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In his 1958 hippy classic, The Dharma Bums, the Beat author Mr Jack Kerouac made a prediction. "I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution," he wrote. "Thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks." His vision was to come true, albeit not quite in the way that he had expected.

What he had called for was a mainstream adoption of backpacker culture - of the footloose, free-spirited way of life that he evoked so vividly in his novels. What happened instead was quite the reverse: the backpack was adopted by mainstream culture. This once humble piece of hiking and mountaineering gear has now evolved to a state of near ubiquity - and it's not just young Americans signing up for this new rucksack revolution.

Commuters slip their laptops into them before dashing for the rush hour train. Cool kids stalk hip neighbourhoods with Fjällräven and Herschel Supply Company bags slung over their shoulders, channelling the trend for all things Nordic and rustic. The likes of Messrs Justin Bieber and Cristiano Ronaldo strut around with eye-catching studded leather styles. Even one-year-olds are getting in on the act. When Prince George was seen with a kangaroo backpack on a recent trip to Sydney it caused an online stampede, and the style sold out within hours.

Of course, the rise of the backpack is hardly surprising, when you consider its intrinsic practicality. But its success, particularly among men, is down to more than that. It's a symptom of an overarching trend towards heritage workwear. The backpack hints at adventure, and of the spirit of the open road; it carries with it, in other words, that romantic notion of which Mr Kerouac spoke.

The backpacks available on MR PORTER can be roughly divided into two categories, those best for use "on the road" or "on the town". The former are functional, rugged and built for adventure - even if to you that means nothing more than venturing across the Williamsburg Bridge in search of a new pop-up bar. The latter have all the fundamental qualities of a backpack, but are constructed instead from luxurious materials, and are not exactly intended for mountaineering use. We've picked out three of each.

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER