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One Strap vs. Two Straps
November 1, 2013 7:15 PM   Subscribe


 
Before Milhouse accused the other Milhouse of stealing the latter.

(Milhouse is not cool.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:22 PM on November 1, 2013


THIS IS AWESOME
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Genuinely fascinating. Class of 1994 and I can confirm that two-strapping was deeply nerdy. I mean, I was pretty nerdy, and even I wouldn't have two-strapped.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


Are you on the subway? No straps.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:26 PM on November 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


One strap was for in the street, but I did a lot of outdoor activities when I was in school and 2 straps just makes sense.
posted by arcticseal at 7:27 PM on November 1, 2013


Seriously, though, this is cool. Class of 1998, one strap or a messenger bag.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:28 PM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


1-strapping was still a thing around 2001 where I was. Wearing 2 straps just felt really wrong, still does. But the really cool kids had messenger bags.
posted by bleep at 7:28 PM on November 1, 2013


what if you three-strap it all with the little plastic clip that goes on the front around your waist. that's super cool, right
posted by theodolite at 7:30 PM on November 1, 2013 [57 favorites]


We had duffels (!) in high school. In college, (1993-1998), it was one strap for the cool kids. I was a commuter who parked in the cheap lot in college, so I wore my military-spec A.L.I.C.E. pack with 21 credits' worth of engineering books on both shoulders, cool be damned.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had different reasons for one-strappin' it- I knew I was never going to be "cool,"* but it's easier to hunch over into a body-obscuring, attention-repelling semicrouch with one strap- but all I know is years of carrying around all my books at the same time (social phobia and lockers? haha, no) like that gave me borderline scoliosis and a right shoulder that's permanently rotated forwards. So yeah, this is yet another thing Those Damn Kids Today are doing better than we ever did.

*yes i know scare quotes around the word "cool" is itself deeply ""uncool""
posted by Merzbau at 7:32 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's a deft signifier of Generation X versus Generation Y:

"THEY want me to wear two straps? I'm not doing that. Big Backpack wants you to wear out two straps at once so that you'll have to replace them both. Follow the money, man!"

versus

"My mom's worried about my back, so she's going to give me a ribbon for always wearing two straps. As soon as she gets done doing my college applications."
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:33 PM on November 1, 2013 [56 favorites]


1 strap 4 lyfe!

Remember those little tiny backpacks women wore when people started 2 strapping?

Now you got people three strapping and hanging shit like water bottles off their backpack

I allways wondered what Kanye had in his backpack. I'm thinking maybe like a towel, an odwalla bar, a banana and a hoodie in case he gets cold. Here he is early 2 strapping on Chapelle show. I would like that video placed in evidence.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:34 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


That article claims that kids are carrying actual books in their bookbags...

Since that clearly cannot be true, I declare the entire post without merit.


A sweatshirt (not a damn "hoodie"), some crumpled paper with an assignment you were supposed to finish last week, maybe a wadded up brown paper bag with the remains of lunch in it, a couple of pens without ink, a broken pencil, a notebook full of in progress notes to your friends, that one note your ex-girlfriend wrote to you just before she dumped you for that Jimmy kid, an unlabeled mix-tape without a cover...
But an real textbook? Never!
That's what lockers were for.

posted by madajb at 7:34 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm from the one-strap era and I have two points. First, we didn't have laptops in the bags. That changes the entire dynamic (value of contents, weight, distribution, handling protocols). Second, the zeitgeist was definitely less obedient, more anti-authoritarian. We did it because it wasn't right. People under 20 today don't seem to have that chip on their shoulders - they have very different relationships with adults than people of my younger era did. If it's more comfortable and practical, that's all you need to know.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on November 1, 2013 [42 favorites]


Class of 2001. I remember the school nurse in middle school telling everyone to use both straps (in conjunction with regular checks for scoliosis that our school did) and everyone being like, naw, no way is that happening. And this was at a religious girls' school, not exactly a font of coolness.

But at some point I started two-strapping and starting thinking that was cool. I can't remember if it was very late high school or college.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:35 PM on November 1, 2013


How many people, would you say, commented on Tom Ferguson's backpack straps at school today?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:36 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was always a two strapper, and I'm super nerdy. So I didn't mind it.
posted by deezil at 7:37 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of '96, we definitely switched to two straps. Those books were fucking heavy.
posted by sweetkid at 7:41 PM on November 1, 2013


Seriously? This is a Thing?? Overthinking a backpack of beans...
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:42 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


We used one strap, but we also didn't have as much homework as way current kids do, we didn't carry water bottles (because they hadn't been invented yet unless you counted canteens) and we sure as hell didn't have laptops. Most of us didn't have skateboards. There's only so much that one shoulder can bear.

Kids who have to carry laptops AND heavy-ass books are definitely getting the worst of both worlds, mostly because electronic textbooks are not as common as they should be. If kids end up having nothing to carry but a slim tablet, as they probably will some day, then they may not even bother with backpacks and it will be back to messenger bags or some equivalent.
posted by emjaybee at 7:43 PM on November 1, 2013


Holy abuse of pie charts, Batman! Still, this tickles some nerdy sweet spot of mine that I didn't even know I had.

Messenger bag.
posted by Scientist at 7:44 PM on November 1, 2013


The kids I am acquainted with that go to really high-end schools have taken to using rolling bags because they have so much damn shit to carry.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:47 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I go both ways and look fabulous either with my professional backpack slung off one shoulder or securely mounted on both.
posted by planetesimal at 7:48 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of '91 what kinda nerd carries books?
posted by mrgroweler at 7:48 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


By the time I was in high school the world of adults who think they're cool had caught onto the whole one strap thing which meant that the kids had moved on to bigger and better uncomfortable fashion statements like too loose shoelaces.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:48 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem: "Remember those little tiny backpacks women wore when people started 2 strapping?"

<cherfromclueless.jpg>
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I went to high school we carried our books in our bare hands.
Up hill both ways.
posted by islander at 7:50 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I was such a dork that in high school (class of '02) I frequently not only two-strapped but also used the waist and sternum belts on my backpack. Which was an L.L. Bean of course, but a technical day pack with pouches and buckles and such rather than the usual minimalist affair. I still have that bag, actually. It's a goodun.
posted by Scientist at 7:50 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of '94, and I sometimes 2-strapped in high school because I was incredibly nerdy and deeply uncool and it wasn't going to make a damn bit of difference to my lack of popularity, but I had a shitload of heavy books to pack around. If I'd just been a little more confident, maybe I could have pulled it off as 'not caring', but I cared. I cared so much. I just couldn't handle the weight of my bag any other way.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:52 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is really, really cool.

I graduated from high school in 2002, and I definitely remember learning, freshman year, that two-strapping was nerdy. And then realizing, junior year when I had a shitload of books and my locker was in an inconvenient hallway, that two straps was way more comfortable. Senior year, the cool kids left their books in their cars.

