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Carry Awards

The ICON JANSPORT SUPERBREAK

Hall of Fame Selection 2020

by , September 24, 2020

Our Eighth Annual Carry Awards welcomes the world’s most iconic school bag into the Hall of Fame

JanSport SuperBreak

The mythology of the Superbreak begins with a bookstore in the University of Washington, and a small mountaineering brand called JanSport selling their ‘Ski and Hike’ backpack at the sports store across the way. On a wet rainy day, the owner of the bookstore called a young Skip Yowell, JanSport’s founder, as students spilled out of the neighboring sports door, not with tennis shoes or skis in hand, but stuffing their books into Skip’s hiking packs.

“Skip, because it rains so much, all of the students are buying your Ski And Hike and putting their books inside. You got to put something on the bottom, then you’re on a winner,” he hollered down the line. 

Hall of Fame Selection 2020

So with the addition of a vinyl base, soon followed by leather, the first JanSport Superbreak was born. The very first ‘campus backpack’ and panel-loader with a zipper to the main compartment. Simple. Clean. And soon to become a cultural icon. 

In 1970, this humble little icon would again blaze a trail. Skip got a call from his Southern California sales rep, they had a new fabric made from tire yarn. It turns out it didn’t work out in tires so they wove it into fabric. Skip bought the very first 50-yard bolt of it. It felt like a real rugged canvas but it was nylon and somewhat heavy and expensive. That fabric would later be branded to Cordura. And using it first set JanSport and the SuperBreak apart, once again. 

The brand grew throughout the 70s, spreading across every campus in the United States. It was a pack that students could afford on their study budget, while being reliable, and attached to something more meaningful and pure – the outdoors. 

Hall of Fame Selection 2020

In the 90s the Superbreak remained the same but again managed to find cultural resonance. The skater kids, keen for a rugged affordable pack, embraced it. So too another street culture – hip-hop – which pulled the Superbreak through from the 90s to the 2000s. Interweaving the brand name ‘Jansport’ into street tales from some of the world’s greatest emcees like Notorious B.I.G to newer names like Tyler the Creator. 

There is no doubting the enormous influence of the JanSport Superbreak. From better access for books and papers, to the simplification of a backpack to its essential form. The JanSport has become a staple in the same way t-shirts have, peppering every college and university hall still to this day. And throw in the love it gets from the hip-hop community and this pack undeniably falls into the ‘iconic’ category.

In fact, you’d be hardpressed to find a pack that has so much cultural significance. A pack that has stood the test of time and traversed decades, capturing imaginations at every turn.

So with that, and this little piece of history in mind, we happily and wholeheartedly bestow a place in the Carry Hall of Fame to the JanSport Superbreak. Bravo!

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