One Strap or Two: The Gradual Shift in Backpack Wearing As Determined by Time, Pop Culture, and Some Dude Named Tom Ferguson

Forrest Wickman has written a hilarious and surprisingly in-depth article on the literal shift in how people are wearing backpacks. When Did Two-Strapping Get Cooler Than One-Strapping? is an awesome exploration into how the notion of “cool” can change over time.

For me growing up, it was always about the one-strap method. Even when I was loaded down with books in high school and college, I’m pretty sure I always resorted to just the one-strap. I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision – it was just the un-stated way one went about carrying a backpack.

Taking an informal survey of ex-students across the country spanning 48 years (1965 – 2013), Wickman charts the dominance of one-strapping and its slow decline, as two-strapping took over circa 2000.

The article has a ton of great, quotable segments, like this one:

For many, the idea of one-strapping was silly or uncool, or never even occurred to them. “I wore my backpack with both straps, as did most people,” wrote one 2010 graduate. “I don’t remember ever having a conversation about how to wear a backpack in high school; no one seemed to notice.” “I think one-strapping, even temporarily, is unnecessary and unhelpful,” wrote one 13-year-old. A former college classmate of mine even told me, “I now teach sixth grade and it’s all about the backpacks with the extra straps and clasps. All straps on, all clasps closed.”

Beyond the surveys Wickman breaks down several movies, as to how they portray people who one-strap versus those that two-strap. A little after 2000, many of the movies no longer depict everyone one-strapping, and show that two-strapping is the norm. Those that one-strap do so to highlight a particular character trait (or flaw).

When I was reading this article, I was reminded of this great quotation from magician Teller:

Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.

It’s hard to imagine someone putting this much time and effort into a topic this silly, but I’m so glad Wickman did so. This article very much fits Teller’s sentiment about magic, and definitely explores this topic to a ridiculous and delightful depth.

[via MetaFilter, CC photo via kamera kizi]

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