The other big signifier is length of straps. Even during the transition period, a lot of the cooler kids would two-strap their backpacks, but with the straps almost comically long so the bag hung close to their ass. Nerds had short straps with the backpack in the proper mid-to-upper-back position.
posted by muddgirl at 7:54 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


2002. The same year bluetooth earpieces, blue LEDs and Danger Hiptops and cosplay conventions were everywhere. The year Nerd became too cool for nerds to allowed to be nerds around Nerds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:54 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Class of '98. I one-strapped for years, even though it was a strain on my back. I don't remember when I switched to two straps, but it was either my last year of high school or my first year of college. I remember how the right strap had gotten all limp and flat while the unused strap was still nicely cushioned.

I also remember getting a new backpack for college and, aside from the new thick straps, feeling weirdly unexcited about it. I loved getting new backpacks in middle and high school: they were status symbols, but also satisfied my nerdy organization needs. In college, there was suddenly all this other stuff to worry about, and backpacks just weren't interesting anymore, and I mourned that a little bit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:54 PM on November 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


After sophomore year in high school, it was all tote bags and big purses.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:00 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, in the late '90s, everyone got a messenger bag, which were meant to be one-strapped, looked good, were ultra hip in a dot-commie sort of way and were comfy. At that point, it seemed a bit poseurish to be one-strapping a two-strap bag, so might as well rock that back support. Then messenger bags fell right out of favor in the early aughts, when everyone at work got one to take their laptops home, and backpacks became too cool for school, and kids had to use a backpack with wheels and an extending handle to take their books to and from school.

I have a nice hand-made messenger bag from Etsy, '90s style, that is very unstylish and unhip and terribly practical and used for taking my corporate issue laptop home, but I secretly think it looks cooler than a backpack.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:03 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


...books go in your locker between classes and you only take home the books you needed, which usually wasn't very many.

No rolly wheeled suitcase bags? I remember rolly wheeled suitcase bags. With extendable handles.

Class of 2002, I ....don't think I had a bookbag? Maybe cause I lived within biking distance of the school? Messages bag was for your trapper keeper and notebook. I associate bookbags with harried graduate students and mud level tech guys dragging a laptop and lunch.

I did once figure ou how to carry my books on my head between classes. That was fun.
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of '91. I used a psychedelic swirled 1960's suitcase I got at a garage sale for fifty cents.
posted by Lucinda at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Another class of '94, and we definitely one-strapped it. My kid (class of '21) two-straps. She did a messenger bag for a year, but it was uncomfortable, so she switched to a backpack this year.

She carries more stuff home in 5th grade than I did as an overachieving senior in multiple AP classes.

She also inexplicably insisted on wearing the messenger bag strap extended to the point where the bag was at hitting at her knees and resisted all attempts to shorten the straps.

So - kids are weird.
posted by jeoc at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is just to say I am haversack 4 life bro.
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Class of 95, 1-strapping was the cool thing to do, but I sometimes 2-strapped because I was a huge nerd and had, along with textbooks, a half dozen hardcover books with me at all times too.

Now my problem with 2-strapping is just that it leaves me at some risk for theft.
posted by jeather at 8:07 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of 2000. One-strap all the way. I still do it when I need a backpack, because at this point it is a physical reflex.

I carried all of my books with me because even with extended passing times the school was too crowded to get from place to place easily, and a locker only made it worse. Somehow the staff was completely unaware of the traffic jams in hallways and laid down the law if you were not in your seat as the bells rang.
posted by cmyk at 8:08 PM on November 1, 2013


College Class of 82. Jansport daypack, one strap. And laptops didn't even exist. My lawn, get off it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:08 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


First world issues
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 8:08 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had one high school thread once that was dominated by Class of '99, but this one seems taken over by '02.
posted by sweetkid at 8:09 PM on November 1, 2013


This is my brothers but fake leather adidas bags...and they doubled as tobagans in the great white north...
posted by mrgroweler at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2013


We've come for your women, chuck.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of '99 so I guess I was in the transition period. And maybe reflective of that I did both: One strap for short distances, like between classes, and two straps if you had a ton of books or were walking a long way.

And, yeah, it was the skater kids at my high school who started 2-strapping before anyone else.
posted by mcmile at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2013



First world issues


Almost my whole extended family lives in India, they go to school and wear backpacks. I think they two strap now. But really, they go to school and have to carry books there, developing country and all.
posted by sweetkid at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Truly, the best of the web.
posted by codswallop at 8:12 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


1-strap vs 2-strap is the difference between rebellion vs conformity. The generation born post-1982 or so is more conformist than the two generations born 1942-1982 or so (Boomers and X). The conformist millennial kids vs rebellious parents.
posted by stbalbach at 8:12 PM on November 1, 2013


"If you wear your backpack with two straps, you are a nerd" sounds pretty conformist to me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also you can't ride a bike with one strap dude.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


The lines for X and Y generations are so arbitrary to me at this point ( and fall right around when my brother and I were born, and sometimes we're different generations which what?) as to be totally meaningless.
posted by sweetkid at 8:17 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I two-strapped it, graduated high school in '90, and people would occasionally call me a nerd over it and I'd buck right up to them, shoulder to shoulder, and say in their ear, "But I'm bigger than you, right?"

This semi-local store called Britches Great Outdoors had a lifetime guarantee on backpacks so kids would wear out one strap and take the thing into the store and just trade it in. As long as it still had the leather Britches patch on the outside pocket to show off where it came from they'd do a straight up trade for a brand new one, no receipt necessary. I went to H&H Camper's Haven in the city and got a royal blue Jansport backpack on sale which lasted me through college because two-strapping doesn't stretch out the seams. Mine was of superior manufacture, had more pockets, and smelled good. Those Britches backpacks all smelled like seed.

I find that one-strappers are typically slower to start running, to dive into the street and pull tykes out of danger, or to throw hands when such activities become necessary. Two-strappers suffer fewer pinched nerves. Offhand I can think of one drawback: two-strappers are more prone to heavy gravity fields administered by Geno "Mr. Penis Man" S. That fuckin' gravity field. I'm not bitter.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of 1986. We didn't do backpacks, we did duffel bags, if any bags at all. Mostly, we carried our books.
posted by xingcat at 8:21 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used a duffel bag in high school so one strap, but I used it to carry my Amiga 500 that I would bring in for one of my art classes. That was deeply nerdy.
posted by the_artificer at 8:22 PM on November 1, 2013


Also you can't ride a bike with one strap dude.

My glory days are long gone, but there was time when I could ride a bike while one-strapping, fiddling with the Walkman, and smoking a doob. Youth is wasted on the young.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:22 PM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was '02 and I mostly remember needing to bring so many books and other stuff home for homework that I would end up with a full backpack and my arms full of books, so two straps it was. I was also trying to non-conform by being as actively nerdy as possible, so there's that.

In college, my laptop came with an awesome backpack with sternum and chest straps and a rape whistle. Carrying a laptop to campus meant using all the straps.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:25 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suggest we add "one strap or two"? to the Millenial Voight Kampff test.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Pokemon is lying on its back

Why aren't you catching it?
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 PM on November 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


I also remember strict rules about carrying books in your arms. Boys could either carry them in one hand, down by the hip, spine down, or in the case of a big stack they could carry them with two hands in front of them, with the covers parallel to the ground. Under no circumstances was a guy to hold a book in two hands, cover pressed up against his chest. This was the "girly" way to carry books.

