Backpacks have had an interesting 30 years or so, dipping in and out of the fashion world in an almost-hyperbolic way. The accessory’s style timeline’s seen notable highs: If you grew up in the ’90s, you may remember the must-have, custom-embroidered LL Bean version everyone had to tote in middle school. Or, perhaps you’ll recall the equally as coveted furry one Cher Horowitz wore in Clueless. There have been some sartorial mishaps, too (like that time when everyone pulled theirs on wheels), But the double-strapped carryall is once again hotter than ever, with both athletic-minded and high-fashion folks designing a ton of cool new iterations at the moment.
“The backpack has evolved into a seriously chic utilitarian item.”
What’s more, the backpack has evolved into a seriously chic utilitarian item, the best of the best sporting multiple pockets, zippers, stash spots, and extra bells and whistles that make it more functional than ever. Not to mention how relieved my physical therapist is that they’re buzzy again: I don’t know about you, but my tight neck, back, and shoulders made it necessary for me to ditch my beloved extra-large, over-the-shoulder bag for a backpack to evenly distribute all the crap I’m schlepping around all the time. And when me and my PT can agree on a style choice, it’s been a really, really good day.
Whether you’re in the market for a new gym bag or not, check out these options to buy right now or save them as inspo (on Pinterest, duh). There are some from top designer labels, activewear brands, and at least one that will speak to your soul. Or, you know, help your shoulders.
Shop the season’s 16 coolest backpacks that totally work as gym bags below.