From “book belt” to “roll cake” : the history of school backpacks.


From “book belt” to “roll cake” : the history of school backpacks.

Our trade tool series is exploring some schools and education logos.

My editor, Steve Drummond, was not the man of his age. He is from Wayne memorial high school, Michigan, in 1979.

But when he began to talk about the backpack, he grunted “back in my day” tone, reminds you of rickety rocking chair and suspenders: “lee, you know, when I was in school, no one backpack!

“You put the book in your arms.” He said, as if he were talking about sending a telegram with Morse code. “No one really wants to, that’s what you do.

And, like all good memories, he is based on a few comments about the younger generation.

“Now the backpack is everywhere and it is almost impossible for young people to imagine a world without them.

Just then, I began to teach him. I think he said how our phones stick to our hands or something like that.

But it’s true. I was one of the young people, and I couldn’t imagine going to school without my backpack.

JanSport and I have been inseparable since the first day of kindergarten in 1995. This is a fluorescent green SuperBreak model. My father wrote my name in front of Sharpie (he tried to match the JanSport font).

I and millions of other children. School backpacks are crucial for education, such as a textbook or no. 2 pencil. However, this is a fairly new development.

It turned out that Steve was right, because I discovered this when I started researching our trade tool pack.

Here’s the story:

In 1900, the 1930s.

Ah, yes, the book. A clever thing but, really, just a belt. I suspect you’ve seen one in use, but you can almost certainly see them in the movie. You wrap your bag around the book, place it on your shoulder like a bag, or put it on your shoulder.

Students find themselves useful in the early 20th century, but they eventually lose their style.

And then metaphase – Steve talks about where the kids just took the book.

In other words: the backpack didn’t evolve from the book pack. It comes from a different world. Outdoor world.

In 1938,


Greg Cunningham (Gerry Cunningham) is Gerry in boulder, Colorado and founder, the founder of Outdoors in his two decades is one of the biggest innovation of modern school backpack: use zipper and nylon bag.

According to the company’s website, Cunningham is an outdoor enthusiast who is unhappy with the backpacks. So in 1938, he made his own, two zipper compartments easy to reach, and rock climbing.

In 1967,

It sold well, and Cunningham improved it over the years. In 1967, Gerry’s Teardrop backpack made a huge leap: nylon. The canvas has always been the fabric to go. Nylon is stronger, more durable, and lighter. It quickly became the norm.

There’s a lot of excitement out there. Gear companies are popping up, and every company is looking for new and better equipment and clothing. Many of them are still today: north face, Kitty, Patagonia.

This brings us to Skip Yowell and his cousin Murray Pletz.

In 1967, they founded an outdoor equipment company in Seattle. The only problem: they need someone to sew.

“Murray is dating a girl named young lewis, and she has a home sewing machine,” Yowell recently recalled. She also had a teaching degree, but there were too many teachers in Seattle. They put her on a partnership.

“Murray decided to go further,” Yowell said. “He told her,” if you marry me, I’ll name the company after you. ”

JanSport was born.

One of the first products of the new company was the Ski and Hike backpack, which was released in 1969.Yowell was exposed to typical suppliers: Ski and outdoor stores.

In 1969,

One of the stores was connected to the university of Washington bookstore, which was unusual at the time – and by chance.

“Because there was a lot of rain,” will noticed. “the students started buying our bags and putting them in.”

Books are heavy, but. Eventually, they made the bottom of the bag stronger. “So, we took some tacky bus seats, vinyl, to the bottom.

Ski and Hike were sold crazily. Other university bookstores are also selling the packages.

But the company did not immediately expand the education market. It had a hotter product at the time: the dome. You know, tent. So the backpack is right behind us.

At the same time, something very similar happened in chico, California. Gary Kirk, another outdoor sports enthusiast, teamed up with Marcia Briggs, another professional seamstress.

In 1974, they founded the reindeer mountain movement. At the time, kirk was taking classes on the GI bill in chico, and he couldn’t find a package that could accommodate all the textbooks.

“He took a stack of chemistry textbooks and wrapped them in nylon fabric and said,” will you make a backpack for my book? ‘said briggs. It took her a few days. The new bag is called the cricket.

In 1975,

Briggs took it to a bookstore in chico. “They just laughed at me,” she told her. “we don’t sell backpacks. We sell pencils and books. ”

So she made it easy for them to agree to sell. The store only needs to pay for the packaging she actually sells. The first sold out.

Mr Briggs quickly lined up at university bookstores across the country.

Soon after, Mr. Briggs met Ned Kitchel, a senior project manager for LL Bean at the trade fair.

Since he received a letter from a harvard law school student, Kitchel has been looking for a backpack full of textbooks.

At his request, briggs modified the cricket to add some space – for your coat or something – and took it to the LL Bean headquarters in freeport, Maine.

He liked it. In 1982, the LL bean catalog featured a schoolbag and soon became a popular product. “It was just an explosion,” Kitchel recalls. “We sold thousands of them almost immediately.”

In 1982,

When the school bag conquered the east coast, Skip Yowell and his team were mass-producing in Seattle.

“The outdoor market is saturated,” says Yowell. “We need to change a little bit.”

In 1984, JanSport released a new model, spring break – the first model for textbooks. It spreads throughout the west, just as LL Bean takes over in the east.

In 1984,

The rest is history. Within a few years, the backpacks had gone from novelty to necessity. Competitors have emerged.

By the late eighties, almost every child in school was wearing a backpack. And the only thing left? Make your backpack bigger!

These new models take lessons seriously. Deeper pockets. More carriages. Small zipper space.

In 1989,

In 1990,

LL Bean bag becomes a luxury bag, and JanSport’s spring break turns into SuperBreak.

Styles haven’t changed much over the years. Here and there some adaptations: some functions, some for fashion.

Adaptation and controversy

Of course, school backpacks are in trouble, and even controversial.

You may have read about the health risks of children carrying backpacks. The American ridge association has even written guidelines to prevent “backpacking”. Wheeled packaging becomes a popular choice.

There are also safety issues – backpacks can be used to smuggle weapons or drugs. Some school administrators even require a clean or mesh backpack.

In the future… ?

Now, people are worried about the future of the backpack. As the textbooks give way to tablets and laptops, one wonders whether the traditional backpack is moving in the direction of the old leather book belt.

The company began to rethink what students need today.

Enter the digital roll: JanSport tries to walk in front of the curve. The tortillas are neatly wrapped in electronic lines. The other JanSport product, SuperBreak Sleeve, is a backpack, but it is very thin and can be placed on a laptop.

For now, however, millions of children still use the classic Book Pack, SuperBreak and many other models.

Not only in the United States, but around the world.

“Last year, I went to Jakarta, South Korea, Japan, Nicaragua, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Skip Yowell told me in an interview a few weeks ago. “I saw JanSport’s packaging. It makes him smile: “you’ll never get tired of it.”

(note: when I reported the story, the Skip Yowell died at his home in Kansas Morland, at the end of our phone interview, he asked me to address, so he can send me his book, I gave him my email through a few days ago, his thoughts thoughtful.)


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