Conversely, girls didn't carry books to the side, in one hand, or someone would notice and say "Look, she carries books like a guy."

I don't know when this started or stopped but it was ironclad.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:32 PM on November 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Tom Ferguson part is so, so good, and makes this whole article worthwhile.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:33 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


what if you three-strap it all with the little plastic clip that goes on the front around your waist. that's super cool, right


Naw dog, FOUR straps. I have a chest strap and a waist strap, and I can carry an entire full sized male mannequin torso in that sumbitch so obviously it is the coolest.








(Class of 89, and I lived in the middle of nowehere so we had no idea.)
posted by louche mustachio at 8:34 PM on November 1, 2013


Huh. Southern California, class of 2000, and I don't remember one-strap vs two-straps as any kind of signifier. (We also had lockers, so a number of people didn't carry a bag except maybe to and from school. This didn't mean anything, either.) Iirc by my jr and sr years some of the cooler kids were starting to use messenger bags, though.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 8:36 PM on November 1, 2013


Since reading this I've noticed only single strapped people and kids so maybe it is making a comeback. Or maybe it is a white person thing. Wait there is a guy two strapping bit we are on the trolley and he's sitting with the bag to the front. I'd rather no strap with my bag on my lap.
posted by birdherder at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2013


Of course the answer is None Of The Above: no straps.

You need a bag with a handle. You know, so you can carry it by hand. If you carry a bag on your back, you are showing the world you are a beast of burden. You are a slave to the crap you carry around. A briefcase shows you only need to carry the stuff you immediately need, no more than you can carry in one hand without tiring. You are in transit between locations where all your crap is already waiting for you. Your crap serves you, rather than you serving it.

But the proper thing to do is no bag at all. Nothing in your pockets even. That is all crap that weighs you down. When I worked in the computer biz, the other guys would visit clients carrying big bags with paperwork, proposals, tool kits, diskettes, and more crap than they could ever use. But I used to do something entirely different, I called it "The Naked Consultant." I would visit clients carrying nothing. If I was expected to do anything of real value, it would be solely the product of my mind. The clients would provide any tools I needed, and their computers to work on. The most I ever carried was a single diskette or a contract to be signed (preferably a single page, folded in an envelope) tucked in my suit's front pocket. The product I was selling was me. This was a surprisingly bold and successful strategy. When I arrived onsite, clients would sometimes ask me, where's all my stuff? I told them, I didn't need any stuff. They were astonished when I could deliver on my promises, without any stuff.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:40 PM on November 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Interesting article on the history of the backpack as book bag. They started in the west in the late 60s with JanSport, evolved during the 70s, but took a while to catch on in eastern states during the 80s. The first LL Bean model was 1982, which didn't sell well but picked up over the decade. This fits with my eastern school experience, we didn't use back packs much in high school (class of 86) but did in college (class of 92).
posted by stbalbach at 8:42 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of '99. I think (aside from Milhouse, which I do actually believe is the definitive answer) the one-strapping as cool kid signifier was usurped by the uncomfortably low-hung double-strap.

Because we wanted our chronic back pain to be our chronic back pain, y'know?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 2000 in Michigan. One-strap in high school, messenger the first time through college and now on my second time through I two-strap, so do all my classmates. Although I notice many of them are carrying bags that are just drawstring bags with nylon cords for straps. Yuck. I refuse to use a wheeled bag. I'm older than most of my classmates but not that damn old.
posted by MaritaCov at 8:43 PM on November 1, 2013


The Whelk: "This is just to say I am haversack 4 life bro."

Bindle motherfuckers represent!
posted by Rock Steady at 8:46 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


stbalbach, that is interesting. Class of '83 here, and I remember we all carried backpacks starting in junior high. (Before that, believe it or not, almost never anything much to take home! Homework? We 70s kids had it good, didn't we?) They were almost always Jansport, which made sense because at the time they were made right here in Western Washington. I suppose they're all made in China, now.

The thought that some folks back East didn't use backpacks in the 80s is kind of amazing to me, as they were universal here. And, yes, one strap or you were very uncool. And, boy or girl, when not using the backpack it was only cool to carry books by your side, not in front of your chest.
posted by litlnemo at 8:49 PM on November 1, 2013


I also remember strict rules about carrying books in your arms. Boys could either carry them in one hand, down by the hip, spine down, or in the case of a big stack they could carry them with two hands in front of them, with the covers parallel to the ground. Under no circumstances was a guy to hold a book in two hands, cover pressed up against his chest. This was the "girly" way to carry books.

Conversely, girls didn't carry books to the side, in one hand, or someone would notice and say "Look, she carries books like a guy."

I don't know when this started or stopped but it was ironclad.


There is a really great scene in a really bad movie, which is either called Something Special or "Willy/Milly" about this girl who wishes for and gets a penis and this isn't a porn but like a 1986 kids movie and her dad is all ecstatic because he always wanted a boy and he drops off the newly masculine "Willy" at school and she walks all awkwardly with her books against her chest and then she tries to look more butch about it and fails. So this was definitely a thing in 1986 in movies about girls who wish for penises, at least.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:49 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The article is very comprehensive, but leaves out the pivotal factor that Miko mentioned: the addition of laptops. I think that the appearance of laptops fits with the presented timeline pretty closely. And not just laptops as we now think of them. Laptops that were, at first, almost 3" thick with big, clunky power adaptors.
posted by umbú at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bring back the book strap.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: definitely a thing in 1986 in movies about girls who wish for penises.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:01 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Book straps make me think I'm going to Hogwarts.


Wait

Can I go to Hogwarts?
posted by The Whelk at 9:02 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 98 and I distinctly remember switching to two straps sometime around sophomore year. Likely when that new cool guy showed up that did it too.
posted by chiababe at 9:02 PM on November 1, 2013


Ad hominem beat me to it. Mid-'80s I was always trying to figure out the book strap. Gave up and one-strapped it. Flute would never fit in the goddamn bag though, so of course I switched to trombone. No wonder I couldn't figure out the book strap.
posted by queensissy at 9:04 PM on November 1, 2013


One-strapped it through high school (class of 1994). Started two-strapping it in college, which seemed to be the majority opinion. It just made more sense: in high school I had a locker, could just grab the books I needed for the next class and didn't need a backpack; in college I would be out and about all day with a heavy load, needed the support.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:06 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of 92, one-strapper, but I was in NYC where one-strapping made it easier to swing your backpack into your lap when you sat down on the train, or to swing it to the front in massive jams of people. Also it was cool.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:09 PM on November 1, 2013


> The thought that some folks back East didn't use backpacks in the 80s is kind of amazing to me, as they were universal here.

Yeah we just carried books by hand, mostly that I recall. These small daypacks are part of the outdoor gear chic that moved from west to east (actually from west coast to the rest of the world).
posted by stbalbach at 9:09 PM on November 1, 2013


I used my mother's leather German satchel in like 7th grade and an old army backpack from my dad in 8th (yes, wore 2 straps). This was before kids wore backpacks. I graduated high school in 1983.

