Once upon a time... The satchel

An object historically used by schoolchildren to carry their school materials, the school bag has continued to evolve and become more popular.  What if we returned to the origins of this utility object that became a fashion accessory? Let us tell you the story… Of the schoolbag !

A little etymology

“School bag” for the Le Robert dictionary, “bag with handles or straps in which schoolchildren put their notebooks, books, etc. » for Larousse, the schoolbag undoubtedly designates an object used by schoolchildren. Historically rectangular in shape, it is intended to carry school materials thanks to its handles, straps and/or shoulder strap. But where does the word “schoolbag” come from?

Its etymology comes from the medieval Latin word chartabulum which describes a paper container. Originally, the satchel took the form of a pouch or a large wallet in which you stored your papers. The word “schoolbag” as we know it only appeared in 1900 in the dictionary to define a “leather bag for schoolchildren”. Fun fact : in Quebec and Norman Switzerland, a “binder” means… a binder!

19th and early 20th centuries: the “homemade” satchel

The first satchels were literally "handmade": at the time, school supplies (pen, ink) were expensive, limiting households' spending on a leather satchel. The parents of the little schoolchildren then show their imagination and create canvas school bags. From the 19th century, they adorned it with a shoulder strap; the bags are certainly more solid, but uncomfortable and do not protect against bad weather or shock. In mountainous regions, school bags even transform into multi-functional objects: made of wood, they become sleds when the end of school comes!

At the beginning of the 20th century, the satchel exchanged its shoulder strap for two straps. Schoolchildren thus begin to carry their bags on their backs; it becomes more comfortable and practical on a daily basis. However, leather models are always expensive. The most modest households then opt for the alternative solution of the boiled cardboard school bag. The latter are worn more by boys, while girls tend to use wicker baskets. As school became compulsory from 1882, more and more children were sent to school, which led to a considerable increase in the wearing of schoolbags.

Since 1970: the satchel as a fashion accessory

Throughout the 20th century, the satchel was transformed to become more and more solid and comfortable. Families find a trick to make leather models last as long as possible: thanks to their robust material, they can be passed down within siblings, allowing for certain savings. Pioneers in second-hand goods!

In 1970, the arrival of plastic redistributed the cards: the school bag was now made of synthetic materials. And if it is not necessarily solid, it finds favor in the eyes of families with its cheap prices... and its increasingly colorful designs! The year 1980 marked the backpack offensive: through this, the satchel was reinvented once again in the form of models on wheels. It delights schoolchildren with backs bruised by the weight of notebooks who then adopt it from primary school to college.

From the 19th century, the schoolbag was an essential item for every schoolchild. Beyond its primary utilitarian function, it becomes a fashion accessory: in leather or synthetic materials, small or large, with shoulder straps or straps, the satchel is a real playground for designers. Favorite of preppy girls – or fans of Gossip Girl – the satchel is transformed into a handbag for women and a bésenville for dandies 2.0 ( stay tuned, an article is coming soon on this subject! ) The revival of vintage also marks the strong comeback of the satchel in our wardrobes: the leather bag has never been so trendy! You know what remains for you to do… or to offer (yourself)