Throwing on the best pack for back-to-school style

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Notebooks and markers can go back to school in style, too, in a backpack that reflects the individuality of the student who carries it.

From neon hues to bold, checkered prints, floral patterns and camouflage designs, there's plenty of styles that earn passing grades.

“The backpack is making a big fashion comeback, seen on respected runways like Hermes, Chanel, The Row and Rag & Bone, as well as on the backs of some of the biggest models and style-setters,” says Jacqueline Tatelman, co-founder, with husband Scot, of State. The company hand delivers a backpack to a student in need for every backpack purchased.

“Backpacks are on trend with a ton of pizzazz to fit any personality,” she says, “and are designed smaller to keep up with technology trends like laptops, iPads and mobile phones.”

Fashion always finds a way to reinvent things and make the old-school classics look brand new, Tatelman says. You can find slouchy backpacks, small and structured backpacks, one-shoulder, textured, studded or multicolor ones.

And they aren't just for carrying to and from the classroom.

“Backpacks are perfect for hands-free toting,” Tatelman says. “Whether you're going to school, work or running weekend errands, you can rest easy knowing that you have everything you need — a laptop, books, snacks and more.”

Backpacks are a great way for students to express themselves,” says Chris Cox, vice-president of design and creative for Nautica.

“Not only are they very functional with various compartments, mesh pockets and multiple straps,” Cox says, “but they are offered in so many colors and graphics.”

As with all fashion trends from season to season, backpacks ride a wave, and this year is a backpack year, says Elaine Sugimura, U.S. president and CEO for Rabeanco.

“From the beautiful materials and patterns to playful colors and multifunction, backpacks have become a must-have this back-to-school season,” Sugimura says.

While it's important to look good, the backpack must function well to fit an individual's needs, Sugimura says. And make sure to not overload it.

More than 79 million students in the United States carry school backpacks, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association in Bethesda, Md. About 55 percent of them carry one that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10 percent of the student's total body weight. More than 2,000 backpack-related injuries were treated at hospital emergency rooms, doctor's offices and clinics in 2007.

When shopping for a new backpack, look beyond the hot-pink color or Spider-Man design, says Karen Jacobs, spokeswoman for backpack day and an expert in ergonomics for the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Always select a backpack that is the correct size for the child, Jacobs says. Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist. This will position the load on the strongest part of the back. Also, make sure shoulder straps and the back of the pack are well-padded. Look for backpacks that have additional waist, chest and hip straps for added support.

“The weight of the backpack is not the only thing to consider with comfort,” Jacobs says. “Distribute weight evenly by loading the heaviest items closest to the child's back and balancing materials so the child can easily stand up straight. And I recommend buying a lightweight, breathable material.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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