I was so nerdy in a total fucking looozer weirdo way.

I probably still am.
posted by Michele in California at 9:12 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of '98. Somewhere in the middle of high school I switched from one to two. I remember getting a certain sense that kids that were cool enough to not give a shit were starting to two-strap it. So I rode that wave big time. By the time I got to college it was all two straps, all the time for everybody except my roommate who seemed stuck back in the early 90s. (on preview: what chiababe said above)
posted by zsazsa at 9:25 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 2003. I never even noticed that messenger bags fell out of style.
posted by Iridic at 9:28 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


How can there be a class of 2028 already to survey about strapping habits? Is this article from the future??
posted by Joe Chip at 9:37 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I alternated depending on what was comfortable and then switched to a messenger bag in Junior High for no real reason.
posted by Redfield at 9:39 PM on November 1, 2013


In my cohort, 1-strapping began in 5th grade and deliberately differentiated from 2-strapped little kids. Then 2-strapping began again in high school (mid '90s), in part to repudiate something middle-schoolish...? Not at all sure about this. It was at least a little deliberate, I think, if not truly a matter of policy like the first time. Another possibility in all this is that maybe a quasi-objective theory is right. So, by the time I got to high school in the mid '90s, 2-strapping itself had gotten actually* cooler. This could mean that backpacks themselves improved in various ways and/or that '90s fashion evolved in ways that tended to erode actual earlier problems with 2-strapping--better limb mobility, you didn't look so much like a paratrooper, etc...

*backpacks were definitely at least potentially cooler in high school in potentially containing stuff like spray cans or boosted 40s instead of say inhalers and batmans and school supplies.
posted by batfish at 9:39 PM on November 1, 2013


96/00, messenger bags and also those hip backpacks that only had one strap (I love you 1999).
posted by dame at 9:48 PM on November 1, 2013


We even started with ESPRIT totes in 5th grade. And Sanrio pencil boxes.
posted by dame at 9:49 PM on November 1, 2013


How can there be a class of 2028 already to survey about strapping habits? Is this article from the future?? posted by Joe Chip 10 minutes ago [


Class of 2028 should be...3 year olds, currently.
posted by Michele in California at 9:51 PM on November 1, 2013


And Sanrio pencil boxes.

The coolest kid in our fourth grade class had all kinds of Sanrio shit. He had this rad as hell red backpack that he gave to me once he got a new one. It was so rad. Unfortunately, red backpacks don't make you cool.
posted by Redfield at 9:55 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In college, (1993-1998), it was one strap for the cool kids. I was a commuter who parked in the cheap lot in college, so I wore my military-spec A.L.I.C.E. pack with 21 credits' worth of engineering books on both shoulders, cool be damned.

Interesting. My high school (89-93) was heavily one-strap, but was juuuuuuust starting to flip when I graduated. Some of the sort of bohemian-type cool kids were going with two straps at that point. I also got an ALICE before college, but it seemed like everyone was doing two straps there anyway, and I certainly always did.
posted by LionIndex at 10:31 PM on November 1, 2013


The only thing that would make this article better is if it were about strap-ons and the switch from one strap-on to two strap-ons.
posted by medusa at 10:50 PM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The state of the art for strap-ons is actually no straps--underwear-style FTW!
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:58 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of 2004 from high school. I wore one strap when I lived in rural Minnesota (through 2002) then switched to both straps in 2003-04 when I moved to an urbanish Bay Area suburb. Absolutely two straps throughout college, where I was class of 2008.
posted by samthemander at 11:05 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of '99 here, and a militant one-strapper until adulthood. Not that I cared about looking cool, but at some point I guess I started doing it because I'd internalized it as the norm and it got to feeling natural (hey, that sounds like a familiar pattern). Heavy as hell, though. We technically had lockers but we weren't allowed to lock them, and we didn't have enough time between classes to go to them anyway. So if you were the type of student to be remotely prepared for class, you carried your books all day. Plus lunch. Plus whatever you needed for after school activities. Plus whatever you were reading for pleasure. Plus girl stuff. I don't know why we don't all have serious back issues.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:10 PM on November 1, 2013


In my first go around in school, it was all about the one strap because of whatever, who cares, but I'm not buying into the man's two strap system for holding us down.

Returning to college for some math + science, I pulled some ten year old black messenger bag (with a stitched drawing of Lain on it; a surprising conversation starter) out of the attic and loaded up the thinkpad, the ipad (with all the textbooks loaded), and a paper notepad, for a total of approx. 4.5 lbs and maxed out pad goodness.

Perhaps my bag was too 90's / 00's for my fellow students but it wouldn't have carried their load of 20-40 lbs of STEM textbooks, so they're all two strapping it and looking a bit miserable. I would have thought the kids, who were nearly half my age and in technical majors, would have figured out the various methods of finding books online, used part of their excessive loans on tablets / kindles, and skipped the daily slog.

Anyways, my method, though maybe not contained in a messenger bag, will probably be what the class of 2028 will use, unless wearables are mainstream by then. If they are, then the debate will be over 1 lens or 2. Nerds, and ironically jocks, will be all about the 1 lens as a way of emphasizing how they can multitask between the virtual and the real. The cool kids will be all 2 lens because, y'know, they wouldn't want to look at you anyways.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:13 PM on November 1, 2013


Class of 1988, and knapsacks were a sign of sexual deviance (but one-strapping might save you from taunting, maybe). It was all about the Adidas bag. Everything (texts, lunch, gym strip) went in there, and you sort of slung it awkwardly over your shoulder if you were tired, but to be a true baller you would just swing it at arm's length.

Also, the colours of the main body vs. the straps mattered. I used my dad's hand-me-down from his dalliance with squash; it was light brown with brown handles. Not the coolest thing in the 80s. I did manage to move on to a silver-handled blue-bodied one later on, provenance unknown, still a bad combo.

Here in Vancouver I see that all the hypercoolest kids at the university are sporting "Herschel" and "Kanke Fallen" (?) knapsacks these days. I rock a murse, 'cause I'm like 43 and shit and I just work there.
posted by thrind at 11:16 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 1986. I really don't even remember having any sort of book bag or backpack. I have no idea how I transported books and lunch and gym clothes back and forth from school, particularly in the rain and snow. And I took the bus so there was a lot of waiting around outside for the bus. I'm truly baffled. And old.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:34 PM on November 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


High school class of 2003. Australia. One-strap, though I personally switched to a messenger bag. I do remember there was a massive "public safety" push to get kids to go short-strap, two-strap AND waist strap. That just made us less likely to do it. I remember all the teens on Neighbours and Home & Away wore their bags this way (plus legionnaires hats, natch), which made us snigger.
posted by retrograde at 11:49 PM on November 1, 2013


'93, rich expensive exclusive private school. Nerds two-strapped. The masses one-strapped. But the really rich, popular jocks--sons of state senators and such--also two-strapped. They were also the only ones who could wear pink shirts.

Bag fell off my shoulder once, and my dad suggested I use both straps. I exclaimed, "I'm not two-strappin'!" in shock, and, apparently, blew his mind.
posted by darksasami at 12:16 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Highschool class of 1970, no backpack, red tartan waterproof book bag with handle, no straps.

