Mode Rage: Rucksacks

I dislike rucksacks. Actually, scrub that: I despise rucksacks.

This won’t be news to many, as I have often referred to the rucksack
as one of the items most unsuitable for gentlemen of style. This has
proven to be a somewhat incendiary position as rucksack owners, quite
naturally, have lashed out at the criticism and, by extension, the

However, my general dislike of rucksacks developed  into active hatred
when I experienced a post-work rush for late-night Thursday shopping
in the West End. It proved to me that the rucksack itself is not only
an unattractive, utilitarian and inelegant item but also one that is
downright offensive.

When rucksack owners wander around, they lose all sense (if they had
it in the first place) of others’ existence. Attached to their back
like some great nylon cyst, the rucksack transforms the mild,
middle-management, middle-aged businessman into an aggressive yob. He
wanders down the congested aisles aimlessly, swinging his sack behind
him from side to side, oblivious to the faces seeking a view of the
goods on display. Conscious of nothing but the product he is looking
for, he turns around without caution or care, swiping unsuspecting
shoppers with his ludicrous bag.

They say that people are free to choose to wear whatever they like, as
long as it “isn’t hurting anybody.” This is as true of rucksacks as it
is of offensive t-shirts; or, more accurately, it is true of rucksacks
in a crowded metropolitan context. No one can deny that rucksacks are
the most suitable item for an expedition, but as bags to carry a light
laptop, work papers and stationery, they are incredibly overused and
quite inconvenient for anyone that happens to be in the close
environs. People can laugh at someone in a bow tie and say it is
archaic and stupid, but they would have to admit it is not something
that hinders their own enjoyment of life. The rucksack, however, does.

So aside from the fact that it destroys suit shoulders, is hideously
ugly and has no connection to the classic style of a gentleman, I have
also discovered that the rucksack is an anti-social item that assaults
innocent bystanders and paints an unfavourable picture of the wearer.
The very worst enemy of good manners in congested environments may
still be the ‘clueless parent in command of a stroller’, but an
unconscious carrier of a bulky rucksack is only one swipe away with a
silver medal.


  1. Derrik Ollar said:

    Hey! Easy on the bow ties ;).

    The funny thing about a backpack is, as ugly, unmannered and hard on your clothing as back packs may be, they are far better on your back than a messenger bag or a briefcase because of the way they distribute the weight to both sides of the body. I’m just saying…

    January 12, 2013
  2. Neil S said:

    Another good article, expressing how I feel about rucksacks worn in professional/smart contexts.

    In defence of briefcases, I would suggest shiftng it from one hand to the other, and the weight distribution is solved. A briefcase or attache case is easier to wield than a backpack, which can cause back problems if worn only on one shoulder for convenience. It is also able to stand up on its own. Carrying a briefcase alters its holder’s gait. More dignified and elegant. And if necessary, it can be carried underarm for speedy dashes to the train, unlike the side to side sway of the rucksack.

    January 12, 2013
  3. Anf said:

    There’s almost nothing worse on the subway/tube.

    January 12, 2013
  4. David V said:

    Great for camping. Although I haven’t used one for that since my Boy Scouts days.

    January 12, 2013
  5. Scott F said:

    Their only use should be camping, where the great outdoors affords the space to swing a cat (rucksack). Otherwise for your morning commute pop your cheese and tomato sandwich and ‘important’ papers in any style of briefcase/duffle/one handed bag you like. I don’t think the <3kg load will be inviting any risk of scoliosis any time soon.

    January 12, 2013
  6. Roy R. Platt said:

    I have never been able to figure out what people are carrying in those things. I go to work every day without needing one of those things. I sometimes ask younger co-workers (many of whom seem to carry those things) if they are looking for the source of the Nile and then tell them that Speke has already discovered it. People probably used to get their fill of those things in the Army, but now, with so few people in the Army, it might be different.

    January 12, 2013
  7. Alan said:

    I was worried until I came to this: “No one can deny that rucksacks are
    the most suitable item for an expedition, but as bags to carry a light
    laptop, work papers and stationery, they are incredibly overused and
    quite inconvenient for anyone that happens to be in the close

    Backpacks are essential to many modern travelers who can hardly hope to have suitcases carried about, or use cabs at every occasion. But yes, for carrying general items day-to-day their popularity is bewildering.

    January 20, 2013

Comments are closed.