Monday, August 20, 2018

Shopping Thought Experiment: Professional Backpacks

Recently, there was a brief moment of a few days when I thought I may have reached a season of my life where I could no longer endure regularly commuting to work with a shoulder bag, rather than a backpack. (I'm already at that point when my daily commute involves carrying a fair quantity of papers or binders, lunch, and a laptop, but because my current workplace doesn't issue laptops, I've been using a tote.) It was a false alarm, though I've now noticed that my Coach Rogue (~3.5 lbs by itself) is just a bit too heavy for regular use if I carry even just a tiny bit more than what I used to, a few months ago. All I've added to that mix was my Kindle Paperwhite, a light office sweater, a small folding umbrella and (in the evenings) the empty thermos from my daily homemade cold brew coffee that morning. Though the weight of each new item by itself is negligible, when combined they've pushed the Coach Rogue into being too heavy to comfortably carry every day.

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I'd gone and done another weird thing to my lower back while doing some super-light chores, like that time I alluded to when I talked about K and I's somewhat lax approach to house cleaning. (Like last time, I wasn't even scrubbing or doing anything intensive, I simply bent down to get something out of the dishwasher. Last time around, I was crouching down to get something from the bottom shelf of the fridge.) Thankfully, it wasn't too bad this time, far less painful and for only a day though I stopped working out for about a week until all signs of any discomfort were gone. Since then, I've become a bit more conscious of the slight, occasional discomfort one sometimes feels in the shoulders when carrying an overstuffed tote. 

At this point, I'm not ready to give up on totes for my commute yet. I have my Cuyana Classic Totes, both the classic and the discontinued tall, and those are extremely light and still fine with what I'm regularly carrying to the office. (I wouldn't describe them as a "perfect" work tote, as I find they don't distribute heavier weight very well. They tend to feel heavier on the shoulder than a nylon tote like a Longchamp would feel when carrying the exact same items, especially on the days when I need to carry documents and/or a laptop.) I have the Longchamp Le Pliage Neo for days when I need to carry more than usual. Those things, plus my trusty old Everlane Petra Market tote (sadly discontinued) for more formal occasions are all that I need for my commutes, for now. 

If I did need to switch to a backpack, however, I don't think I'd want to use my old North Face Recon (current edition, but it looks very different and a bit sleeker now) from law school anymore, like I did while I was clerking. I think it looks just a bit too sporty to match my work outfits, and I wouldn't feel quite as professional carrying it. Even when one is an attorney who ends up in a lot of more formal settings, including court, I don't think anyone actually cares or notices, but it's something I care about for the overall look of my own outfits!

The "professional backpack" is actually a genre that's somewhat well-represented in the work wardrobes of my women colleagues and other women attorneys in my larger social and professional  circles. The most common choices are from Knomo (also in leather), State (also in leather), or Tumi. I think the Everlane Street Nylon backpack (though they don't stock it in black, my preferred color for this purpose) or their Nylon Commuter backpack also have the right look. I've put some thought into what my criteria would be if I ended up needing to shop for something in this category. Given that my current job almost never requires a laptop, there'd be a big question of whether to get something that fits a 14'' laptop or not. I'm not sure which way I'd come out on that question, as I definitely wouldn't need something that big right now, but I'd always worry about the "just in case" or if my needs would change in the next job. Material-wise, I'd probably stick to something in nylon because I'd want it to be close to waterproof. (One occasionally gets caught in a torrential downpour in NYC, and laptops and work papers do not like water!) I really like the look of leather backpacks (Cuyana also does one that looks pretty cool), but because of my experience with leather totes not carrying heavy items quite as well as nylon totes like the Longchamp, I'd be a bit worried that leather backpacks would feel too heavy.

Oh and in terms of other nice, sleek, and more professional-looking (rather than sporty) backpacks that I've noticed,  but which aren't really on my radar if I decide to make the switch for my daily commute: The Lo & Sons Hanover also has the right general look, but is too big for my needs, and because of the large size, is not quite as sleek. Many of the Everlane twill backpacks have the right look too, such as the Modern Snap Backpack or the Modern Zip Backback, though I'm leery of the material not being waterproof enough. The Everlane twill backpacks were also a perennial favorite among many of my law school classmates, and we carry tons of heavy books around all the darn time, which suggests they're well made and durable. 

Do you carry a backpack, tote, or something else on your daily commute? Does anyone else know what I mean about heavier items feeling "different" and heavier in leather bags than ones made of nylon or fabric, even when the leather bag is similarly light? (I swear, it's a real thing I've noticed!)

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