Friday 20 April 2018

Paul Galvin: Carrying off the backpack

Paul recalls his primary school Jansport backpack.
Paul recalls his primary school Jansport backpack.

Paul Galvin on the return of a man's bag

I don't miss my schooldays. I never quite bought into the nostalgia of it all. Best days of your life, etcetera. Etcetera indeed. As far as my memory serves me, school was just another place where you were told what to do. A bit like home.

If your schooldays and youth are the best days of your life, then that must make the remainder of it pretty hopeless.

One thing I do recall about my primary school days is my Jansport backpack. The beauty of them was, of course, their practicality.

By practical, I mean you could still sprint with them. That's right, sprint. Just try sprinting after anything with a shoulder bag. After a bus, a ball, a bell or even a belle, all healthy pursuits vital to a young boy's wellbeing -- though you should only ever casually stroll after a belle.

But then you're not to know that as a schoolboy.

Anyway, with this summer just gone and kids returning to both school, I was interested to notice the return of the backpack. Not just in the regular back-to-school stores like Dunnes or Penneys -- or indeed in the outdoor activity stores like Portwest and Northface -- but on the high street.

Chris Brown was the first guy who made me sit up and take notice of the new life of the backpack. You've seen him in the 'Beautiful People' video right? Skateboarding through town with a backpack. That was a sure sign that backpacks for men were making a move.

Now, men and their bags have been a source of much debate, and some mirth, for quite a while. If there's a fashion term I dislike it's "manbag." It's one of those lazy, made-up labels that turn men off fashion because while they might like a bag, or even NEED a bag, the fact that they might run a slight chance of getting slagged for having a "manbag" is enough to put them off.

Worse still has been the emergence of the "murse." That's right, a murse -- a very clever portmanteau of "man" and "purse".

Terence Howard, a man who could make Hell cool, carried a murse, sorry, a small, black-leather clutch bag to the Oscars a few years back to make it okay for men everywhere to do so.

Regardless, a man has to be careful how he chooses his mala as the wrong choice makes him look a right prize. The backpack, therefore, is the safest bet and we should hail its return.

It is the most masculine of all bags. It goes over both shoulders for a start, like a bullet-proof vest or a harness for pulling a jumbo jet down a runway in The Strongest Man competition.

River Island has a good selection in store. Some leather, some cotton, some canvas, some with the Aztec and Navajo prints that have been a feature of their menswear for the last season or two.

High fashion has got in on the backpacking action now. Heavyweights such as Mulberry, Balenciaga, Marni and Alexander Wang all have versions if you have silly money to spend.

A more affordable offering is available on Asos (As Seen On Screen, is this a portmanteau or an acronym?!)

Overall, I like the return of the backpack. It's relaxed yet rugged, boyish yet masculine. It's not a murse or a tote and, praise the Lord, it's not a manbag. It's just a man's bag.

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