Backpacks for grown ups

The Row

Sport Luxe from The Row

When Amanda was told last week that the pain in her neck was not in fact, caused by her her husband and teenagers (sorry boys – I couldn’t resist!) but by wearing her bag across her shoulders – she was horrified. She was advised to try wearing a backpack and took to Twitter to voice her concerns about the style challenges this presented.

In my usual busy body way, I was compelled to point out that backpacks are having something of a fashion moment and she might want to re-consider. Banish all thoughts of tiny Nike Just Do It backpacks for school (where do they put their books?) weight laden nylon sporty jobbies, or huge designer label rucksacks, worn with half mast baggie jeans, oversize Obey hoodies and rare snapbacks bought in NYC – oh no 2013 backpacks are a thing of beauty and can be worn in two ways.

“Sport Luxe” requires pared down minimalism and investment pieces. Think Celine meets COS in a restaurant designed by John Pawson (or Wagamama if you’re not feeling flush). Sport Luxe is about minimal shapes, simple styling, luxury fabrics and sporty details – we’re talking silk jogging bottoms, anything with a go faster stripe, leather t shirts and Kimono fabric bomber jackets.

The Sport Luxe backpack must be made from the softest buttery leather, have minimal detail and cost lots of money. This one from The Row (Mary-Kate and Ashley to you mothers of girls – who are now very successful designers!) ticks every box and at £3302.20 is both totally gorgeous and ridiculously expensive – job done.

You may want to think about a more affordable Sport Luxe backpack, such as Billie from Ally Capellino. Ok it’s not cheap at £644, but as the owner of two (I know) Ally Capellino bags, I can vouch for their quality and timeless styling.

Billie also comes in white and mint, but I’m not so sure they would work, if you have any kind of actual life.

Ally Capellino 8

Billie from Ally Capellino

Ally Capellino also has several ruck sacks which fit into the second category,”The Urban Farmer.”

For the Urban Farmer look, think Kinfolk/Cereal magazine in a warehouse in Hackney Wick, wearing Levis Made & Crafted, APC and Old Town.

KinfolkRustic, hard wearing and practical the UF backpack is used to carry E5 sour dough, tools, bottles of Borough wine, Hackney Honey and dog treats. Earthy coloured canvas with sturdy hardware, the UF back pack is for people who do stuff, like bike riding, making things and caring about the planet.

Ally Capellino 2

Ally Capellino – Wiggo bike bag

This second category is far more accessible and works for everyday life. Plus you won’t have to re-mortgage your house to buy the bags.

Ally Capellion have a great unisex bike range, as do Swedish brand Sandqvist.

It’s also worth checking out the men’s bags selections on sites such as ASOS, as they are much cheaper and often nicer than the womens.




Do let us know if you have a backpack brand you love, as there are too many haters out there and we need to convert them!


  • Amanda says:

    Thanks Jane! I think Ally Capellino might be my answer..altho edlestson has recommended Rapha A

  • Monix says:

    So sorry to hear about your neck Amanda, but a tartan shopping trolley would be better than a back pack – loathe them with the passion of a burning sun…
    Why is it whenever an adult wears them they lose all sense of spatial awareness? –
    People, you are at least twice as deep now! When you turn around on the Tube you are at someone’s head height! When you are on an escalator you now need at least 3 steps to travel safely!
    Should be banned to wear one within 6 feet of another human -and breathe…

  • steffi says:

    tbh I like a backpack as long as it’s full-on utilitarian. No leather (Burberry, eww!) or fancy shmanzy (I’m looking at you, Cath) flowers for me. My absolute favourite is Carhartt. Gorgeous understated colours (as usual for this brand), great shapes and fabrics. The “Gob” model is fab as is the wonderfully retro “Tramp” backpack. X

  • Sue says:

    Poor you with the neck/back pain.But,I’m with Monix on this. Just carry a smaller bag around and don’t fill it so full, Amanda.

  • Jane says:

    ooo not feeling the back pack love here!! I agree steffi mens backpacks much nicer

  • Claire says:

    I bought a Longchamp Le Pliage one when I was travelling recently. They come in lots of colours, are lightweight and also fold up so you could put it in your ‘smaller’ bag and use it if you end up having extra things to carry.

  • Janine Bowers Wild says:

    Hope that your back gets better quickly. I swear by my Millican backpack – lovely muted colours, front opening as well as the usual drawstring top, and roomy enough for everything I need (for me & two kids). The straps are wide enough to not put pressure on your neck, which is an area that causes me trouble. They are definitely not ‘smart’ wear but they have character and are a great small British brand.

  • Amanda says:

    Thanks for the tips team, I’ve also seen a nice one in Whistles and a strong contender in Kurt Geiger too….A

  • Ines says:

    Hello mates, pleasant post and good urging commented at this
    place, I am in fact enjoying by these.

  • Hi I make some wee rucksacks. I have just added them to my bag collection they are quite small and very handy. I work in small quantities of locally sourced fabrics from in around the Scottish Borders and just accross it so many of my bags are unique.

  • Thanks so much for the article post.Really thank you! Much obliged.

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