Hey grownups, we can and should wear backpacks, too.
After reading a recent Inquirer piece, and years of snide comments from others, about how grownups ought not wear backpacks, I feel compelled to praise my over-the-shoulders-everything-holder.
I’m not writing simply because I resent the suggestion that my bag choice is inappropriate. Though, as a Philadelphian, resentment is, admittedly, a small part of it.
Rather, my backpack love is perfectly rational, scientific, and tethered to modern style.
In May 2019, Olga Khazan wrote in The Atlantic that professional women were starting to ditch traditional purses and briefcases to go toward the “double shoulder life.” Some women said that back and neck pain reduced when they started balancing their weight on both shoulders with backpacks. Others talked about the absurd pressure they felt to conform to outdated fashion norms – and the double standard where this same expectation was rarely, if ever, foisted upon men. Makes sense to me.
In my case, my posture dramatically improves whenever I wear a balanced backpack. Maybe it’s just in my head, but when I stand properly while donning a backpack, I swear I look like I have a much healthier diet and exercise regimen than I actually do. I’m working on it — and the backpack helps, because I can carry my gym shorts and sneakers with me.
Now, it’s true that sometimes people don’t take backpacks off on transit or elevators, bumping into others. That’s wrong. Everyone should be considerate of others. But I’d bet cash money that if you looked at the everyday behavior of people wearing backpacks versus people carrying $500 briefcases, only one of those groups would come out looking like monsters.
Those of us who wear backpacks are confident in our maturity and have made a practical decision that’s also fashionable and modern. We feel no need to put on an “I’m a grownup mask” by way of a briefcase because we know we are grownups. No need to prove anything.
Plus, old-school briefcases are as outdated as the coal industry.
Besides, a well designed backpack also looks cute as hell on the right person — and speaks to their practical nature, using one primary bag for many things.
As a gay man, when I see another professional man wearing proper trousers with just enough playful sock showing, a handsome tie, and a sturdy, appropriate backpack on his shoulders, I see husband material.
From the ubiquitous simplicity of Herschel bags to the versatile utility of plain black backpacks from The North Face, backpacks provide a wide variety of styles and functions to bring to work, the gym, church, airplanes, dates, and anywhere else.
In an age when our jobs require us to carry multiple devices all requiring chargers, and when we also work out at gyms, go to the library, try to set aside time to swipe right, and travel with our recyclable totes for after-work trips to the grocery store (no more plastic bags!), we need the dependability of our trusty backpacks.
Who has the time to run back home every time we need one of these items? Who are these people?
So, I thank my backpack for saving my life on multiple occasions, giving me an affordable bag I can use in every situation, and saving me time, that most precious of all resources in 2019.
And I shall wear it forever. But I will take it off in closed spaces like the subway or an elevator. It’s just polite.
Josh Kruger is an award-winning and losing writer in Philadelphia. He is currently Communications Director for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services. He tweets too much at @JoshKrugerPHL.