School Supplies for Grown-Ups: 10 Stylish Picks for College, Grad School, and Beyond

by Maxwell Tielman


Last week, a reader request landed in our inbox. It read, “I was wondering if you had any ideas about back to school supplies. I’m 27 years old and I’m just about to transfer to college. I’m really interested in purchasing more adult supplies but I haven’t had much luck in my search.” Dear reader, I feel your pain. School supplies, or at least the school supplies that are widely available, seem to be catering to a much younger crowd (e.g. laminated folders with Justin Bieber’s cherubic visage emblazoned upon them, My Little Pony pencil cases, or garishly-colored backpacks). I totally get that the school supply demographic skews young (and even I can get caught up in some Bieber-fever), but for goodness sake—is it too much to ask for simple, beautiful, and dare-I-say stylish tools for school? Although they may not be available at your local drugstore, more grownup school supplies are out there and, after a bit of digging, we came up with our top-ten picks. From a backpack that is a far cry from your middle school Jansport to notebooks that are refreshingly non-marbleized, these chic choices will get you through college, grad school, or just plain old work in style. —Max

1. Herschel Backpack | 2. Flash Drives | 3. Ring Binder | 4. ID Holder and Keychain | 5. Pencil Case | 6. Highlighter Pencils | 7. Muji Notebooks | 8. Moleskine Folder | 9. Circle Sticky Notes | 10. Warby Parker Glasses

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  • I’m sorry, but what grad school student can afford a $575 backpack, or a $16 binder? I love D*S, and I enjoy looking at beautifully-designed things – even if I can’t afford them – but this is a little ridiculous. It would be nice to see some things posted that are actually in the vicinity of affordable for the average person. Unless the site is really just aimed at the 1%…in which case, see ya!

  • Hey, Emily!

    You’re quite right—that backpack is way beyond the price range of most people (myself toooootally included). I mostly inserted it because I found it so beautiful and hoped people might find its style inspiring. Because of the splurge-tastic price of the backpack, I tried to make sure everything else in the roundup was really affordable. The notebooks (my absolute favorites) are $3.75 for five!

    For some more budget-friendly but still totally stylish backpack options, I love Herschel Supply (http://www.herschelsupply.com) and Fjallraven (http://www.fjallraven.us/products/kanken).

  • Totally agree with Emily. A little less aspirational & a tad more realism — about personal budgets and the value of objects. When I see such a ridiculously overpriced item, I turn off immediately. Even if you had that kind of money, what a waste of resources. See “Blue Jasmine” & other bling girls.

  • I love those muji notebooks and really wish they would increase their U.S. inventory. I would also suggest Makr for backpack options. I have a rucksack from them that should last at least another generation.

  • I have a Herschel backpack and I get tons of compliments. It’s stylish and really practical. I have the Little America model ($99.99) and it’s totally worth every penny.

  • I have a Herschel backpack I bought for grad school that I really like. This semester I started teaching at University, and I have been looking everywhere for an even more grownup backpack. I have a messenger, but it’s really hard on my back when I’m walking a mile between classes. Off to check out all of the recommendations…

  • Ooh the Mismo one is gorgeous! I vote for including a couple aspirational items like this, but maybe in the write-up or their own board? It’s great to take away inspiration (and then make it yourself with your own twist or have someone on Etsy do it).

  • As a teacher, I’m totally on board with this post! It’s hard to find school-friendly supplies that look like a grown up would use them. I teach at the college level, and a lot of my students could benefit from knowing about some of these options!

  • Thanks for being accommodating to your readers, although I usually (and think everyone else should as well) use these guides as inspiration instead of taking personal offense to expensive items. I like to view them sort of as still-lifes since I know some thought was taken in arranging the items…take the repeated pops of neon yellow for example.

    That said, the Herschel backpack looks so similar to the Mismo backpack for a tenth of the price. Great job!

  • These highlighter pencils are very neat, though the link is to a shop in the uk that charges an exhorbinant price for shipping back to the states. Stubby pencils is u.s. Company. Better to buy directly from them

  • For cute backpacks I would also recommend the canvas ones at Everlane.com — sturdy and attractive, and at $65 they’re still in a student’s budget.

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