In college, leather attache case.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:00 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 1994, Oregon. Had a locker and carried my books between classes, used the backpack going to and from school. One-strapped at school, two-strapped at home, because I had shoulder problems – I played baritone sax, and harnesses did not work for me (as an adult I finally solved the mystery when a bike shop told me I should think about getting a Camelbak designed for women since our shoulders are so different, "ding" went the connection with bari sax harnesses that hurt more than helped). Two strapped when I got to university because I cared more about my back than popularity, plus as a double music and French major my nerd cred was unassailable.

Oh and women, whenever you come across backpacks designed with women's frames in mind, try them out. They make a huge difference. I can't feel my women-designed backpacks apart from the extra, well-distributed weight, but all it takes is putting on a "regular" backpack for my shoulders to start feeling pinched and achey. It's the difference between having straps designed to actually distribute the weight on women, as opposed to on men. A men's pack hits differently, usually at the top of the shoulders on women. Ouch. (Men can test this by trying on a women's pack: it will cause similar, immediate discomfort.)
posted by fraula at 1:43 AM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Class of 89, and on the rare occasions that I bring my laptop home, I still use a backpack with one strap. Two straps just doesn't feel right, and if I pull the straps tight enough to fit properly, its a pain to take back off. One strap means all the same convenience as a purse or messenger bag.

Of course, on two wheels I use two straps for security and stability, out of necessity. I don't like it, though.
posted by davejay at 1:50 AM on November 2, 2013


In hindsight, I think two straps got trendy the same time big black glasses and tight-fitting shirts and jeans for men did, presumably to complete the tidiness of the look. It is a very earnest and not at all casual look.
posted by davejay at 1:53 AM on November 2, 2013


oh yeah, and the transit thing. two straps on a crowded bus or train is rude, and sitting means taking it off and putting it on your lap or leaning forward. i took two buses and a train each way in high school, so that mattered.
posted by davejay at 1:56 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 2003, DMV

One-strap in elementary and middle school.
Messenger bag at some point.
Two-strap with ridiculously long straps in high school.
Briefcase hipster things from college thru eternity (apparently).

In high school, I tried to keep with the one-strapping, but my bag was so heavy that in order to get it on I would arrange it on the edge of the desk and kind of slide into it. Plus, I always also carried an enormous duffel of sports gear, and you can't have a duffel AND a one-strap. And what if your backpack is super full and you also need to wear your purse?! But I always made sure to put my instrument in the orchestra closet before classes so I wouldn't have to carry it around all day because I uhhhh obviously didn't want to look like a nerd.

My backpack lasted me all through high school, and afterward I used it for traveling. It was some random Eastpack from Marshall's but I guess it was made to last! Then when I was in India last year, it literally fell to pieces over the course of one day. It was my only piece of baggage and jeez I just didn't want to believe it. Still don't have a replacement -- last time I went looking, the stores were only stocking laptop bags. You can't go traveling with a laptop bag, it's too small. And high schoolers definitely can't hide a 20/20 bottle in it. So what's the point?!

Anyway, the girls now seem to use those fancy little stiff shopping bags and/or tote bags, so I guess the strapping question is moot.
posted by rue72 at 2:39 AM on November 2, 2013


Thinking about this further, I always carried my backpack over my right shoulder and my violin (in a hard case) in my left hand. They worked as counterweights and left my dominant hand free.

There's probably a lot of DON'T YOU TELL ME HOW TO WEAR MY BACKPACK involved in this too, but I distinctly remember trying the backpack with both straps and feeling off balance because of the instrument added to it.
posted by cmyk at 3:02 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 90. One strap, forever.

Am I really the only one who is going to point out that (my) being fat makes it a lot harder to get into / out of two straps? It's really a pain in the ass and awkward to do it on those rare occasions when I have to. My arms are all big and chunky.
posted by marble at 3:45 AM on November 2, 2013


How can there be a class of 2028 already to survey about strapping habits? Is this article from the future??

My son is in the class of 2027, my daughter is class of 2029. Both are two strappers, with an Angry Birds and a pink floral backpack, respectively, although I can attest that cars, princesses, and superheroes are also popular motifs at their preschool. I have seen no one strappers among the toddler set, and there will be none at our preschool. My son is the Tom Ferguson of his Child Development Center; he always uses both straps and his admirers respond accordingly.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:52 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have two in the Class of 2026 (current kindergarteners) and they aggressively three-strap (two + chest strap). When they were babies, I used a diaper backpack instead of a traditional tote (twins = lots of stuff) and that's when I started two-strapping (I was high school '92 and college '96 so very much a one-strapper before). Now I am the family sherpa for trips to amusement parks, carnivals, etc. so I two-strap with a daypack, but usually I use a one-strap Healthy Back Bag as a purse.
posted by candyland at 4:26 AM on November 2, 2013


But two straps with the backpack around to the front is NEVER EVER cool.
posted by sammyo at 4:42 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 88, duffel bags for sure, so one strap. I got a leather backpack in my senior year and it was soooo cool. Kept it through college. One-strapped.

But at my first tech job when I got a laptop, they gave us all backpacks, and it was two-strap from there on out. The advent of the laptop changes everything - the weight distribution, the value of the thing you're carrying, etc. I predict only two-straps from here on out.
posted by nkknkk at 5:54 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 1975 here. In grammar school we used denim laundry bags slung over one shoulder to carry books but when I got into high school in '71 they were out. I can't recall what I immediately switched to but I ended up with a military surplus gas mask bag that I wore like a modern messenger bag. I wasn't cool, though.

Now, when I carry my backpack to work, I one strap but when out photographing I two strap my camera backpack.
posted by tommasz at 5:58 AM on November 2, 2013


So here is how I really internalize that I've gotten old: the kids have totally moved away from messenger bags - like, the thing to have was either a vaguely military bag or a bike messenger bag, a real one - and by kids I mean undergrads and mid-twenties - until a couple of years ago, and now it's all backpacks, and backpacks that I find just hideously naff, really ugly sporting jockish stuff with about a million plastic clasps and bits of netting. (The richest kids from out east have on-trend canvas ones with leather trim, but those are too on-trend for me even though they look nice; they just scream "2013 men's style blog".) Until the backpacks, I basically kept my accessories as trendy as I possibly could, just because I am really sort of a clothes horse, at least from a "buy used or vintage yet deeply trendy things on eBay" standpoint. And I decided I couldn't do it, I could not buy one of those horrible nylon canvas bags with padded straps and sport attachments, and this is how I know I've fallen out of touch with the zeitgeist. If I were still able to keep on-trend, I would authentically see those bags as the necessary next aesthetic step, I'd perceive their beauty and visual logic, and I'd want one too - I mean I switched to giant eighties glasses out of genuine fashion-progression concerns when those came in, and moved away from them when they went out...but I just see the backpacks as ugly and cheap, and it's the first step on the road to a tousled wash-and-wear hairstyle and dated clothes in a poly-cotton blend. (Unless poly-cotton blends are on trend, in which case I'll be wearing something else dated.) Oh well, in a hundred years we'll all be dead.
posted by Frowner at 6:00 AM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Class of 1996. I was always a one-strapper, like all of my classmates...until I moved to a new school in 1994. Everyone at the new school was a two-strapper. It was literally the first thing I noticed after my mom dropped me off on my first day. It took me about a week to change, but from that time on I became a two-strapper too.
posted by barnoley at 6:04 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 1982 in small town North Jersey and we definitely had zero straps, we just carried our damn books in our hands. Thinking about it, there might have been a ban on bags for fear of kids bringing knives or guns but it's been a long time and I don't remember.

