Tailored Jackets and Backpacks Do Not Mix

How to ruin your jacket quickly: wear a backpack or messenger bag over it.

Backpacks and other over the shoulder bags are very popular ways of carrying your things, thanks to the practical nature of them. They are a staple of young people’s accessories. The familiarity means both are popular choices among men entering the professional workforce. Unfortunately, this means they are often worn over suits and blazers; a sure-fire way to ruin the jacket quickly.

How does wearing a bag damage a jacket?

Many tailored jackets are constructed using padding in the shoulder area to create the desired silhouette. This padding is sewn between the lining and the outer fabric of the jacket.

Just like the padding of a chair, the padding in a jacket shoulder compresses when pressure is put onto it. When a chair becomes well-used, that padding will doubtlessly sag from continued exposure to compression.

A Dip On Your Shoulder

The straps of backpacks and over the shoulder bags are narrower than the width of a padded shoulder. The consequence of this is that continued wear from a strap putting pressure on the shoulder padding creates a divot (dip) in the shoulder line, effectively ruining the jacket.

A very quick way to ruin an expensive jacket/suit!

Are there any exceptions to the rule?

Yes, if you wear an unstructured jacket there will not be any padding to worry about.

Related reading: Choosing a Suit Jacket Pt. 2: The Construction

What can you do that will not harm your jacket?

There are a couple of options.

1. Use A Bag That You Carry By Hand

A possible alternative is to ditch the backpack and go for something hand carried. I use a vintage briefcase (soft ones are more aesthetically appealing than structured, unless you are a high profile businessman). You could also consider a weekend bag, mini duffel or even an old-school doctor bag (I have seen some people utilise these and it can look great if your vibe suits it).

I like a hand carried bag for businesswear as it carries a more professional appearance. I like it for every other type of outfit too. With popular options for bags including leather and canvas, it is easy to find a bag that suits whatever you prefer on the scale of casual to professional appearances.

To me, backpacks give off a schoolboy vibe. A bag carried by hand is much classier.

2. Remove Your Jacket When Wearing Your Backpack

If you do not think any of the aforementioned options are your style and would prefer to keep wearing a backpack or over the shoulder bag, the easiest option is just to remove your jacket whenever you wear your pack.

Some bags I would recommend for a stylish look

R.M. Williams Medium Overnight Bag (buy here)

R.M. Williams have a good reputation for building quality leather goods. This overnight bag would be great for those occasions when a briefcase sized bag is not big enough.

Republic of Florence ‘King Servio’ Briefcase (buy here)

I particularly like this one because it resembles the vintage briefcase that I use. While the thought of a briefcase probably conjures up the image of stuffy salesmen, soft-structured briefcases like this one are quite stylish in my opinion. Like my case, this one has a detachable strap which is good if you do want to turn it into an over the shoulder bag when you are not wearing a jacket.

Republic of Florence have a great selection of leather bags so make sure to check them out.

That’s all for today!

Thanks for reading. Make sure to treat your jacket nicely and do not wear a backpack over it!

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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