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The Wiz Backpack | An Iconic Bag from the 80s

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School bags have come a long way throughout history. WAY back in the day, students had to suffer through lugging around their school supplies with only a basic leather strap that was used to “belt” the books together. Fast forward to the 2000s till now, and you see mostly the traditional double-strapped backpacks or messenger styles bags. But…does anyone remember The Wiz Backpack?  Let’s rewind and go back a decade (or three) to the totally tubular times of the 80s and early 90s. Vibrant neon colors and graphic designs were on the rise during this decade and they weren’t discrete about it. The Wiz Personal Locker organizer backpacks came out during this time and they showcased these popular themes in several different styles. If you’re one of the Gen X’ers out there, there’s a really good chance you know exactly what we’re talking about. Today, these backpacks are considered rare vintage and nostalgic memorabilia…and sometimes difficult to find in good condition.

The Wiz Personal Locker Organizer

the wiz backpackJust before the 80s, most people used plain old satchels to carry their school supplies, and these satchels resembled women’s handbags. When the Wiz backpack debuted, it was especially unique and innovative because of its structure. It was made based off of the design of a school locker. The side of the backpack unzipped and opened like the door of a locker would. This “door” had small pockets inside for pens and pencils. There was a classic owner’s label where you could write your name and address in case you lost your totally radical Wiz. It even had a removable upper shelf that buttoned on and off. It was, apparently, meant for holding your spare shoes.

The brand even had a cheesy, yet catchy, jingle as required for every best-selling advertisement. It went something along the lines of, “With the Wiz as your pack, there’s a locker on your back. A locker on your back for all that you can stack! The Wiz is the wiz, for everything there is. There a place for your shoes, and everything you use.” No other backpacks had a similar design at the time. This is what helped the backpack gain its popularity. If you didn’t own one of these rad personal locker backpacks, surely you were desperately longing to have one. Although, the kids who did have them may not have been too satisfied with how well they served their purpose.

The Wiz | Style > Function

the wiz backpack side viewOf course, these backpacks were wicked cool, but the functionality of them left a lot to be desired. Having a backpack that unzipped from the side made it much easier for things to fall out when it was opened. Whereas, a backpack that opens from the top is less likely to spill its contents. Also, I’m sure you could guess that most kids didn’t use that gnarly top shelf for an extra pair of shoes. Since the shelf was detachable, smaller things could easily slip through the gaps to the bottom of the bag. So, everything that was neatly arranged inside before class would be easily disorganized by lunch time. Not to mention, that awesome top shelf left minimal space to store your books in the bottom.

Our Favorite Wiz Backpacks

Despite the fact that they were somewhat impractical, the Wiz organizer backpacks were undeniably trendy. Abstract patterns were all the rage in the 80s and 90s. So naturally, these backpacks emphasized on styles of bright and bold design. The featured elements were geometric texture, color block, and bursts of neon…though, the cartoon themes were definitely the most popular designs. Some of our favorite Wiz backpacks were the Disney styles:

  1. The Little Mermaid – two different styles
  2. The Lion King
  3. Mickey Mouse – two different styles
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  6. 101 Dalmatians – two different styles
  7. Toy Story
  8. Aladdin – two different styles
little-mermaid-wiz-1 little-mermaid-wiz-2 lion king wiz backpack mickey-wiz-2 mickey-wiz-1 beauty-beast-wiz
aladdin wiz aladdin-wiz-2 toy story wiz teenage mutant ninja turtles wiz

The bags below were a part of the “Wiz Too Junior Locker” collection that came out in the early ‘90s.  Some of these popular themes were:

  • Jurassic Park
  • Spider-Man
  • Batman Forever
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • WWF TitansSport SUPERSTARS
  • Harley Davidson

Modern Day Wiz Alternatives

It’s almost impossible to find a “new in box” Wiz, but there are actually some pretty cool alternatives that have hit the market in the last few years.  These backpacks have have abandoned the vertical nature of the Wiz, but have held on to the funky colors, clever designs, and memorable characters that our kids all love.  Below are a few of our favorite:

How Can I Find a Wiz Backpack Today?

It’s funny how styles and trends come full circle…if you look around, a lot of the 80s trends have made a comeback in fashion. In the backpack world, you can find modern types decorated with retro style, geometric pop art. Plus, you can still find a few of the original Wiz and Wiz Too personal locker organizer backpacks on reselling or collectors’ sites if you look hard enough. These backpacks are almost completely obsolete, but they will always be a throwback reminiscent of the 80s.

We’ve found some really great options if you’d like to own The Wiz Backpack HERE.

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