I didn't own a backpack until college.
posted by octothorpe at 6:08 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


class of 1999

those canvas backpacks with leather trim were the standard pre-high school and, like everybody else, i one-strapped

switched to two-strapping at some point early in high school when i got a proper backpack (with padding, straps, etc.) and never looked back
posted by rap and country at 6:13 AM on November 2, 2013


It was all about the Adidas bag.

Yes! These things were everywhere. I had a red and blue one. I suspect the reason we had them was that they the cheapest thing going, knowing my parents. Vinyl bags, Jean jackets, flannel shirts and workboots that were never, ever done up: the Canadian school kid of 1980.

You carried them, swung them at other kids and stashed them in your locker at school. When waiting for the bus, it was acceptable for males to wear them as a backpack with handles on either shoulder. Girls could also put both straps on one shoulder, but that was too much like a purse for the average teenage guy.

It was probably a regional thing, but I don't recall seeing a lot of backpacks until university.
posted by bonehead at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 2008 (I think that's right, I'm in the UK and I've never used this 'class of' thing to refer to myself, anyway, I left school and started university in summer 08).

I can just about remember being told I should only wear one strap to look cool, I guess I was about 10 at the time, but pretty soon after that I think the window for it closed and I never heard of it again. As an older kid if I'd seen someone obviously one strapping (sometimes it's just a bag slung over one shoulder, sometimes it's one strapping, the difference is big, even though it's subtle) I'd think it looked super self conscious, as if someone were trying to mimic the 90s TV presenters of our childhood, who wore baggy jeans in front of faux-graffiti walls. The other picture one strapping evokes for me is spoilt American kids from cheap imported TV moaning at their 'moms' about 'baseball' or other alien concepts, in places like 'California' (I'm not really joking with the quotes there, I learnt what all of these things were from shitty dramas in my pre-teen years). I guess that was a part of 90's culture too but repackaged and given to a new audience. Imitating either of those groups of people was obviously uncool for us modern 2000s kids so we wore our bags on both shoulders with pride once we were sure the 90s had died. And what a sensible way to wear a bag that was.

Of course, to show you were cool you had the straps on it as long as they'd go so your bag bashed into your arse as you walked, but that obviously made sense, and you needed to prove that you were cool somehow.
posted by Ned G at 7:22 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 1978, and very few kids in my school even had backpacks. I recall thinking they were cool. But then again, I used to think crutches were cool, and having braces on your teeth was a mark of adulthood.

As for cool v. function, and a commuter's life (derail alert), two-strapping makes your pack a weapon on the DC-area subway. And so it's frequently two-strappers you'll find, and even more frequently unaware their pack is St. Bernard-sized. /derail
posted by datawrangler at 7:33 AM on November 2, 2013


My 10 year old has a rolling backpack
posted by shothotbot at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of '94. In junior high I rocked the Esprit long-handled tote bag - always off my right shoulder, which turned me lopsided and my mom dragged me to the chiropractor to put my shoulders even again.

Before and after that it was one-strapping all the way. I had pretty cute backpacks until junior year when AP classes started and I bought the biggest, most utilitarian bag Target had to fit all the giant textbooks. Never liked that bag. Still defiantly one-strapped its 20+ lb self though.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:54 AM on November 2, 2013


Class of 97. I used a vintage-style tennis bag like this one for the first few years of high school, during which I was a socially irrelevant nerd. Then, I made a transition to punk rocker for the second half of high school and took to just leaving my books at home, shoving a pencil and some folded sheets of A4 in my pocket, and eschewing the bag all together.

I carried this latter technique all the way through college.
posted by 256 at 7:55 AM on November 2, 2013




SoCal, class of 2006. Stopped bringing backpacks to school sophomore year. Used a large binder and a purse to hold everything else instead. Significantly cooler, slightly less convenient. Have back problems anyway.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2013


Over a hundred comments and no one's copped to this yet? I'll bite. I had so many books in seventh grade that I owned one of those giant rectangle bags meant to fit perfectly in a locker (there was no carrying of backpacks into class). No, not a Wiz, a knockoff. It is difficult to one-strap those, but I'm pretty sure that's what I did.
posted by clavicle at 8:49 AM on November 2, 2013


Hmm. Honestly I can't remember.

I graduated high school somewhere in the early nineties, and think I one-strapped it for a good while, doing horrible things to my spine by carrying ALL my books in my bag because I was weird about lockers for some reason. Somewhere in late hight school/early college I think I switched to two straps, despite learning the joy of leaving pretty much all my books in the locker for the whole year and not giving a shit.

Nowadays if I was going to use a backpack I'd definitely be two-strapping. But when I was recently shopping around for a good bag to carry my laptop, drawing tablet, and a few sundry essentials, I found myself staying the heck away from backpacks; I live near a university, and seem to feel a keen need to mark myself as Not A College Student. Students carry backpacks. Grownups carry messenger bags, suitcases, or purses. And I have this blue leather bag with both handles and a shoulder strap that reads mush more like a purse than anything else. It mostly ends up on my back, with the shoulder strap going diagonally, and usually with a water bottle attached to it with a carabiner.

I have no idea if this makes me cool.
posted by egypturnash at 9:09 AM on November 2, 2013


Seattle area, class of 1974. Don't remember ever seeing a backpack in high school, we had lockers and no one took books home for homework (actually, that was the way the school -- kind of experimental -- was designed). Didn't have a pack until college. Some days were single-strap, some were double (that college had a LOT of hills).

Today a backpack is way too much for what I usually carry, so I rock a heart-stoppingly blue Timbuk2 commuter bag, designed to hold a laptop if I need it to, but nice and compact if I don't.
posted by lhauser at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2013


HS class of 89 in New York City, and I one-strapped all through HS and college. My daughter (class of '12 in suburban Atlanta), on the other hand can't stand backpacks - she's a messenger bag kind of girl, as are most of her friends.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:16 AM on November 2, 2013


HS class of 1994 and a lifelong one-strapper. By college I'd switched to various oddball solutions including a giant vintage beach bag made of something like astroturf, a train case, oversized handbags, messenger bags and at peak pretentious, a dj bag. Once I got through freshman year survey classes and met my science requirements, I rarely had anything textbook sized to carry. (Perks of being a Lit major!)
posted by thivaia at 9:28 AM on November 2, 2013


Hearing members of the generations preceding mine describe one-strapping—a meaningless group-signifying act which inconveniences only yourself and which could only be a matter of complete indifference to any conceivable authority figure—as "anti-authoritarian" and "rebellious" explains so very much about US politics circa 1970-2000.
posted by enn at 9:34 AM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


We technically had lockers but we weren't allowed to lock them, and we didn't have enough time between classes to go to them anyway. So if you were the type of student to be remotely prepared for class, you carried your books all day. Plus lunch. Plus whatever you needed for after school activities. Plus whatever you were reading for pleasure. Plus girl stuff. I don't know why we don't all have serious back issues.

