Special Report

How School Backpacks Have Changed Over the Last Few Decades

Source: yanik88 / Getty Images

Zippered backpack

The first zippered backpack was created by Gerry Cunningham, founder of the Colorado-based outdoor apparel company Gerry Outdoors. This backpack, first made with canvas, is considered to be the model for the modern school backpack. Zippered compartments allowed for better access.

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Zippered backpack – cont’d

Cunningham would later replace the canvas with nylon — used extensively during WWII for parachutes and tents — which is stronger and more durable. The downside to using nylon is that some people are allergic to nylon and can develop a rash called textile dermatitis.

Source: Courtesy of JanSport

JanSport backpack

The backpack that popularized the item was made by the Seattle-based company JanSport in the late 1960s. It was intended for use by student hikers, but other students adapted it for carrying books and supplies.

Source: Courtesy of JanSport

JanSport backpack – cont’d

The bag,however, wasn’t designed to heavy books, causing physical strain on students. Eventually, the company created a sturdier bag.

Source: Courtesy of COVAX

Transparent backpacks

Some school districts are requiring transparent backpacks because of security reasons. The first of these plastic backpacks were created in the 1960s.

Source: Courtesy of Eastsport

Transparent backpacks – cont’d

Many plastic backpacks, however, are made with PVC, a toxic plastic with dangerous chemical additives such as cadmium and phthalates.

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