Although it’s hard to imagine a world without backpacks, the reality is that they haven’t been around for a very long time. As a matter of fact, in the 1960s backpacks were more of a commodity than a necessity. Back then, students could only tote their books around with their own hands, or by tying them together with a belt. Surprisingly, the history of the backpack is shrouded in mystery, mostly because it did not develop linearly.

But if we were to identify two defining contributions to the evolution of backpacks we would have to talk about Dick Kelty and JanSport. Dick Kelty was an intrepid traveler and outdoorsman who would spend most of his days avidly scouring the countryside. During that time, hikers had to rely on military surplus store, which were rather bulky and uncomfortable, but Dick managed to come up with a more efficient way of carrying his hiking gear.

Kelty’s concept was simple: he believed that there had to be a better way for people to carry stuff around, and there was. It all started with a hike in the 1951’s when he and a friend decided to swap their load from the shoulders to the hips, by sliding their pack boards in the pockets of their jeans. This proved to be a more comfortable way of carrying equipment. Therefore, Kelty’s original backpack design included the wooden frame and a hip belt. He continued to improvise and add to his original design by changing the wooden frame with something more lightweight, and gradually added pads and pockets.

Kelty may have revolutionized the world of hiking, and outdoor activities, but it was JanSport that managed to save pupils and students from a torrent of papers and books. Skip Yowell, the company’s founder simply decided to repurpose an already existing product: the day pack, which was basically a smaller relative of hiking backpacks. By the early 1970s, JanSport packs made their way into school corridors and bookstores. Sports shops in universities such as the University of Washington began selling these backpacks to students.


Yowell wrote a memoir where he mentioned that he was trying to create a product that would evolve from typical hiking gear to something more accessible. His backpacks were designed from vinyl and leather with nylon coil zippers. Another interesting story refers to an unexpected letter send from a student to Ned Nitchel, the L.L. Bean product manager. In it, he voiced his desire to have a bag that would comfortably carry all his heavy books. Two years later, the Book Pack, which was designed specifically for students, was introduced.

“Towards the end of the seventies, many college bookstores were carrying our revised day packs in stock.” – Skip Yowell

Although this first backpack could be considered unremarkable, it represented the starting point for a new fashion niche, and an icon in its own right. By 1975, Briggs came up with the Cricket day-pack line, which had a squared-off form to accommodate multiple books. Caribou Mountaineering (co-founded by Marcia Briggs) and JanSport united their forces to create even more durable and fashionable day packs in the following years.

At present, brands such as North Face, Herschel or Skullcandy have taken original designs and improved upon them with unique prints, but JanSport and L.L. Bean remain the top-selling sellers for backpacks. As you can see from this brief history, backpacks have truly come a long way. They have transcended the barriers of hiking equipment and made their way into the city. Statistics say that one in three bags in London tubes are backpacks.

How the Canvas Backpack Revitalized the Fashion Industry


Backpacks may have become the latest fashion statement nowadays, but this wasn’t always the case. As a matter of fact, Miuccia Prada’s minimal backpacks designed with nylon were slow to take off, but after a while they became staple accessories for trendy club-goers. For several years the backpack seemed to have lost its appeal. It resurfaced only recently, almost at the same time with the popularization of casual & comfortable fashion, and since then it has achieved a unique kind of cultural convergence (like the polo shirt). We live in an age where comfort and fashion have become equally important, and this means a renewed interest for backpacks.


Nowadays, the working class is embracing nostalgic leather and canvas backpacks in their pursuit for a classic vintage feel. Jamie and Lyndon Cormack teamed up to found the Herschel company, now a ubiquitous leather & canvas backpacks and bags brand. It seems like the more we look around, the more nostalgic we become, because most designer labels are now opting for luxurious interpretations of iconic models from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

One cannot escape from fashion’s clutches. If canvas backpacks were designed as cheap, utility items a few years back, the trendiest models now hover at around $1,000 - $4,000. Celebrities like Kristen Steward, Diane Kruger and Pharrell, among others, are embracing the canvas backpack: “Dude, everybody’s two-strapping”.And when celebrities are wearing their vintage backpacks with so much style, how could we not do the same? There are still plenty of amazing brands which create useful & good-looking leather and canvas backpacks for a wide variety of needs.

Let’s find out how you can choose the best canvas backpacks, what materials work best, and what colors you should consider.



Canvas Backpacks Color Palettes& Materials

Someone once said that the bag makes the man, and this couldn’t be more true. A back (or backpack) is something that you will probably be wearing every day for a very long time. Naturally, it will become a part of your unique style. One of the first things that you need to consider while shopping for a new bag is its color. Of course, build quality, size and materials are also important, but more on that later.

Where color is concerned, you should typically think of creating contrasts between the bag and your attire or going monochrome. This means that your color palette should be limitted to charcoal, brown, navy, burgundy or beige, which generally work with many outfits. This doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with crazy colors. However, you should keep in mind that daily wear-and-tear will eventually make a colorful backpack look tacky.

Canvas backpacks always work well with classier outfits like workwear, bizcaz, heritage or americana because they are very versatile. They come in a wide assortment of materials such as cowhide, cotton, sheepskin, leather, pu etc. Arguably the best fabric is cotton because it is durable, comfortable and eco-friendly.