Ah, I’ve never quite understood why kids have had to carry giant backpacks for the last 20 years, and I still find it kind of depressing and bizarre. I graduated in ’82 (I think) and don’t know if anyone carried a backpack. Your locker was for your stuff, we didn’t take much home.
posted by bongo_x at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2013


... and no one took books home for homework

I almost never did homework at home in highschool so I didn't have many books to carry home. I either did it in study hall or in the class right before the one it was due in.
posted by octothorpe at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two other things to freak out you youngsters: we had an open campus, meaning that we could leave the school if we weren't in a class and go hang out at the deli or arcade; there was a designated student smoking area so that high-schoolers could go legally smoke a cigarette or two between classes.
posted by octothorpe at 9:46 AM on November 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


we had an open campus, meaning that we could leave the school if we weren't in a class and go hang out at the deli or arcade;

So jealous. We weren't even allowed to have lunch outside the lunchroom unless it was a special occasion like a club meeting with a teacher present.
posted by sweetkid at 10:15 AM on November 2, 2013


I would have been class of 93 I assume ( we don't do that 'class of' thing in the UK ) but I never had a backpack/rucksack at school. I was terrified of being accidentally uncool, so went for deliberately uncool as a kind of self defence thing. I had this huge carry all bag that would now swallow my flight hand luggage bag. I never knew what day of the week it was* so it carried all my books, all my notes, and my gym kit. Come to think of it, it's the kind of bag that I now associate with kids taking various assault rifles to school...

Back on topic, what's the deal with the foreign language students ( I assume Italian ) who swarm over Cambridge every summer, all carrying their backpacks double strapped on their fronts?

* My school did a stupid 6 day rolling week, so the first Monday was day 1 and Friday day 5, then the next week would start on day 6, move on to day 1 on Tuesday and end on day 4. Next week started on day 5... It probably had its advantages, but for me it just lead to permenant confusion and a back problem...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:20 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Class of 1996, and I'm geekily proud of myself that my first thought was "duh, skaters and underground hip hop."

In my high school, the shift started around 1994, and was definitely led by the skaters or those who wanted to look like skaters.

In college, though, it was all about the messenger bag.
posted by lunasol at 10:24 AM on November 2, 2013


Oh, and yeah, middle school was dominated by the Esprit totes. Those were the worst, least practical bags for carrying books - long, thin straps, ugh.
posted by lunasol at 10:26 AM on November 2, 2013


I am still kind of amazed that schools were able to get away with getting rid of lockers, and that they were able to use the "drugs and guns" and "all kids are bad" kinds of excuses. How is making all the kids carry all their books all day long better for them, exactly? The idea that because a few kids may have some sort of forbidden items in their lockers therefore means we will get rid of all lockers forever...like those kids won't just find some other place to keep their weed.

Another thing to blame on the war on drugs, man.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Two other things to freak out you youngsters: we had an open campus, meaning that we could leave the school if we weren't in a class and go hang out at the deli or arcade; there was a designated student smoking area so that high-schoolers could go legally smoke a cigarette or two between classes."

Heh. I was class of '97, and we had an open campus and a designated smoking area that they closed at the end of '96, to much consternation.

As for straps, I was mostly a one-strapper, though I'd often two-strap it when I had a lot of books. After high school, two things happened: I went on a road trip with a buddy who bought a Manhattan Portage messenger bag that he promptly abandoned, so I swiped it when we lived together (it's the bag I still use to carry my laptop today), and I went on a backpacking trip in Europe, where I had a huge four-strapper that I still use as luggage today. That mostly normed the two-straps.

But when I'm shooting photos, I usually lug my cameras in a backpack and one-strap so that I can sling it quickly around to swap cameras.
posted by klangklangston at 1:03 PM on November 2, 2013


If you carry your backpack in the front, it's harder to steal from it.

I had cheap backpacks that I would destroy by overloading at the beginning of high school. But since I never opened by backpack at home, I stopped carrying so many books and kept my black noname backpack for the last three years.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2013


I had a backpack with wheels for the first few months of freshman year (class of '03). If two-strapping was bad, wheels were ten times worse, but my books and notebooks weighed about 20lbs and we didn't have lockers. It took about another year to recover socially from the wheel backpack.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:08 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about this--the move to two strapping coincided with the increase in mobile phones and other highly portable electronics. Two strapping provides greater flexibility in the use of arms and hands. One strapping requires greater finesse in balance and limits some movements--harder to reach portable electronics, shift hands, hold, use keyboard, etc. I missed all this but use a back pack while traveling. Quite simply--two strapping frees one up for a greater range of activities.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:43 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


one time in sixth grade, during a mile-long walk home from the bus stop, my backpack was crammed absolutely full of heavy books. but two-strapping was so uncool that I alternated left shoulder, right shoulder, left shoulder, right shoulder until both shoulders ached and I couldn't bear it any longer. I two-strapped for the final couple blocks, terrified the whole time someone would see me. 1994.
posted by changeling at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Old school two strapper here: for hiking and backpacking.
posted by mrhappy at 2:31 PM on November 2, 2013


Class of 1988 here. Two straps in my American high school, because the load of homework I had every day required some muscle to drag home. In my German high school, one of those nice leather satchel things, one sturdy strap across the chest, with the satchel resting against my hip.

These days, my purse is a little-bitty backpack, and I still two-strap it, with the little front strap also secured. Makes it harder to snatch my purse!
posted by MissySedai at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2013


You guys had backpacks? We had addidas gym bags that you carried over your shoulder. Until over the shoulder carrying got banned because the little librarian got whacked in the head.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me it was never about status but convenience. One-strapping saved valuable time as you could just pick up the bag and sling it over a shoulder. And if you needed to get something out of it while on the go, you could just swivel it around so that it was partly in front of you, and you had access to the zippered parts, or at least the smaller zipper area at the back. Putting on two straps feels like putting on a jacket in comparison.

I seem to recall there was a duffel bag trend briefly during middle school -- the cylindrical kind, where you'd put your books in two stacks. I had one of those for at least one year, but I never used the shoulder strap as I was far too clumsy to get in and out of it gracefully, so I just carried it by the handles with one hand everywhere.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:03 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I one-strapped my L.L. Bean backpack or carried a messenger bag until the last two years of high school, when it just got too heavy (and I had two reed instruments, music folders, soccer stuff, etc. to carry around). There are pictures of me two-strapping toward the end of high school. I also seem to recall two-strapping in college. I got a messenger/laptop bag on Etsy after college, and now I'm looking for an upgrade.
posted by limeonaire at 4:14 PM on November 2, 2013


Old school two strapper here: for hiking and backpacking.

