Special Report

How School Backpacks Have Changed Over the Last Few Decades

Source: Courtesy of L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean Book Pack

Over on the East Coast, Maine-based outdoor apparel company L.L. Bean created what became known as the Book Pack, which eventually became the company’s biggest seller. The item was modified to create more room to accommodate text books. The backpack was made of water-resistant ballistic nylon, adjustable foam shoulder straps, and an organizer pocket for pens and pencils. The drawbacks to the backpack were broken zippers and inner seams that could unravel and get caught in the zipper.

Source: Evgen_Prozhyrko / Getty Images

L.L. Bean Book Pack – cont’d

Because of concerns that students are overloading their backpacks, L.L. Bean and the American Occupational Therapy Association launched a joint safety campaign, mailing out information with backpacks. Groups such as the Maine Occupational Therapy Association hold awareness days to educate children, parents, and school officials about health impact overloaded backpacks have on students.

Source: Courtesy of Gucci

Fashionable backpacks

High-end brands such as Gucci and Prada are catering to aspiring fashionistas. The tony fashion labels create their backpacks from materials such as leather and canvas. Leather is a luxurious material but it comes with a health warning.

Source: Courtesy of Prada

Fashionable backpacks – cont’d

Some studies indicate that leather products may contain elevated levels of the toxic chemical hexavalent chromium, an allergen that can lead to skin reactions like eczema.

Source: Courtesy of JanSport

Bigger backpacks

Backpack makers, including L.L. Bean and JanSport, began making bigger backpacks in the late 1980s, with deeper pockets and more compartments.

Source: Courtesy of L.L. Bean

Bigger backpacks – cont’d

However, health experts cautioned against students putting too much weight in one compartment. Multiple compartments helped distribute weight more evenly.

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