I’m a Londoner, so I see a lot of people with rucksacks around. But recently on the tube, I saw a gentleman in a sad, oversized suit, and what’s worse, he was wearing a backpack with it. So, it got me thinking, can you wear a backpack with a suit, and if you can, can you look good?
Generally, you should not wear a backpack with a suit, as it will push down on the structure of the shoulders, bending them out of place, and wear away the material over time. However, there are ways you can bring a rucksack into a formal setting, and pull it off well.
This article will cover the ultimate question of ‘can and should you wear a backpack with a suit’, the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, and how to do it correctly.
Do Backpacks Damage Clothes
Backpacks damage clothes over time by continuously rubbing in the same area, causing friction. This eventually wears away at material, leading to an unrepearable hole, or visibly damaged cloth.
However, for things to get to this stage, you’ll likely need to wear the same backpack for a long time with the same clothes – the damage typically takes a long period of consistent rucksack wearing with the same top to do any real damage.
This is especially true as most materials will be able to withstand the friction provided by a backpack, sometimes indefinitely.
There’s really three factors that determine how likely a rucksack is to damage your clothes:
- The material of your clothes
- The backpack strap
- Strap tightness.
So, if you’re wearing a rucksack with a thick hoodie, I wouldn’t stress about damaging it, as the material has higher than average durability, and can withstand a lot of beating.
You’d only really be looking at damage on very fine materials with consistent backpack use.
Some backpacks have a rougher inside, such a ‘mesh’, to help with grip.
These straps rubbing up against clothing will do more damage than a smooth, bald strap.
If your rucksack is tight to your back, it will move around less, and cause less friction.
Consider tightening the straps if you’re worried about damaging your clothes.
Do Backpacks Ruin Suits?
So, in the last section I’ve covered if rucksacks, in general, damage clothes. And, the answer was really ‘no’.
There is a specific concern with people worrying if a backpack will ruin a suit.
Here, I would say that yes, prolonged backpack wearing over a suit jacket could potentially reduce its visual appeal, especially in the shoulder areas. It could even cause holes.
The shoulder is one of the most difficult parts of a suit to make, and fit to get right, as it has to produce a clean line to look proper.
By wearing a rucksack or backpack, you are putting strain on the shoulder area – prolonged usage could permanently ruin the shoulder line by morphing the fabric downwards.
This would result in a bumpy and uneven shoulder line.
And, if you don’t care about this detail, I get it – no everyone does. A suit’s a suit to some.
But unlike a thick hoodie, suit material can be quite fine, luxurious and delicate, especially if your suit has a high thread count. In these cases, the friction caused by the backpack can rub the fabric and weaken it, which can lead to fraying and potential holes.
Can You Wear a Backpack With a Suit?
I would say that you should not wear a backpack with a suit. It’s not worth potentially damaging the shoulder and material for a little extra convenience, and I feel that there are more professional alternatives, such as briefcases, that will help put you ahead instead of ruining your clothing.
How to Wear a Backpack With a Suit?
But, if you really, really want to wear a backpack with a suit, I have a few suggestions:
- Purchase a ‘fashion’ backpack
- Wear it appropriately
- Don’t put much in it
Get Yourself a Fashion Backpack
Rucksacks in generally are ugly, unfashionable items. And, though some may be decent looking and pair well with casual ensambles, no typical backpacks should be worn with professional attire.
If you’re going to do it, you have to do it with intent, and that starts with purchasing a ‘fashion backpack’.
Typically fully leather, on the smaller side, and with metal detailing, fashion backpacks are statement pieces which exude a youthful personal style.
An example of this is this SuitSupply offering:
If you don’t like it, then unfortunately you shouldn’t be wearing a backpack with a suit.
Wear Your Fashion Backpack Appropriately
Now that you have your fashion backpack, you have to wear it as intended.
This can again be seen in this look from SuitSupply.
You’ll have to carry the backpack in your hand to avoid all of the disadvantages mentioned previously. This may seem silly considering the main purpose of a backpack is for the utility of wearing it on your back, but you’d ruin that awesome sports coat.
And, though this sort of look might fit your style exactly (though the outfit is killer), carrying a backpack in your hand in professional situations isn’t for me, nor probably 99.9% of people.
The adjustment tabs will get caught on things and trip other people up, and it’s all in all just an inefficient item.
On top of this, as you are carrying it like any other piece of luggage, its initial selling point is made redundant, so you may as well look at getting something that’s made for hand carrying, such as a briefcase.
But what if you STILL want to wear your fashion rucksack on your back?
Don’t Use It As a Typical ‘Back Pack’…
You ‘could’ still wear your backpack on your back. However, to do it in a ‘stylish’ way, I would recommend only wearing the strap over your dominant arm, and using it to support it.
This way, you help lessen the unprofessional ‘schoolboy’ look.
But feel it would look very strange with a traditional business suit. You could only really pull it off well in a trendy environment, with a trendy suit.
Moreover, though fashion backpacks will likely be free of rough materials to wear away at your suit jacket, putting anything of weight in them will still lead to the disadvantage of ruining the suit shoulders, so you should carry as little as possible in there, again leading to the conclusion of redundancy.
Is a Backpack Professional?
Some wonder if a backpack is a professional item.
They are made and created with utility in mind, and generally carry that look, so I would not consider a backpack a professional item. However, at a stretch, you could probably pull off a leather backpack with simple detailing in a professional setting if you carried it as a briefcase. Wearing an item on your back is not professional.
The way you carry your items conveys messages about what sort of person you are.
And, as mentioned, a backpack is a utility item. A more formal carrier in a professional situation shows you care, and conveys a professional nature. On top of this, if you’re serious about style, it will likely fit in with the rest of your wardrobe well.
Not to mention that when you hear the word ‘backpack’ or ‘rucksack’, many immediately think of an inexperienced school or college student.
A backpack is appropriate for these casual situations where utility is accepted, but not for professional ones where you have to make an impression.
Conversely, when you hear the word ‘professional’, you probably think of a business man with a briefcase – there’s a reason it’s not a backpack.
Should You Bring a Backpack to an Interview?
Some people wonder if you should bring a backpack to an interview, or use another type of storage device like a portfolio, attache case, or briefcase.
As a rule of thumb, I would say you can wear a backpack to an interview if it goes with the way you are dressing. For example, if you are going into an interview casually dressed, you can use a backpack, but if you’re going in with a suit, I would try and find something more professional.
This way, you don’t take any chances, and match the formality level you’re in.
Conclusion – Can You Wear a Backpack With a Suit?
This article has covered if you should, and can, wear a rucksack with a suit.
And, it may have seemed like a lot to tell you not to.
But if you follow the outlined advice, you’ll probably thank me in the long run. And hey, if you try it out in the aforementioned way, it might work for you, and become part of your style.