Interviews Men’s Fashion

Backpacks 101: Q&A with Herschel Supply Co.

Whether you’re prepping for campus this Fall or just want to lug your laptop to work, hands-free, while juggling a couple toddlers and a cup of black coffee—a backpack might be in your near future.

With the heritage movement in full swing the past few years, even high-end designers tried their hand at the summit-climbing, science-class essential known as the backpack. And while you can procure one in every material from lambskin to waxed canvas these days, Herschel Supply Co. strikes us as the new go-to for simple, sturdy, smartly designed packs in all shapes and sizes. (And yes, most include that all-important laptop sleeve.)

Brothers Jamie and Lyndon Cormack, founders of this highly successful (yet only four-year-old) backpack brand, answer a few questions below—amidst images from Herschel Supply’s new Fall lookbook.

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Where did you guys grow up? Did you do a lot of stuff outside?
LYNDON CORMACK: Jamie and I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, spending our childhood years in Alberta, Canada, as well as our family’s vacation home in the mountains of British Columbia.
JAMIE CORMACK: As kids, pretty much every activity we did was outdoor-focused. We went mountain biking, snowboarding, skateboarding, hiking, camping, waterskiing. As two brothers, we spent most of our childhoods outdoors, whether we were building treehouses or heading to the mountains to go skiing.

Your website states that your ancestors moved from Scotland in the early 1900s, and settled in the town of Herschel. Where is Herschel, and have you guys visited there?
Jamie: Herschel is in the center of Canada, in the province of Saskatchewan. Three generations of our family grew up there, with the last being our father. Lyndon and I have both been there very often. The town is actually very small; it’s no more than 30 residents. It was named after a famous astronomer: Sir William Herschel.

What does the word ‘heritage’ mean to you, and how does it figure into the Herschel Supply brand?
Lyndon: Heritage to me means learning from the past, taking what worked and expanding upon it. Here at Herschel Supply, as a brand, we strive to take nostalgic silhouettes and update them for modern use.

What’s it like working together, what with you two being brothers? How do you resolve problems?
Lyndon: The great thing about being brothers is that we’re very in tune with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We also have areas of overlap, and it’s in those areas that we collaborate the most. We’re also each other’s sounding boards. Being brothers, we tend not to sugarcoat things when talking to each other, and as such, discussions can get very passionate—but differences are also resolved very quickly.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
Lyndon: ‘There are always two paths to the same outcome.’

What are some specific, user-friendly details that make Herschel Supply bags ideal for travel?
Jamie: We pay the utmost attention to every detail when we create every product. These details are great for travel and for everyday use. Just as an example, all of our products have liners to protect the interiors, our backpacks have air mesh straps to allow for airflow, our laptop sleeves are padded and fleece-lined, and our luggage has separate mesh compartments to make for easy packing.

What is your stance on a grown man wearing a backpack to work? Any tips for pulling it off with style? [Full disclosure: This blog editor carries a black ‘Pop Quiz’ to work every day.]
Lyndon: Men’s fashion is in a very unique place right now, where the realms of sport, outdoor and tailored goods are constantly intersecting. No longer are they separate entities, and it is increasingly common for lifestyle products to mix with more formal ways of dressing. At the end of the day, backpacks are practical, and if they fulfill a need, they are ‘in style.’

What do you feel has been the secret to Herschel Supply Co.’s success between 2009, when you started, and now?
Jamie: Customers gravitate toward our products because we ask the important questions for them. Before anyone sees anything, we ask ourselves questions like, How are people going to use our product? What are they putting in it? What are they interested in? This approach allows us to create products that our customers will naturally want.

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Editor’s Picks from Herschel Supply Co.
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