The best back to school rucksacks for people who actually left school 20 years ago

At this time of year, in spite of the fact that I don’t have kids and I left school in 1995, I get totally carried away with the whole back to school thing. I’m suddenly only attracted to the navy items in my wardrobe, I favour my brogues over my trainers, and my beloved cross body bags get relegated in favour of my rucksacks.

En Brogue with C Nicol rucksack

Alice leather backpack, £550 (; shoes (old) by DAY Birger et Mikkelsen; cords (old) by YMC; socks, €26 (

Rucksacks are just great, aren’t they? They really come into their own once the summer is fading and you need to fit a bit more stuff into your bag than a cross body can hold, like an umbrella, an extra woolly layer and an emergency pair of socks for days when it turns out it wasn’t bare ankles weather after all. Pick the right one, and they’re also a brilliant alternative to a laptop bag, with the added bonus that they look much cooler. Oh, and they just so happen to work really well with my flat shoe aesthetic. Bonus.

I am particularly drawn to leather rucksacks with minimal hardware and branding because I’m trying to avoid looking like I’m heading to work via the gym; these can be a bit pricey but I think it’s worth it for the quality and longevity you get (in fact, two of my favourite rucksacks are years old and look good as new). But since rucksacks were a big trend on the catwalks this season – Burberry, Gucci, Fendi and Givenchy are all offering styles well over £1,000 – the high street has some great options in faux leather with much more affordable price tags as well. Here are my favourites at both ends of the scale. Something for everyone!

Lost Property of London

Lost Propery of London Arlington rucksack

Arlington leather rucksack, £375 (

I love the Arlington rucksack from Lost Property of London (which, it is worth mentioning, makes all of its bags from ethically sourced materials in London) because of its smaller proportions. I remember when leather rucksacks only came in really large sizes suitable for tall people (i.e. MEN) that were impossible for a short arse like me to use without them bashing me in the back of the head with every step. This beauty comes in five colours and looks chic as hell. It also comes in a bigger size should you need to fit more stuff in or are taller than me!

C. Nicol

C Nicol Alice backpack

Alice leather backpack, £550 (

Here’s another British brand making fantastic quality leather goods, and some of them are in yellow! Hurrah! The Alice rucksack is perfectly proportioned to fit a small laptop – my macbook Air tucks inside perfectly with a couple of notebooks AND an iPad – but is ideal with your Arket minimalist wardrobe and Stan Smiths (rather than looking like it should be teamed with a pinstripe suit and square toed shiny shoes. Sorry, city boys).


Baia rucksack

Small rucksack in plum leather, £300 (

Regular followers of my Instagram account will know that I am a huge fan of this brand. I have two Baia rucksacks but they are from the very first collection, so the latest designs are a modified version, though bar a few bits of hardware they are pretty much the same. Size-wise, they are absolutely ideal if you are petite, and I love the colours available this season, including this rich plum. Baia bags are all handmade in a workshop in Yorkshire, a fact that just makes me love them even more!


Mango ring rucksack

Pebbled ring backpack, £39.99 (

Mango has been absolutely killing it recently – I could buy so much stuff! This rucksack isn’t leather but is a great trend box-ticker with its JW Anderson-inspired ring fastening (I actually prefer the proportions of this one to the designer version). There are currently ten different rucksacks available on the Mango website, including a faux fur one if you’re after something a bit more fun.

& Other Stories

& Other Stories leather rucksack

Flap leather backpack, £89 (

Available in grey or black, this bag is leather but still manages to come in under £90, thanks to a lack of any fuss or frills. I really recommend & Other Stories for its accessories – as well as bags the jewellery is well worth checking out if you like delicate gold that looks expensive (but really isn’t expensive).

Free People

Free People rucksack

Modaluxe grey vegan rucksack, £69 (

Of course I realise that plenty of you out there won’t want to buy leather because you’re vegetarian, but there are smart options out there if you still want a rucksack and aren’t partial to the sporty nylon look. This from Free People (which also comes in tan) is vegan, and you can actually put a vegan filter on its website to make sure you’re only looking at stuff that fits with your ethics. How considerate it that?!


COS backpack

Unstructured leather backpack, £125 (

Cos has really been excelling itself with bags just lately. This rucksack is great for general use, although with those skinny straps I wouldn’t overfill it with anything too heavy. I really like rucksacks that come with a top handle like this – it’s more useful than you’d imagine!



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