I had no idea what a backpack was until I came to America ten years ago. When my dear friend Laurel mentioned wearing a backpack, I imagined a pack of ice that she wore to soothe back pain. We eventually figured out that a “backpack” was what I called a “rucksack”. Aha! Chuckling, we compared fashionable backpack stories from the ’90s, when they made a huge fashionable statement thanks to Prada’s mini nylon backpack revolution. Prada-esque backpacks were everywhere — especially in black and grey — and were all the rage for years. They even had a version called a “bodybag” with a curved strap that you wore across your chest like a crossbody. 

Upscale backpacks tried to make a comeback five years ago, but they weren’t very popular. They are trying even harder this season, and perhaps this time the trend will be more successful. 

The upscale backpack does not look like sports gear. It’s small, sassy, and not usually made of canvas and velcro. Its design features are refined and dressy, which distinguishes the fashionable version from the strictly utilitarian backpack. Upscale backpacks are an obvious choice worn with casual wear. Often made of luxurious leather and available in a variety of colours, don’t think twice about matching one with dressier attire.

I have clients who love this trend, especially when there is an easy side-entry zipper that allows you to get into the backpack while it’s still slung over a shoulder. It’s a convenient hands-free option that can be very comfortable for your back. It’s also, once again, a fab juxtaposition of casual and dressy, which is a huge trend in itself. In the last few years we’ve seen upscale track pants, sweatshirts, sneakers and bomber jackets take the fashion world by storm. It makes sense that this retro little item is on its way back too.

I won’t be sporting an upscale backpack. I’m going to be in the minority by saying that I find them uncomfortable and impractical. I don’t like carrying shoulder bags or crossbodies because of the pull on my neck, shoulders and back, so this rules out the backpack too. I am most comfortable carrying a bag in my hands or the crook of my arm like a satchel or clutch. I find it inconvenient using a backpack as few of them have easy access side-zippers, and there’s also the pickpocket concern. Lastly, they ruin the line of my crisp and clean cut clothes.

For all these reasons the backpack isn’t right for me at this stage. They worked better in my twenties when I dressed more casually and had fewer aches and pains. But I will enjoy them on others because it’s a fun look. For some, the upscale backpack is just what the doctor ordered. Practical, sassy and fashionable.

Over to you. Would you wear an upscale backpack? If so, what is it about the style that appeals to you? I bet those who sported mini backpacks in the ’90s are having a major déjà vu moment.

Tory Burch Amanda Mini BackpackElizabeth and James Coated Leather Sling Bag

Rebecca Minkoff Logan BackpackTory Burch Parkan BackpackStela 9 Sol Convertible BackpackSteven Alan Clemence Backpack

Warehouse Quilted Chain Detail BackpackASOS Tumbled Leather Front Zip Backpack