FWIW, I was also a hiker and backpacker in high school. I two-strapped on the trail, but one-strapped at school. To me these were different contexts (and in the case of backpacking, a totally different pack which was impossible to carry one-strapped).

The other thing that used to bother me about using both straps was that it messes up your clothes. When you changed classes 7 times a day and had to put the pack on and off, shrugging out of two straps would really pull at a sweater/wrinkle a shirt.
posted by Miko at 4:32 PM on November 2, 2013


God forgive me, I carried my books in a briefcase. No strapper.
posted by mediocre at 4:42 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had no idea schools have gotten rid of lockers. Kinda blows my mind - decorating your locker was a big enough thing that I remember it more than I remember what kind of bag I used (never a backpack fwiw, I didn't buy one until I got to college. I think I just carried any books I needed to take home by hand. Class of 1993).
posted by triggerfinger at 5:14 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had no idea about the locker thing either! How are you supposed to store books? Or supplies? Or a scarf if it got cold? Or projects for classes later in the day, etc? I had the same, we didn't decorate lockers in any major way but there was a Thing about what kind of lock you used. ( the school had emergency cheapo locks for kids who showed up on new locker way with no locks.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2013


So with no lockers are you supposed to carry your winter coat, hat, gloves etc to every class? That would seriously suck.
posted by octothorpe at 5:43 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Graduated HS in early 90s. No bag in HS. In college, two straps, though no one else did it that way.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 5:51 PM on November 2, 2013


Who did one strap? Class of 06 and that was always thought of as a clear path to back problems. I guess being counter culture and all was cool but noone ever seemed to prioritize that over two strapping, even the 'cool kids'.
posted by Carillon at 10:13 PM on November 2, 2013


One advantage to one-strapping it is that you can quickly fling off the backpack and issue a beat down with it.
posted by planetesimal at 10:20 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The thought that some folks back East didn't use backpacks in the 80s is kind of amazing to me, as they were universal here."

Class of '82 in the southwest, here — I can't say with certainty that there no one at my high school used a backpack, but I don't recall any. As others have mentioned, pre-backpack we just carried our books in our hands.

Years later, when I did regularly use a backpack for a while, I would only two-strap when riding a bike. Two-strapping while walking around strikes me as very dorky in a all-bundled-up-wearing-your-mittens-in-the-cold-don't-wander-out-of-the-front-yard sort of a way. One-strapping says "relaxed, casual" while two-strapping says "Vote 'Tracy Flick' for Class President!" or "the hike leaves basecamp in thirty minutes".

I find it amusing to think that these pre-1996 fashion sensibilities apply to the psychology of post-1996 two-strapping kids, but that's silly. The fashion just changed for whatever reason. Probably that the textbooks got bigger and heavier.

And that really is a thing. I had a bunch of friends who worked as textbook editors, from middle-school through college, at a major publishing house in the 90s, and it is absolutely true teachers/districts looked for that hefty "thunk" of the book on the table when evaluating competing textbooks. And also the quantity of supplemental material which they, ironically, rarely ended up using, but that's a different, but related, discussion. But high school textbooks have gotten bigger.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:15 AM on November 3, 2013


I went from one strap to two straps just about they started making backpacks that could take laptops.

That is all.
posted by the cydonian at 1:26 AM on November 3, 2013


So apparently this is the week I talk about what a ridiculous person I was when I was younger, because from the age of 15 onwards I neither one-strapped nor two-strapped but instead carried my dad's old brown leather briefcase everywhere. Inside was a little wooden box of a pencil case with the dip pen and ink which everyone thought were an affectation, but which were actually the only way I could cobble together legible handwriting. I later found out that I was known in school as 'briefcase girl'. I also wore woolen waistcoats, alternating occasionally with sleeveless fairisle jumpers, and long thermal underwear. I guess at some crucial point in my school life I gave up on the whole idea that I would ever be socially acceptable and decided instead to say 'fuck it' to everyone. The funny thing is that I'd have made the best vintage-hipster kid with all my oldey-timey clothes and accessories and the jam making (my girlfriend and I took in jars of it to give to our A-Level teachers) and crochet and so forth, but it was 1999 and I was just weird.
posted by Acheman at 1:54 AM on November 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tom Ferguson: The hero we needed but didn't deserve. Of course he lives in Asheville today. Of course.

To be fair, now that Slate has written an article about it, two-strapping will be verboten again.
posted by Skwirl at 10:45 AM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a deft signifier of Generation X versus Generation Y:

"THEY want me to wear two straps? I'm not doing that. Big Backpack wants you to wear out two straps at once so that you'll have to replace them both. Follow the money, man!"

versus

"My mom's worried about my back, so she's going to give me a ribbon for always wearing two straps. As soon as she gets done doing my college applications."
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:33 PM on November 1 [52 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


It isn't every day that a Metafilter comment can make me walk across the house to read it out loud to my wife, but today is one of those days.
posted by 4ster at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd have made the best vintage-hipster kid with all my oldey-timey clothes and accessories and the jam making (my girlfriend and I took in jars of it to give to our A-Level teachers) and crochet and so forth, but it was 1999 and I was just weird.

Absolutely everything associated with vintage-hipster-chic has been around as a style statement for a long time - it's odd to me that it all became mainstream all at once, but I guess we chalk that up to the sheer numbers of the milennials, which just make it all so much more visible, a well as more viable to a paying market. But yeah, I can't think of a single thing that's a big trend now, in terms of material culture or hobbies that are thought of as cool, that some peers of mine weren't doing in the 80s or 90s.
posted by Miko at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


enn: "Hearing members of the generations preceding mine describe one-strapping—a meaningless group-signifying act which inconveniences only yourself and which could only be a matter of complete indifference to any conceivable authority figure—as "anti-authoritarian" and "rebellious" explains so very much about US politics circa 1970-2000."

Believe it or not, it drove parents and teachers NUTS. I'm not kidding.
posted by desuetude at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


explains so very much about US politics circa 1970-2000

Mm hmm. Yeah, that balanced budget and long run from the late 80s-2001 of a prosperous nation at peace focused on the domestic economy, built on the previous decades' expansion of human rights for women, gays, minorities -- that was all so juvenile, right? So, what teen behavior explains US politics now?
posted by Miko at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


"but when the officers make their debut at school, times have changed... “Everybody’s two-strapping it,” notes Schmidt."

It continually impresses me that script writers are so on top of culture. Sometimes it's ham-handed, but often it's either insightful or far enough ahead of the time that it defines where culture goes.
The generational shift to two-strapping is just another minor observation tapped briefly for one joke.

So I assume that writers do a bunch of brainstorming (comedy script ideas have the feel of things bounced around the room) but people in that room are clearly also doing more people-watching than me.
posted by anonymisc at 4:46 PM on November 3, 2013


So, what teen behavior explains US politics now?

Technically it would be that teen behaviour circa 1970-2000; those kids have grown up now and become members of congress.
posted by anonymisc at 4:49 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


people in that room are clearly also doing more people-watching than me

It helps to have your own kids. It really hooks people into a world that's otherwise relatively invisible.
posted by Miko at 6:35 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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