The Return of the Backpack

05/26/2010 3:00 AM |

The recent rash of menswear-inspired clothing for women has created a surprising envy moment among women who live with their mates. While the old days may have involved excess cooing over (and, just as often stealing of) old, perfectly worn concert tees of boyfriends past and current, the latest evolution is a full-on assault on all manner of items in a man’s closet: crisp striped button-downs, worn denim, oversize cashmere sweaters, and more.

While, it’s true, I covet no small portion of my better half’s wares (there’s a perfectly preppy raincoat I still have my eyes on), what has most transfixed me, oddly enough, have been his bags. They’re rugged, perfectly worn, and just oversize enough to suit my pack-it-all-in-one-satchel-for-the-weekend purposes. Plus, there’s something about a man’s bag that has such a sense of authority, in ways the bags geared toward women—with their quilted cotton and too-girly or graphic prints—just don’t. Alas, unlike the worn tee I used to be able to steal without him noticing for a few weeks, these bags have proven rather difficult to sneak out of the house. Fortunately, the market has risen to meet the demand, and there are more than a few brilliant stand-ins to satisfy the travel needs of Memorial Day Weekend and beyond.

For those craving an outdoorsy bag that’s still chic enough to bring to the Vineyard, Filson is still really the ultimate classic hunting-inspired silhouette. The Sportsman’s Bag is more than sufficient for weekend travel, and might even fit under a plane or train seat if you pack right. Perhaps best of all, you don’t have to venture into a faux-outdoorsy section of a department store to get one; you can hit up the real thing at Paragon Sports.

If the whole rugged look suits your purposes, take it one step further and snap up an authentic Klein Tool Bag at Home Depot. Honestly, I never imagined a tool bag could look chic—outfitted in crisp white canvas and jaunty leather buckles, it’ll look even better once it gets a little roughed up, and at $60 for a 20-inch version it’s a steal. Just picture either rough-and-tumble bag paired with a feminine floral dress or a crisp white button-down and dark jeans and you start to get the idea.

In addition to masculine cargo bags, a more schoolboy-inspired trend has been making a return: backpacks. Once the realm of earnest middle schoolers, backpacks have become the fixation of more than a few It-designers, and stores like Opening Ceremony are now stocking myriad classic iterations from Swedish-based Fjallraven (the company that practically started a backpack movement in the 70s)—each just $60. For something a touch more high fashion, grab one of Rachel Comey‘s hiking-inspired backpacks: In classic Comey style, each bears an eye-catching original print—from watercolor blue to graphic forest green—in either a leather flap or traditional zip-up style. Between the duffels and the satchels, you’ll have room enough for your clothing and your summer reading essentials.

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