Be Cooler Than All the Kids Heading Back to School by Not Having Homework and Carrying a Satchel

Satchels are always in style and so are you.
Publish date:
August 4, 2016
shoppables, accessories, back to school, satchels

I miss going "back to school." I miss school supplies and professors (or teachers) having faith in my ability to turn assignments in on time, and a seasonal fresh start so endorsed by consumerism that you can really, truly believe that come the new school year, you can be someone new.

You can be anything.

A Rhodes scholar. An honor student. If you can think it, you can do it. With new ballpoint pens and a sense of infinite wonder. And then it all falls to shit before Thanksgiving and you realize you are the same flawed person you've always been and you stay up all night writing a paper that is absolute garbage while your hopes and dreams turn to ash.


I have it on excellent authority (read: fashion-forecasting analysts who will tell you the future for a nominal fee) that "slouchy backpacks" will dominate this back-to-school season. When I heard this, I furrowed my brow in puzzlement. (Seriously, I will need Botox soon and not the "20-something-reality-TV-star" preventative kind. My brow is straight riven.) When have slouchy backpacks been not the epitome of cool? I love a slouchy backpack. I have always loved a slouchy backpack. You know what isn't eternally and effortlessly chic?

A satchel.

In my mind, they rose to prominence directly following the "wrap my schoolbooks in a leather strap" trend which existed when streets were cobblestone and children still worked as chimney sweeps. Out of the ashes of industrialization rose the satchel. Sensible. Smart. Shiny.

(In all actuality, satchels were actually carried around long before cobblestones. Romans carried satchels, then called “loculus,” which literally translates to “little place.” So did Scottish monks, between AD 300 and 900, as a means to safely transport sacred religious texts. They're incredibly old. But that's somewhat less appealing than the Cambridge pupil image I have in my head, so I'm sticking to my previous mythology.)

Caitlin has a baller satchel: Doc Marten, Kiev leather, excellent hardware, baller. (The closest one available online is here, but it is a mere 7 inches and hers is 12 inches.) She is always prepared for meetings. I believe her satchel has something to do with that. So, in the spirit of Caitlin's industriousness, back-to-school spirit, and Roman legionaries, here are the satchels of the season. Let's get studious.

For Work

Despite being recently enamored with a specific, literary-leaning tote bag, I'm having to admit to what most of you mentioned in the comments: I am straight wrecking my back and shoulders with totes. It’s especially bad when you sweat under your tote bag strap and then your shoulder skin gets irritated or gets a blemish that doesn’t heal for weeks because, again, monstrously heavy bag. Uneven weight distribution. Back spasms.

So, I’m over them. (For now.)

My current very favorite bag du jour is this Bartaile C12 convertible bag in heather gray pictured here, which works triple double overtime with adjustable straps (and handles!) that offer a huge variety of ways to wear it. Cross body? Duh. Shoulder bag? If you so desire it. Backpack? YES.

The Bartaile C12 (C for satchel, but not really) also adheres to my favorite satchel quality: It is chockablock with pockets, compartments, and hardware so that you can store, latch on, and easily find every tool of your trade, from ID badges to laptops to many, many, many pens and pencils.

Satchels, certainly more than tote bags and, dare I say backpacks, are the quintessential work bag. For centuries, satchels have been made to store precious documents (shoutout to the Scottish monks!) and modern iterations have carried that functionally into the 21st century. These affordable, convertible, and aspirational (read: I cannot afford them but I can smell the leather from the photo) options are ready to take on your commute with storage for laptops, tablets, and precious illuminated manuscripts (you know, if that's your thing).

For Play

Outside of academia, the office, and back-to-school spirit, satchels continue to hold their own. When shrunken down to miniature, as illustrated by the affordable, truly teeny-tiny, and "guaranteed-to-plunge-you-into-bankruptcy" styles below, the astounding architectural shape of the satchel is made visible. Which, of course, is nice in a little bag. (I like my small handbags like I like my small dogs: sturdy and capable of holding lots and lots of snacks.) In miniature, these bags also break into pops of color that emphasis both the structure and the material that immediately identify the style of the bag.

What's your favorite bag right now? Do you create fanciful mythologies for accessories that are unsubstantiated by facts? Are you going back to school? Let's talk about it.