You may not realise it, but just like a good pair of jeans or a few quality Oxford shirts, a stylish backpack is a true menswear essential. Having something that looks the part and is up to the task at hand is imperative if you want to stay looking sharp even when you’re lugging your gym kit or laptop around with you.
Backpacks have a bit of a reputation as being unstylish or immature, but that’s mostly down to the fact that a lot of men buy the wrong ones. Know where to look and this humble bag style will become not just a handy accessory, but an indispensable part of your wardrobe.
Here we round up our favourites for everything from daily commutes to alpine adventures.
Pairing a backpack with tailoring was not long ago the sartorial equivalent of buying a people carrier or listening to Coldplay. Today, however, it’s a different story altogether. The rise of sleek, stylish leather options has seen backpacks become a fashion-friendly office choice – the perfect modern hands-free alternative to a traditional briefcase.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping for a bag for the office: first and foremost, if you’re going to opt for leather, make sure it really is 100% leather and care for it accordingly. It’s also a good idea to find something with a laptop compartment or pocket, and if you want it to work with a suit, keep it slim and subtle – nothing too bulky.
Best Brands for Smart Backpacks
If you’re going to shop for a luxurious backpack, where better to start than with the beacon of premium Italian menswear, Brunello Cucinelli? This legendary label offers up simple styling, unparalleled craftsmanship and luxe details such as leather trims and an accompanying dust bag.
From sleek stationery to high-end timepieces, German label Montblanc has always been a reliable go-to when it comes to getting yourself office equipped in style. This extends to its line of backpacks too, with premium features such as full-grain leather construction and streamlined design coming as standard.
One of the up-and-coming luggage brands, Troubadour is known for its clean lines and attention to detail. You’ll find materials such as naturally waterproof vegetable-tanned Italian leather, breathable design, to keep you cool on hot days. And padded shoulder straps specially engineered to avoid pressure points. Within Troubadour boast padded pockets big enough to take a 15-inch laptop and on the outside, discreet zipped pocket for smaller essentials. All wrapped in smart, stylish designs.
A Scandinavian brand with a knack for stripped-back subtlety and no-frills cool. Who’d have thought? Jokes aside, Rains is just that. A raincoat label first and foremost, Rains applies the same knowhow that goes into building its coats to produce some seriously functional yet good-looking backpacks too.
Whether you’re a seasoned hillrunner with a personal best to beat or you just need something to get your kit to and from the gym in one piece, a technical backpack is the answer. These bags are designed with utility in mind and built with features that enable you to make the most out of your activities – be that mountains, treadmills, track or field.
The main thing to bear in mind when shopping for a technical backpack is what its intended use is going to be. For example, if you’re looking for a bag specifically for the gym you might want to make sure it has a separate shoe compartment or a pocket for your water bottle. If you need a bag to accompany you on the track, it’d be wise to opt for something with good ventilation at the back. Also be mindful of fabric; if you’re going to be out hiking with your new bag it’ll probably need to be waterproof or at least water-repellent.
Best Technical Backpack Brands
Nike’s gym gear is some of the best around, offering cutting-edge technology and stylish aesthetics in equal doses. The same is true of the brand’s selection of specially adapted training luggage, which boasts everything from durable materials to smart features like roll-top designs for easy access while on the move.
Sustainability and environmental issues are a growing concern in the world of fashion. If you want to feel comfortable with your consumption from an ethical point of view while equipping yourself with some high-quality kit in the process, Patagonia is the brand for you.
The North Face
It’s probably the best-known outdoors brand on the planet, so it stands to reason that The North Face would make some of the best equipment too. Its teched-out, high-performance backpacks are testament to this.
Born in the Lake District out of a passion for travel and adventure, Millican is a British brand with outdoor pursuits at its very core. Its luggage is built to be as simple and functional as possible while retaining a unique and stylish appearance.
A Japanese luxury luggage brand built around functional details, Master-piece straddles the line between function and style, offering highly durable utilitarian bags that wouldn’t look out of place on a fashion week runway.
The finest quality meets artisan craftsmanship meets contemporary design – that’s the idea behind American premium outdoors brand Epperson Mountaineering. Expect quirky styling, robust build and functional details such as carabiner fastenings and military-spec materials.
At its core, the backpack is the ultimate day-to-day bag. Something you can pop your essentials in and sling over your shoulder time and time again. If that’s what you’re looking for then a does-it-all casual design might be the right choice for you. Something relaxed and unassuming, but not lacking in the style stakes either.
When it comes to picking the right daypack it’s really just a matter of personal preference. In short, if it holds your stuff, feels sturdy and you like the look of it then it’s a keeper.
Best Casual Backpack Brands
Since 2004, Swedish brand Sandqvist has been producing some of the most stylish and versatile backpacks on the market. Casual styling and quality construction are par for the course and with hundreds of great-looking options to choose from, there’s something to match every taste.
A lot of labels make great backpacks, but none quite so exclusively as Boston’s Eastpak. Since its birth in the early 1950s, the brand has done nothing but consistently churn out some of the most reliable and timeless luggage around.
Polo Ralph Lauren
If you want a dose of preppy East Coast style from your luggage, look no further than Polo Ralph Lauren. The New York-based fashion brand is known for its signature brand of Ivy League cool, something which extends to its selection of everyday backpacks too.
Scandi style has been done in and done out. Still, no one has ever quite managed to do it as well as Danish mainstay Norse Projects. The Copenhagen-based brand is known for its high-quality staples and cooler-than-cool brand image. For a simple, stylish day-to-day bag, you need look no further.
If you’re looking for value for money then you may want to look away now. Japanese luxury menswear label Visvim isn’t exactly known for its bargain price points. However, if you want to wind up with something exclusive, well made and that you’re unlikely to ever encounter anyone else carrying, there are few better brands to shop with.