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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Column: The bag

The bag. We all carry one, be it a backpack, side bag, purse or a rolling suitcase nerdmobile for your books. We all have notebooks, textbooks and laptops, and we all need to somehow efficiently lug all this shit from class to class. The question is, what to lug it in?

After quizzing my friends, I was surprised to learn that most of you out there came from high schools where people actually wore backpacks to school. May I just say – gasp! – that all of you would be losers at my high school where backpacks were not acceptable. Girls used this as an opportunity to buy flashy designer purses to tote their pens and lip gloss in while guys mysteriously showed up to each class with only the necessary binder. I don’t know what they did with the rest of their notebooks … stashed them in bushes, perhaps.

Given this background, you will understand my surprise and distaste when I arrived at college and found that I needed a backpack. Backpack shopping was horrible. To me, everything either screamed ‘I live in the mountains for weeks on end and roast squirrels’ or ‘I keep a large supply of pocket protectors in my desk, just in case.’ Of course, I eventually picked a neutral one, and came to understand that a backpack is a perfectly normal and extremely practical thing to own. If you don’t own a backpack yet (double gasp), then Outdoor Davis, on Second Street, has some great sporty options, while Target, also on Second Street, offers a wide variety of styles at reasonable prices. First-years without transportation might want to check out the UC Davis Bookstore, which also carries backpacks.

I embraced the backpack for a bit, enjoying the sporty vibe it gave my outfits and explored within the backpack range. There are your standard Jansports, in many different colors and prints. In my opinion, Jansport is the Converse equivalent in the backpack world. Then you have your sportier High Sierras, Dakines and other similar brands that all provide a relatively neutral bag with an efficiently compartmentalized interior. Then there are the North Faces that have all proven highly covetable and highly priced. Soon, however, I realized that backpacks really did not compliment some of my more fashion forward outfits, so I began to explore my other toting options, and hence met the book bag.

The book bag, side bag or messenger bag slings cross body and either rests at your hip or is tightened to wrap directly around your back. My favorite sort of book bag is made of supple Italian leather in a rich cognac hue with stylish and practical metal buckles fastening the top flap to the main bag. Alas, this bag is as elusive as Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome or Ms. 36” 24” 36”, but I am confident that some day it will find its way into my life. Although I prefer leather, book bags come in many different materials. Sturdy nylon with straps and plastic buckles for sportier days, a nice simple canvas in a variety of colors and prints for your everyday casual or even perhaps a slick water resistant pleather for the many vegans populating Davis. For me, I like the vibe that the side bag brings. It’s large enough to hold my library of books and binders, but different enough from a backpack to still make me feel fashionable. To me, it embodies the spirit of college.

And boys! Don’t fear the side bag! I know some of you may worry that the side bag is venturing into murse territory, but fret not. The side bag is for your books, not your diary, and can be just as dude-like as any backpack. I’ll even quote GQ’s suggestion, “Get yourself a serious shoulder bag – the kind no one will mistake for a purse.” If GQ is advising this, then it must be a lady-getter, right?

And now for the third option: purses. Usually only utilized by the females, purses, although they are often more stylish than backpacks, are highly inefficient at toting books. Yes, you can buy the large oversized hobo style and awkwardly cram some binders in there, but your end result is going to be sharp corners and a tired shoulder. Final verdict: purses are for fashion, not function.

Of course we all have destinations besides class, and the bag can go with you there too. Headed to Mishka’s for some coffee? The side bag will happily tote your copy of The Catcher in the Rye and a hipster scarf. Out to the quad for a picnic? The backpack easily accommodates a blanket and egg salad sandwiches.

There are so many different bags available for toting books and school supplies; it just takes some trial and error to find the right one to fit your needs. Or, if you’re like me and can’t decide which is best, just have a variety of options ready to accommodate any outfit!

Reach BRITTANY NELSON at blnelson@ucdavis.edu.

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