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.