The Backpack and the Modern Man

I have pictures of my kids’ first days of school. They’re standing by the doors of the elementary school wearing new clothes, new shoes and a backpack with probably very little in it. Backpacks are part of the school kid standard attire and will eventually fill with books, papers, pencil nubs, and in my experience, some unidentifiable sticky substance.

As students, we carry our backpacks until we graduate from the education process. They key point here is that at some point we become adults and graduate from the practice of toting a backpack.

Yet, for some reason I still see occasional adults wearing backpacks, usually guys. Backpacks are not proper accessories for adults, with the caveats of people on bicycles and people hiking to or from their campground.

I really should never see an adult get out of their car and put their backpack on to walk from the parking garage to the office.

Backpacks are not gym bags. Gym bags are gym bags.

Backpacks are not laptop cases. Laptop cases are laptop cases and if they are in the form of a backpack, they are not meant for adults.

Backpacks carry either textbooks or tents. If your backpack has neither then it’s time to donate it to Goodwill. Again, I must mention the caveat of people who bicycle to work. If you ride a motorcycle you should have saddlebags to carry your stuff. If you ride a scooter, the proper accessory is a messenger bag, not a backpack.

Backpacks are for kids. And, yes, no matter how old you are, if your primary occupation is “student”, you are a kid.

When not travelling on overnight trips, there are generally four luggage-type accessories acceptable for a grown man to carry and five for a grown woman. Men can carry a lunch sack, a laptop bag, a briefcase or a gym bag. Women can also carry a purse. And guys, if your laptop bag or briefcase contains anything resembling a fluid other than ink, it’s a glorified purse. Ditto for any kind of paper that you cannot write on. Personal grooming supplies are okay for a gym bag or a purse. I’m not qualified to tell women what they can carry in their purses, but from my experience, men really just don’t want to know anyway.

I work in a professional environment. When I see a person wearing a backpack, I think, “Intern.” I don’t think, “Professional.” They could have grey hair and a face weathered with experience, but a backpack without a bike helmet attached screams of immaturity, of a refusal to move on to adult life.

AUTHORS NOTE: Since I wrote this years and years ago, I’ve come to realize a few things. One: I’m wrong on this. Two: Even knowing that, it takes some extra mental processing to get past the ‘intern’ first impression when seeing someone wearing a backpack in a professional environment. Three: Backpacks are far better for your spine and back muscles than a single strap bag. Four: If you’re using a backpack but only carrying it by one strap, you’re doing it wrong and invoking all the negative impressions a backpack brings up without the health benefit. Five: I’m still wrong – backpacks are, in today’s world, perfectly acceptable in most professional environments. Six: F**k it, whatever. I should delete this post, but there’s this thing called posterity and I’m not so proud as to hide my mistakes.

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About wilogden

Wil Ogden was destined to be a wastrel but thwarted fate. During his second junior year in high school he discovered he had a muse and a talent for writing. Despite taking almost a decade to complete a bachelor's degree by changing majors eleven times, he managed to grow up. Along the way he worked as a blacksmith, a record store manager, a candy store manager, too many years in food service, a four year stint in the USAF, and finally settled down into Information Technology, which he uses to pay the bills and support his family of himself, his wife, son, seven daughters, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, a snake, a ferret and two parakeets.

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Tripe. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. You sir need to take off the stick of your ass. You really sound frustrated. When I read a person bitching about backpack, I think, “ huge Insecurity ” I don’t think “ Very happy and mature ”.

    • Note: I’m not one to filter out those commentators who disagree with me. I don’t always reply, but in this case it looked like fun.
      I’m not sure what the native language of this commenter is, but they raise a point I skipped over in my blog. My blog is only regarding the culture of the United States. Different cultures may have different expectations regarding maturity and backpacks.
      They may certainly be right in not thinking I am “Very happy and mature” – I mean happy people don’t usually have much to blog about. This is the internet and the primary purpose of the internet is as a forum for people to express their dissatisfaction with everyone else on the internet. As to my maturity – I don’t feel mature…old, yes…mature, not so much. Growing older has made me realize that all the people I looked up to as a kid weren’t as ‘mature’ as I perceived them to be. Technically, intellectually and emotionally, I am mature by every established standard, but to feel mature would be to acknowledge that there is no longer the potential to refine myself.
      And Insecurity? Insecure people post to facebook where they can fish for reinforcement. Blogs are confident in their presentation and are usually not fishing for commentary.
      Clearly, the situation here is that the above commenter has been rendered insecure by my opinion on backpacks and their inverse relationship with adulthood and felt the need to defend his or her insistance on defying the aging process.

  2. One shoulder bags mean all the weight of whatever you are carrying ends up concentrated in one spot. I CANNOT wear a purse or messenger bag because my shoulders cannot take it. If I have too much weight on one shoulder that arm stops functioning properly and when trying to reach straight moves towards my body and watching your arm do something you aren’t telling it to is kind terrifying. And some days too much weight is a tiny purse with nothing but a wallet and phone inside. So maybe in your little ableist world backpacks mean immature, but to many they mean even weight distribution and less shoulder problems. Not all medical problems are visable so do the world a favor and stop assuming you can judge people based on appearances.

    • Excellent points. This post was a very judgemental post on my part. I would never assume any0ne wearing a backpack is doing so simply from a collegiate fashion sense. I always assume that everyone with a backpack still uses it for ergonomical reasons. However, like fashion staples such as high heels, we must remember that looking fashionable comes with a price. In all seriousness, fashion shouldn’t dictate women should wear high heels and I shouldn’t tell anyone not to wear a backpack. I will say, if you’re going to have a backpack, use both straps.

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