Canvas Backpack Size Matters

Many shoppers are tempted to purchase a larger backpack than they actually need. You have to determine your exact needs before buying your new canvas backpack. Are you going to carry your iPad and books with it, or do you need to take your laptop as well? Oversized bags look unstylish. The rule of thumb would be to load your canvas at 10-40% of its capacity to avoid neck and back pain.

Another aspect that you need to consider is straps. Some canvas bags have extremely thin straps. Since you’re probably going for a comfortable look, you may want to avoid applying too much pressure on your shoulders and skin. Check the straps and roller packs of your canvas backpack to determine if they are suitable for every-day use.

Canvas Backpack Build & Features

You shouldn’t buy bags with too many pockets ‘just because’. Once again, we recommend you to think about the type of things you want to take with you at work or school, to determine exactly how many compartments you need. When it comes to canvas backpacks, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. In addition to this, you should also think about the build and quality of materials.

Check your zippers, sewing and build details to determine if your bag of choice has a solid build. Take into account weather conditions as well. If you live in a place that gets frequent rain, you should definitely go for a waterproof backpack. Additionally, durable canvas materials are recommended for extensive use.

Styling tips for Canvas and Leather Backpacks

Want to buy your very own canvas backpack for men but aren’t sure how to style it with your outfits? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. The best part about canvas backpacks for men is that they can complete almost all outfit types effortlessly. You can match an elegant suit with your canvas backpack just as easily as you would with a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Here are a few styling tips and mens canvas backpacks that you should consider trying out.

#1 Vintage Canvas for Leisure & Travel

Featured Canvas Backpack: Vintage Casual Canvas & Leather Travel Student Backpack


If you’re into the effortless & understated look you should definitely consider going for a simple and elegant canvas leather bag. Throw on a pair of stonewashed jeans, some loafers, a leather jacket and a plain white shirt and you’re set. A simple canvas backpack for men is the perfect solution in such a scenario as it completes the feel of an effortless outfit, without forfeiting on style and it also provides with plenty of side pockets where you can store smaller objects. The best thing about genuine leather bags is the fact that wear-and-tear makes them look even more attractive. 

#2 Brown Canvas Backpack for Students


Featured Canvas Backpack: Brown Canvas Leather School Rucksack Backpack


During our formative years we have to carry tons of books from point A to point B. This can become a real pain, especially if we don’t have the right bag. Many guys decide to go for uncomfortable one-strap bags that they believe are more stylish. Now that ‘comfortable’ fashion is making a comeback it is time to take out a vintage design brown canvas backpack. This type of mens backpack looks great with most casual and sports outfits, but particularly with denims. The lightweight material and leather straps give it a subtle finesse

#3 Comfy Backpack for Summer Outdoor Activities


Outdoor activities require a comfortable and versatile outfit. To complete such a look you will also require a simple, lightweight bag to store valuables and utility items. This is another situation in which canvas backpacks shine because they are made from durable & light materials, not to mention that they look exceptionally well with a pair of sports pants and shirt. Take this multi-pocket beige bag as an example: fabulous and effortless. Accessorize your look with a pair of sunglasses, and you will be ready for any adventure. 

#4 Black Canvas Backpack for Work


Most work environments have an outfit code that employees must respect. In general, this means a business or business-casual outfit (dress shirts, tailored trousers, suites etc.). Showing up with a sports back-pack is definitely not the best option, but this doesn’t mean that you have to use an uncomfortable bag. The black vintage canvas & leather backpack is as useful as it is elegant. It works really well with suites as well as more casual outfits with which it creates a strong contrast.

#5 Canvas Hiking Rucksack for Everyday Use

Featured Canvas Backpack: Travel Hiking Rucksack Duffel Backpack


Working out at the gym may be fun, but having to carry all your stuff in an uncomfortable bag certainly isn’t. Alternatively, travelling for business purposes may also lose its appeal if you have to run around with a heavy suitcase. The perfect solution would be an all-purpose canvas backpack which can be worn on both shoulders or around the waist. The best thing about such a bag is the fact that it completes most types of outfits.


Honorable Mention: Leather Briefcase for Special Occasions

Featured Classic Leather Briefcase: Selvaggio Handmade Full Grain Leather Briefcase

Looking for something even more elegant? Why not go for a hybrid bag that can be worn both as backpack as well as satchel. Brown leather is timeless, and this bag is another example of vintage wear-and-tear that increases the appeal of a bag. You can style it with suites, business-casual and even casual outfits.



It seems that even celebrities have a soft-spot for branded canvas bags. Many of them were seen prancing around town with their stylish designer labels. Chris Brown was spotted a while back carrying a stylish Alexander Wang 2013 backpack, while Kirsten Stewart decided to go with Chanel’s Graffiti unisex backpack. Can you believe that this runway back-pack with colourful spray paint and rebellious chains costs around $3,400 on retail?

Kanye was also seen styling a one-of-a-kind Robot Face Goyard backpack with crazy patterns. On the other side of town, Rihanna was rocking her vintage wine-coloured lambskin Chanel canvas backpack with. She also seems to have taken a liking to Givenchy’s Airplane Print Leather backpack.

But there are more backpacks enticing the senses of our favorite Hollywood celebs. Miley Cyrus made a bold pick with the Louis Vuitton Michael canvas backpack for men. And the list goes one with icons such as Amber Rose, Willow Smith etc. Canvas backpacks have never gained more traction than in the last 6 years, so if you’re thinking about getting your very own, designer label or not, now is the perfect time.