cotton canvas. As Esquire online wrote of Burberry in March last year; ‘Accessories which are sensible, rugged and evocative of escape are exactly the kind of luxury goods people want right now.’ In their S/S 2011 catwalk show, D&G [shown above] also featured their models walking along bright green astro-turf catwalks carrying canvas tote bags in natural browns and greens, filled to the brim with traditional picnic items – again highlighting the feel of the outdoors. Other designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Dunhill, Mulberry and Jas MB (available at Liberty’s of London) have also featured canvas backpacks in recent campaigns. Filtering down to the high street, canvas backpacks have really made an impact in several shops. Topman, H&M and Renewal at Urban Outfitters all currently feature canvas backpacks in their collections, and at prices in the region of £20-£30, they are much more affordable than their high fashion counterparts.

The Canvas Backpack Look Book

Canvas Backpack Look Book

New Season Canvas Backpacks

Perfect and functional for both students and businessmen alike, this season’s canvas backpacks have never shown so much variety. You can pick up bold coloured backpacks which are perfect for injecting colour and flair into a standard business get-up, or simply getting in on the block colour trend which is dominating men’s fashion right now. Imagine coordinating your new burgundy chinos with a great red backpack and then anchoring it with a crisp white shirt or black polo shirt.

Or you can go the other way and utilise neutral backpacks in navy, black, grey or beige for a more refined take on the trend which is perfect when mixed with some relaxed tailoring this spring/summer. Finally, why not push your own subtle take on the khaki colour trend we broke down this week with a green or beige khaki backpack which would look great in your khaki colour block outfits or used as the finishing touch to your spring/summer military inspired looks.

This year the backpack is back… versatile, adaptable and bang on trend.

  • Core Canvas Rucksack
  • Venture Backpack
  • ASOS Canvas Backpack
  • Firetrap Canvas Backpack
  • Paul Smith Jeans Canvas back pack
  • Renewal Canvas Military Rucksack
  • Penfield Idlewood Olive Day Pack
  • Fred Perry Navy Backpack
  • Sandqvist Roald Backpack
  • Barbour Beacon Backpack
  • Pointer Porter Collaboration Backpack
  • Penfield Canvas Backpack
  • ALLY CAPELLINO Dean rucksack
  • ALLY CAPELLINO Del duffel bag
  • Veja Mochila Canvas Rucksack
  • Hobo x Arai Tent Slope Celspun Canvas Bag
  • ALLY CAPELLINO Dean Navy Bag
  • BEDOUIN Ottoman Khaki Grey Roll Top Backpack
  • Filson Canvas and Leather Rucksack
  • Bill Amberg Canvas and Leather Backpack

Although canvas backpacks used to be solely associated with camping and the great outdoors, times are changing and the largely geek-associated backpack is making a hugely popular comeback. As we have explored, the popularity is prevalent amongst both high fashion designers and high street brands and looking at the classic range available at the moment, it is clear to see why. Canvas backpacks are functional as well as stylish and this functionality offers a useful alternative to the leather satchels and messenger bags which tend to be slightly less practical. Canvas backpacks are timeless and so hard-wearing that they have real longevity – and the fact they support so many current trends means their popularity is unlikely to wane any time soon.