Back to School

Backpack Style Guide 2021: How to Choose the Right Backpack for School


Backpacks are a great way to show off your personal style, as well as get all the functionality you need for school, gym, practice and everything in between. Find out which go-to backpack brands have stood the test of time, the best styles for school use, top 2021 trends and more. 

How to Choose the Right Backpack for School?

Choosing the right type of backpack can be as simple as knowing what your day-to-day needs are. If you carry around a lot of books or a laptop, a traditional style might be better for you. If you also need to lug around your cleats or some gym clothes, a duffel bag might make more sense. Think about all the places you need to be throughout the day and what items you need to carry – then you can make a decision on what type of backpack or bag is best for you. 

Types of Backpacks & School Bags

Discover different types of bags and backpacks that can help yourself or your child get ready for the new school year and show-off some personal style.


These are your traditional backpacks or school bag that can carry your books, tablet, laptop, and most other school essentials. There are also larger Basketball Backpacks like the Nike Elite Pro Hoops, that can carry your sneakers, clothes, wattle bottle and even a full size basketball, so you can stay ready for practice to pick-up games at the park.

Crossbody Bags

Perfect for holding your essentials like your phone, keys, wallet, chapstick & more. Crossbody bags are great while hanging out with friends after school or going to a music festival.

Waist Packs

Waist pack. Hip pack. Fanny pack. Whatever you choose to call them, they are another great option that is sporty and ready to go when you are. Fanny packs and other small item bags have made a comeback and make for a great fashion accessory.

Duffel Bags

Game on! Perfect for athletes that need to keep their sports gear in a larger bag away from their school supplies. Duffel bags are also versatile and can be used as luggage for trips or sleepovers.

Drawstring Bags

Lightweight and fun. While not recommended to hold heavy items like books or be your everyday bag for school –  they are a super handy bag for quick day trips. Plus, the drawstring helps keep your items safe as there is no zipper for quick-handed pick-pockets to slide open.

Find the Best Brand for You 

After you decide what type of bag works best, you can get to the fun stuff: researching brands. You can’t go wrong with one of these top styles.

Nike Backpacks

Nike is one of the undisputed champions of athletic apparel, and that applies to its backpacks as well. The brand constantly refines classic styles such as the Nike Heritage Air Max Backpack and Nike Tech Hip Pack. Any backpack or bag with the Swoosh signifies that you mean business when it comes to sport & style.

Jordan Backpacks

Jordan brand represents the iconic player’s signature style with classic branding like Jumpman and the number 23. Update your back-to-school look with a retro-inspired choice such as the Jordan Jumpman Crossbody Bag or the eye-catching Jordan Jersey Backpack

adidas Backpacks

European brand adidas has signature branding elements, such as three stripes and trefoil, which look great on all sorts of bags, including the adidas Originals Santiago II Duffel Bag. Try some of adidas’ newer styles to really maximize your personal brand, such as the adidas Originals Clear Festival Bag, a spin on a crossbody bag. 

Champion Backpacks

Champion is a legacy brand that has recently had a resurgence in popularity. The brand is over 100 years old and still resonating with style stars. If you want a fun updated style, try the Champion Exploration Mini Backpack. It has tons of pockets and a drawstring to keep all your important items safe. 

Herschel Backpacks

A little more than 10 years ago, Herschel or The Herschel Supply Co. had a goal of creating timeless utility products that people would want for years to come, relying on quality and simplicity of design. If you’re looking to get started with the brand, try the Herschel Classic XL Backpack for your back-to-school needs.

The North Face Backpacks

Popular in the hiking and camping community, backpacks and bags by The North Face are durable and tough but also look on-trend. You can’t go wrong with The North Face Jester Backpack, which has bungees to add even more room to hold everything you need for a day away from home. 

Top Backpack Trends for 2021?  

There are a few kinds of backpacks and bags that have pulled forward to the front of the fashion pack this year. Find out about what’s trending now.

Fashion Bags and Mini Backpacks

Fashion bags are more fashion than bag. For example, a lot of fashion bags can’t hold a ton of textbooks. They’re essentially an alternative to a handbag or small item bag. The same goes for mini backpacks as well. Adorably small, these hands-free handbags have the best of both worlds: the ease of a backpack with the fashion sense of a purse. The brilliance is that you can put one inside a larger backpack as its own storage pouch or even wear it in addition to your regular backpack.

Basketball Backpacks and Duffel Bags

A basketball bag or duffel bag can be a great way to easily transport a lot of stuff, especially gear for gym or sports. Basketball bags have built-in considerations for sweaty situations, such as padded shoulder straps to help carry the weight and ventilated compartments for wet and dry clothes. They are made of durable materials to help keep your stuff safe from the car to the gym and back again. Duffel bags are similar but might be scaled up or down in size, depending on the brand. Both basketball bags and duffel bags have options to carry the bags by a long strap or by shorter handles depending on preference.

Lunch Bags & Totes 

Don’t forget the lunch bag! Look for lunch bags or totes that have lots of pockets, are insulated and have a handle or strap to make transporting your midday meal easy. With all those key features, some stylish branding is simply a bonus.

Hip Packs and Crossbody Bags

Whether you know them as hip packs, crossbody bags or fanny packs, there’s no denying that this style of bag is super popular. They’re big on style and have a ton of storage. Plus, they can pop perfectly into a larger backpack. You can wear them across your front or even carried by a single strap over one shoulder. Their ease-of-use and versatility is what keeps this style looking fresh.

Shop the Best Backpacks for School

Need help narrowing it down? There are a few super classic styles that have been standbys for a long time thanks to their durability, timelessness and appeal. The Nike Heritage Air Max Backpack is great for minimalists seeking sleek design. The Jordan Jumpman Backpack is for basketball fans who want to pay homage to one of the sport’s greatest players. And the adidas Originals Trefoil Backpack is for any kid wanting to balance style with practicality when going back to class.

Be Backpack-Ready for Back to School this Year!

The latest in athletic backpack styles prove that fashion and function go hand-in-hand, allowing you to be as on-trend as you are organized. Stock up on back-to-school shoes, backpacks, clothes and more at your local Finish Line store or shop online and pick-up in store

Have you already picked out your 2021 back-to-school backpack? Show us on social by tagging @finishline