Ask the Strategist: The Best Adult Backpack, Jessa’s Lipstick

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Help us help you. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Question: Hello Strategist, do you have suggestions for a backpack that could fit all my work shit (laptop, workout clothes, lunch from home) that I can bring with me out after work if I need and it’s not very ugly and won’t make me feel like a nerd? I would spend $150 maximum if it’s perfect, but would like closer to between $60 and $100 because it’s something I would be using every day. This has been a huge struggle for me and I’ve polled like 30 people and nobody has a good answer.

Let’s start by knocking out the obvious: everyone has the Fjallraven Kanken and everyone has a Herschel and everyone also has the Everlane, but we don’t want to look like everyone.

I reached out to Olivia Wolfe from American Two Shot, my favorite store to find cool new brands that I don’t see anywhere else: “My advice would be to look for something that is leather or faux leather rather than a vinyl or canvas bag because they’re very chic and more translatable from day to night, so you don’t have to show up to dinner looking like you’re ready for a sleepover slash hike slash high-school math class.” Then she got practical, “Some of my best finds have been from Etsy using searches like ‘vintage leather backpack.’ Sometimes you can find something great for $15 and then maybe spend another $50 repairing it if need be, but you end up with a really great piece that you won’t see on 40 other people on the L train.” Using that tactic I scanned Etsy and found one that could use a bit of repair, another very grunge look, and one last one that’s making me really into tan leather and seems to have a zillion compartments for all your snacks.

Vintage leather.

Next, the Cut’s senior marketing editor Diana Tsui led us to ASOS where I found some really affordable grown-up-looking bangers like this simple faux leather with a flap and drawstring that’s still really sizable and a similarly straightforward canvas option that I’m into, but might be a little too boxy.

This Building Block bag will get a lot of compliments. We promise.

If we dare take a moment to dream of a higher price point — because the inverse can be said, too, that if you’re wearing it every day it might be worth the splurge — I own a Building Block bag that is unquestionably the most complimented item in my wardrobe. It’s lasted me four years so far, even though I wear it every day, and it’s still getting compliments and it still looks great. They make a very professional-looking leather backpack-slash-briefcase with curves so soft that I want to just lick them. I think if I could get any backpack in the world, though, I might go with this Yohji Yamamoto Japanese slouchy drape number and while we’re #fashioning Vetements recently teamed up with Eastpack, so maybe looking like you’ve come from a high-school math class is in vogue again.

Best backpack Baggu drawstring
The winner: Baggu’s drawstring backpack. Photo: Kabir Fernandez

But after that deep dive into the world of two straps, my highest recommendation goes to Baggu’s drawstring backpack. After years of a zipper, the drawstring shows that you’ve moved beyond carrying binders and notebooks. This one’s just big enough to hold a laptop (there’s also a small inner pocket for phone and wallet) plus leggings plus Tupperware plus a water bottle, while it’s still not so big that it looks like you’re planning for a hike (a problem I find with the Everlane Snap bag, which is more suited for men). Yes, it’s a more casual canvas, but the thinner straps make it seem less “I’m coming from class” backpack-y and more “I have a job during the day, but this is good for my back and also convenient” backpack. And as if you even needed any more reason to smash that buy button, it’s only $42. Buy it in this light olive green (my favorite), in millennial pink (on trend), with blue stripes (very nautical), and it’s still under $150.

One More Thing

Best backpack
That lip! Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Burning question for ATS: This season on Girls, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is often wearing the most vivid, matte, deep blue-blue-blue-red lipstick. What shade is this, and who makes it? I have a dozen red lipsticks, and none of them seem to be this particular shade. Thanks!

Courtesy of Girls makeup artist Patricia Regan: Jessa’s lipstick is MAC Retro Matte Liquid Lip color in Feels So Grand and Julie Hewitt’s lip liner in Poppy.

We also had a friend write in about Jessa’s robe from episode five (because even as she’s breaking down, she looks great) and as per costume designer Jenn Rogien, “The red kimono is from Jessa’s closet from season one. She’s worn it every season. It’s by Natori.” (And here’s a similar and much more affordable version.)

We’d love you hear from you. If you have any burning questions, please leave them for us in the comments.

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Ask the Strategist: The Best Adult Backpack