The best backpacks on the market right now.
The first bags humanity ever made were no more than pieces of cloth or animal skin tied at the top. But the first bag you probably owned was a backpack.
A pouch with two back straps, the backpack is the easiest way to carry heavy items, whether it be a laptop, your gym gear or your daddy issues.
And yet, despite its history, the backpack occupies an unusual position in contemporary menswear. Evoking images of hikes through the Himalayas, missions in Vietnamese jungles, or races to the school canteen, its functional design seems out of place in urban settings like the city. Anyone who wears a backpack with a suit for instance, looks worn out and defeated. The straps pushing down on their shoulders make them look hunched over, and the bag’s bulky shape (and tacky colours) ruin the clean lines of any tailoring.
In more casual settings people also discriminate against the backpack. Stroll through any inner city hotspot and you’ll find that most people prefer simpler bags, like the tote or duffel, instead of the classic swag. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the backpack belongs to someone who has never quite grown up. The sort of person who likes their steaks well done and served with ketchup.
It’s surprising then that the backpack has become a fashion favourite. Reflecting the casualisation of menswear, modern bags from the likes of Off-White and even Berluti, marry form and function, providing balance between utility, design and versatility.
With the plethora of options now available, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the backpack. Useful and stylish, there’s no reason why this humble bag can’t earn a place in any respectable wardrobe (just as long as you don’t wear one with a suit, that is.)
Frank Clegg | English Backpack
The Frank Clegg backpack combines the craftsmanship of classic suitcases with modern backpack design, like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Constructed from smooth tumbled French leather, the Frank Clegg bag looks both broken-in and refreshingly modern. As a result of the leather treatment, the body also has a softer touch that ages differently to the back straps, resulting in unique discolourations and fades in its patina.
In terms of design, the backpack recalls the iconic shapes of suitcases from the likes of heritage brands JW Hulme and Gurkha. All the leather pieces are individually cut and inspected by a trained craftsman and the edges are sanded and painted by hand to ensure consistency in construction and finish. You normally only find this rigorous attention to detail with the finest luggage makers, while the polished brass buckles, carry handle and elegant rectangular body pay homage to classic English briefcases.
Cop one now to pass down to your ancestors. – Will
Frank Clegg English Backpack available at Frank Clegg
Human Made | Military Shoulder Bag
This bag has both classic utility and military aesthetic, but with a modern day swagger that your friends keep saying you don’t have enough of (or maybe that’s just me again).
Yes, this bag makes me feel things, specifically the single strap that goes over the chest like no other boss ass backpack would do (cause this bag don’t even need two straps to stunt on other bags). Imagine a dude wearing this bag, ain’t nobody gonna mess with him. Guys out here dunno if he got a handgun and grenade or if he just got that mummy-packed home lunch. Either way that shit fire bro and he probably has a nicer, bigger lunch than you do too.
Man, I gotta thank Nigo for gracing us with this greatness. – David
Human Made Military Shoulder Bag available at End Clothing
Ralph Lauren RRL | Riley Leather Backpack
Think of the Wild West, and what comes to my mind are whistling winds, dust, and well-worn leather. It’s got separate front pouches, a drawstring and buckle opening, and a rich tan finish. The perfect balance of practicality and design, what I love about this backpack is that it’s raw, rugged, and utilitarian.
Like the rest of Ralph Lauren’s RRL line, the Riley Leather Backpack pays homage to the Old American West and workwear from the 1900s. Its soft construction helps the leather ripple gently and naturally, maximising the space available to carry the modern essentials. As with any well-made leather goods, it’ll develop character with age through the cheerful patina of its brightly coloured leather.
The raw edges on the wide leather straps, along with the burnished brass details, further add to the vintage vibes of this bag making it a stylish accessory to flex on both weekends and trips to the office. And if our hipster days have taught us anything, it’s that vintage is king. – Sharon
RRL Riley Leather Backpack available at Mr Porter
Raf Simons x Eastpak | Red Edition Backpack
The Raf Simons x Eastpak 2018 collaboration is a match made in heaven. With Raf bringing the creativity and Eastpak delivering the vision, we get to relish in the beauty of this bag. Its unconventional silhouette and minimalist exterior is a Raf design signature, but doesn’t forgo the practicality that Eastpak is known for.
Along with the rest of the backpacks from the collection, each model is made from materials inspired by trench coats and available in various colours, like the above in ‘Henna’ red. Meanwhile, functional details like the velcro pockets and canvas carry handle reflect Eastpak’s early beginnings as a manufacturer of military-issue packs and duffels for the US army.
Constructed of satin twill, this backpack brings a casual coolness that befits any aspect of your lifestyle. Whether it’s crossing the Sahara Desert on a dromedary camel or lugging unnecessarily thick textbooks to class, Raf and Eastpak have got you covered. – Jeff
Raf Simons Red Eastpak Edition Backpack available at SSENSE
[All images via respective webstores]