If you didn’t get a chance to cash in on the Tax Free Holiday, do not fret! There are still some amazing finds in this town! Back-to-school shopping always sneaks up on us just as we’re enjoying the full swing of summer, doesn’t it? No worries – in typical Smarty fashion, we’ve scoured the web and the QC for some of the coolest finds so your little bookworm will be decked out. If you are hanging around the house today, go ahead and tune into The Charlotte Today Show at 11am, I’ll be sharing these digs live with Colleen & Ramona!
Backpack & Lunchpack Guide:
Pottery Barn Kids – PBK is again top of my list with durability and fashion in one fell shopping swoop. For girls and boys alike, the Mackenzie Collection delivers. I’m really digging the Boys Mackenzie collection with all of the camos that you won’t outgrow. I would recommend the small backpack ($39.50) for kindergartners and the large backpack ($45.50) for 2nd grade and up. Don’t even bother with a preschool backpack because most preschools in Charlotte provide their own bags. FYI, their classic lunchbags are $22.50.
Note: I’d hit the PBK in SouthPark Mall first. Many styles are sold out online but they have them in the store. Thus was the case with this purple ditty – my daughter had to have the purple/dots backpack this year.
UnderArmour is a huge hit for elementary boys this year, basically 2nd grade and up. Before then, you can get away with anything you want, Pottery Barn Kids, LL Bean, Lands End, Character backpacks, etc. But once boys hit 2nd grade, they are opinionated and sporty. We found this groovy backpack at Dick’s. It’s actually a tennis backpack, but I like the versatility, the lunch bag fits perfectly in that pouch in the front and looks pretty cool.
This Nike Elite backpack (also at Dick’s) is a huge contender and goes perfectly with the Nike Elite Socks craze. Gotta give it up for the boys for making a solid fashion statement in 2013 that hasn’t been seen since tube socks in the 80’s.
BTW, did you know Nike stepped it up yet another notch and just introduced the Nike Vapor Crew football socks (to follow the Nike Elite basketball socks trend)? Shoot me now, they are even more expensive at $18 a pair. Best selection of Elite socks for little guys (size 3-5) in town is Omega Sports in the Arboretum and Park Road Shopping Center. Dick’s always has a good selection of older boy socks.
Check out PBTeen for cool boys lunch bags to go with the UnderArmour and Nike backpacks that have hit the market. It’s hard to find a coordinating lunch bag for boys. Actually, what am I thinking, boys don’t want to be matchy-matchy past first grade! But I still like mine to look decent together, chalk it up to my monogramming southern roots…
This Roxy Noble Trek Backpack is the pack of choice for Smarty Wendy’s 2nd grader (purchased at Mori Luggage in SouthPark Mall), this little surfer girl is going to be too cool for school!
Debunking the Middle School Girls Gear:
The hippest backpack for middle schoolers right now is anything Northface. They aren’t cheap and don’t appear to be very big. But consider this. You don’t want them cramming every single book in their backpacks anymore or you will be living at the chiropractor. Many middle schools have lockers and it’s time to be more organized and strategic with what they carry. They figure it out in no time, trust me. Regarding the price tag, just make them share their new babysitting coin. It’s time to start contributing to the fam’s bottom line in middle school. Best selection in town is Dick’s.
Lunchbags, it’s either Lilly Pulitzer, Vera Bradley or bust for middle school girls. Don’t even try to sneak in anything else. Best selection for Lilly lunch totes is Alphabet Soup Gifts in Morrocroft and Poppies in Birkdale. Call ahead though, I heard they are waiting on new shipments to arrive any day. Why the Lilly store doesn’t carry her own lunch line is beyond me. Best selection of Vera is at the Vera Bradley store in SouthPark and any Hallmark shop.
Locker Lookz is hands down the best locker decorating kit available. Consider this a 6th grade girls right of passage, they go all out – chandalier, shag rug, wall paper, you bet! Don’t hold back, this is their chance to arrive in style for middle school. BTW, they tame it down substantially in 7th grade – they may lose the wallpaper but keep the rug and mirror. By 8th grade, I think it all goes away. Best selection in town is Brilliant Sky Toys in Blakeney, all Hallmark shops and Learning Express.
Note: I didn’t do a guide for middle school boys. They are SOOOO much lower maintenance than their fashion-obsessed girl counterparts. I’m pretty sure they are into Northface & UnderArmour, and a plain lunch bag.
L.L.Bean has had super cool backpacks for as long as I can remember and is the PERFECT kindergarten boy backpack, plain and simple. The Original Book Pack for $34.95 will not disappoint. It’s old school and still has the same cool factor.
Lands End has been the backpack headquarters for some time now too, rivaling that of L.L.Bean. Their ClassMate line is what I would look at for elementary school kids. The ClassMate medium backpack is perfect for elementary school age. Cute patterns for girls and traditional patterns for boys.
Go Green and Reuse:
My favorite container system is the Bento Lunch Laptop. This fits perfectly in all square/traditional lunch bags. It’s great for salads, dressings, fruit, you know, all that healthy stuff that our kids love to see in their lunches:-) I found my Bento system at Alphabet Soup Gifts.
Happy shopping, Smarties and please, please, share your kids’ back-to-school MUST-HAVES in the comments below!
FYI – Dillard’s SouthPark kids’ shoe dept has AWESOME selection of kids’ shoes – I think people often forget about it because it’s the 3rd floor, not a sports store, hardly something you think about when you think kids’ shoes. Check ’em out!