They say a man is what he eats. I say a man is what he carries. In this day and age where everything has become a fashion statement, guys are lured into the fashion industry just as much as women.
The shift from the classic middle school backpack to the designer shoulder bag or distressed leather cross-body bag signals the synthesization of practicality and fashion. It doesn't matter how much you fine-tune the different components of your outfit; you completely flush the entire look down the drain with the addition of a book bag reminiscent of cubbies and Lunchables.
The entire fashion industry has seized the opportunity to revamp the essence of the work bag. The purpose is to have a name without a reference to any sort of schoolwork whatsoever. Bags can no longer be called book bags because their sole purpose is not to transport books to class. Bags have an intrinsic value to them, and are not dependent upon their use for their worth.
Of course, most backpack wearers are guys. Athletes tend to carry backpacks. I've seen backpacks with lacrosse numbers embroidered on, as a display of team pride and school spirit. Knapsacks no longer serve as carriers of books and such; rather, they are now sacred vessels for assortments of objects.
I own what many people have called a Mary Poppins bag. I toss anything and everything into the huge pool of stuff. Life has become far too compartmentalized as it is, with all of our tasks and activities divvied up into specific categories and roles, leaving no room at all for extraneous items. Don't get me wrong: Bigger bags today still have pockets zippered in and small folds meant to stick pens inside, but I really don't need my bag to have separate sections for my headphones, erasers, notebooks, planner, readings, sneakers, etc.
Once you start compartmentalizing everything in your life, it is impossible for you to revert to a state of normalcy and disorganization. I love huge canvas bags because you can throw in "everything but the kitchen sink" and fish out a surprise every time you reach inside. I will attest to the fact that we tend to become overly obsessive and compulsive when our lives and belongings don't fall neatly into place. However, sometimes it's liberating to know that there isn't a specific pocket made for your Blackberry.
It is vital to reconceptualize the role of the backpack in your day-to-day living. The bag is the only item (besides a pair of shoes) that can be worn two days in a row, and won't be seen as a repeat.
If you are of the artsy folk, stitch your own! If you're environmental, reuse a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods canvas bag—they're surprisingly durable! And for those who are willing to splurge, toting a luxury brand won't make you a prick; it will, however, act as partial compensation for whatever "slob" outfit you have on that day.
If you have back problems, totally disregard everything I have said. Cross-body, shoulder and canvas bags might take a toll on your back and shoulders, so in this case, opt for a backpack. Break from tradition and trade in your pack for a sharper, cleaner, classier addition to your wardrobe.