Thursday, September 22, 2011

Perp Fashion of The Week: Jansport Strings

I did a post a while back about reappropriated perp fashion, the first being North Face jackets that were originally designed for rich white people to not catch colds when hiking up mountains and doing other white things but were eventually the uniform for minorities hanging out in front of Bodegas in Brooklyn. This week's installment of Reappropriated perp fashion centers on a phenomenon that was unique to the New York area in the early to mid 90s: Jansport strings.

What exactly made a backpack marketed towards yuppie outdoorsman (take a look at that ad) a staple of urban middle school toughness? You could start with the strings. Readers from outside the tri-state might find this odd, but anyone who attended junior high in one of the 5 boros can attest to the fact that Jansport strings were something like tattooed tear drops in prison: the more you had the tougher sumbitch you were. Stealing Jansport strings was something of a bloodsport that only the toughest of special needs student would participate in. It got to the point that some kids would burn the end of their strings so as to ward off would be string thieves. Future larcenous thugs would perfect the craft to the point that they could come up behind unsuspecting marks (usually those nerds who actually had books in their book bags and not just firecrackers and porn) and pilfer a string or two without ever rousing suspicion. These pint sized pick pockets could then strut around the school yard with up to 30 multicolored strings looped around the back pouch zipper of their Jansport. The delinquent with the most strings was the D-bo of recess, on par with the clean up hitter in punch ball and the kid who had a cousin that worked at Foot Locker. There were other ways to adorn your Jansport, of course, like paws or tags with whiteout but nothing as memorable as the strings. Legend has it that there was a thinner string inside the main string that you could remove using a needle or straightened out paper clip to add to an already impressive collection of string.

Tell someone from out of town or a kid in school now about this strange '90s trend and they'll probably laugh at you, but the Jansport string craze will go down in New York history as one of the greatest perp fashions of all time.


  1. One of the worst things I could hear as a kid was "Hey give me your strings"

  2. Shortest Kid In Gym ClassSeptember 24, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    One of the worst feelings as a kid was noticing your strings gone when you got home.

  3. Thank you for this amazing flashback to my junior high days. I just spent 20 minutes explaining this to my co-workers from the midwest. hahahahaaa