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How Did Backpacks Become So Popular?

How Did Backpacks Become So Popular?

At Lands’ End we know that life with kids can get a bit messy. And no, we’re not just talking about the mystery stains they bring home on their clothes – and into your kitchen, walls and furniture. The mountains of stuff they accumulate on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Add school work, art supplies and sporting equipment to the list of things they lug around on a regular basis and you’ll quickly come to value the importance of a quality backpack for your child – and their ability to contain the chaos. But, believe it or not, backpacks weren’t always the essential school supply they are today. Read on for a brief history on how backpacks became so popular and why they are a must-have in any home with school-aged children (and beyond).

Some background on backpacks:

These days it seems like kids are carrying the world on their backs in their schoolbags but there was a time when the only way to get your books to and from school was to carry them. Like with your arms. School kids of the early 1900s-1930s made their education journey a little easier with the help of a book strap – or leather belt cinched around their text books – until kids decided it was far more fashionable to carry their books by hand instead of tightening their belts.

It would be another fifty years before kids were looking for an alternative way to carry their schoolbooks. Great outdoor enthusiasts, however, weren’t as patient. In 1938 an outdoors supply manufacturer, and rock climbing hobbyist, named Gerry Cunningham was frustrated by how inconvenient it was to access his canvas daypack while scaling a mountain. Instead of just living with the frustration he put his own take on the design and created an outdoor enthusiast daypack made from nylon (stronger and more durable than canvas) and added two zippered compartments for easy reach – acclaimed as the first of its kind.

Over the next few decades gear companies for the outdoors saturated the market and hiking backpacks were a regular sales item. But it wasn’t until 1969 that, in an outdoors shop located on the University of Washington campus, books and backpacks became one. Students started buying the meant-for-hiking backpacks and putting their books in them instead in an attempt to keep them dry from the frequent Seattle rains. Word slowly got around that students were using backpacks as bookbags and by the early 1980’s backpacks grew from novelty to necessity on school campuses in no time. By the 1990’s bookbags in schools were a given and the only thing left to do was appeal to the demand by making the backpacks bigger, stronger and infuse more personality into the bags to help each kid feel unique.

They’re fun and functional:

Part of the need for backpacks for school came as a result of the academic expectations placed on growing minds. But having just any bag isn’t enough. Gone are the days of carrying around one or two study books. Between text books, school supplies, laptops and tablets today’s future leaders of tomorrow need school bags that are sturdy and supportive. That’s why our Lands’ End backpacks are made from durable, 600-denier polyester with reinforced polyester pack cloth bottoms and foam padded back panels for comfortable carrying. Our adjustable shoulder straps and sternum straps (where available) help to keep your little Einsteins standing tall, protecting those growing frames.

As much as you love the functionality of our Lands’ End backpacks, your kids will love how easy it is to express their unique personalities through the designs we offer. With a variety of cool patterns, prints and vibrant colors to choose from, we’re certain you’ll find a cool backpack worthy of your shining star at And if you want to make their school going experience extra special, select “Make It Personal” at checkout and have their schoolbags monogrammed with their initials or embroidered with a fun icon or emoji. Trust us, they’ll love that you’re supporting their personal expression and you’ll love how easy it is for them to stand tall under all of that new responsibility.

Great for school and beyond:

Backpacks may be synonymous with school but it’d be unfortunate to limit your use of such an essential accessory to just those formative years. At Lands’ End we make backpacks worthy of life experiences too like outdoor adventures, travel and playing sports. Those separate zippered compartments and elastic mesh side pockets make all of our backpacks multipurpose. The wipeable exterior makes them great sports bags with plenty of space for team uniforms, water bottles and mid-inning snacks. Our ClassMate TechPack with foam padded laptop or tablet back zippered compartment fits up to a 15” laptop comfortably – great for long flights cross country to visit colleges (or grandma). And, honestly, sometimes it’s just easier to grab a backpack on your way to work in the morning instead of juggling a purse, a lunch box and other miscellaneous must-haves to get you through your day.

And, above all else the fact of the matter is our Lands’ End backpacks are made from quality, durable material meant to last. In other words, once you buy a Lands’ End backpack you’ll get to love it for a long time. And in the end that’s all that matters.

Get a jump on the school year and shop for your perfect backpack today.

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