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Backpack Styles and Trends

Can they be functional and fashionable?

Backpack styles and trends vary depending on your age and social stratum. Historically, backpacks have affected the world of fashion to a considerable extent. They have been worn as merely functional carrier items, they have served as outdoor and sports equipment, and they have also been highlighted as cute, casual fashion accessories. Read on as LovetoKnow explores the many types and purposes of the backpack.

A Little Backpack History

Backpacks that best represent those used in modern times first surfaced around the 1920s. Before this point a backpack was nothing more than a sack with two shoulder straps. This design was not very comfortable as the sack allowed for items to jut into the wearer's back. Moreover, the backpack wouldn't remain high up on the carrier's back as do modern styles. Thank goodness for the innovations provided by a man named Lloyd F. Nelson, who created the pack board. This design gave the backpack a board to frame it and prevent items from coming in contact with the wearer. Moreover, a flap was added to the back to hold items in securely. It's no surprise that these backpacks were largely used for military purposes. However, the bags could also be used for adventuring and travel. Which brings us to the least stylish usage of backpacks…

Mere Carriers

Regardless of fashion, the first and foremost use for the backpacks is that of a carrier for the traveler, its main purpose being to haul numerous items to a distant location. The backpack is probably the best carrier for traveling because its double shoulder straps distribute weight evenly across the body. To lug a one-strap duffel bag throughout the course of a long trek will exhaust each shoulder at a time, not to mention the frequent stops you will have to make merely to switch shoulders. The weight distribution advantage is particularly important when you are toting around a lot of heavy items. Regardless of the backpack's weight, the distribution is still even and, therefore, your body will take less of a beating when you travel.

You might not be a private in the military, but if you are a frequent flyer, you know that running across the airport to catch a flight can be a literal pain when you're carrying a duffel bag. There's a reason why Boy Scouts and outdoorsmen swear by backpacks and not slingback bags.

The School Backpack

students wearing different backpack styles and trends
Shoulder bags and padded shoulder straps are popular trends for school backpacks.

There's nothing more common in today's society than the student-sported backpack. From grade-schoolers to college-goers, we see Jansports and Eastpaks regularly slung over the shoulders of these avid academics. is just another name associated with student book bags, although this particular brand is typically more embraced by junior high and elementary students. There's no doubt about it, however, the backpack is one of the best items for lugging around an armful of books. Some students even ignore the usefulness of their lockers due to an especially roomy and inviting backpack. Why stow it, when you can take it with you?

The Mini Backpack

Backpacks are always functional, but they can also be fashionable. Tell designers like Prada that there isn't money to be made in the backpack purse! Many top designers created mini-models of the backpack to be worn as casual handbags, strapped across the back, of course. What is the appeal of these mini models? They are casual and, with the help of a high-profile brand name, they can take their casual nature to the level of high fashion. Shoulder straps will weigh on your body, and handbags that rest on the forearm may inhibit the movement of your limps. Mini backpacks are the hands-free alternative! This style of purse was extremely popular in the early to mid 90's, but waned in popularity thereafter. Aside from a few high-designer models that are more loved for their name than for the style, the backpack purse has been stowed away in the annals of fashion history.

Upcoming Backpack Styles and Trends

students showing various backpack styles and trends
Bright colors and graphic prints are popular.

Styles and trends for backpack purses may change seasonally, but full-size backpack trends often change yearly -- when department stores are loaded with them prior to the back-to-school rush. Current trends in backpacks include:

  • Retro backpack styles and colors
  • Bright colors and patterns
  • Abstract patterns and black, red, and white
  • Messenger style backpacks
  • Sling backpacks
  • Various colors of camouflage
  • Backpacks equipped with slots and pockets for the latest technology
  • Character backpacks
  • Cool neutrals like gray and black

Where to Purchase

Your best bet for finding a backpack purse is to consult department stores and Internet searches. Since this item is no longer hot off the fashion press, many handbag stores will be limited as to the styles and brands they carry.

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Backpack Styles and Trends