Thursday, October 1, 2009

Trapper Keepers



Children of the 90s note: I don't want to hear it from any of you naysayers that Trapper Keepers belong to 80s children. Can't we share? Many of us 80s babies were 90s children, you know, and we loved our Trapper Keepers with every bit the same ardor as you did. Case closed. With velcro, no less. That stuff sticks.


There's nothing like overpriced school supplies to give kids an unneeded boost of self importance. Really, anybody who was anybody had a Trapper Keeper. Well, anybody who was anybody aged five to fifteen who grew up during the 80s and 90s. I highly doubt any high powered lawyers were toting around a Ninja Turtles-themed binder in their briefcases.

School supply shopping is always an ordeal, but Mead stepped in and gave us a few more things worthy of our throwing ourselves tantrum-style on the floor in the middle of OfficeMax. These things were more than worth completely humiliating our parents in a highly public place if only it meant that we would soon be toting a Trapper Keeper full of coordinating folders in our backpack.

Buying designer-esque school supplies was the only reason to get excited for going back to school in the fall. Picking out each shiny folder, the multicolored pens, and best of all our very own brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper complete with Velcro closure sporting our favorite design or character on the front. They may have been five bucks at the store, but the market value amongst children was off the charts.


This is probably the quintessential late 80s/early 90s school supply commercial. The humor is so cheesy they might as well package it with crackers and call it a Handi-Snack

It was the ultimate status symbol for a kid reentering the school year. God help you if you started at a new school and were caught unaware of the fact that Lisa Frank ballerina bunnies or Sonic the Hedgehog were the only designs to have. Those with the lesser abstract-patterned Trapper Keepers were left to wallow in their quiet school supply induced shame, kicking themselves for coveting the paint splattered cover in lieu of the more contemporary character designs.

Trapper Keepers were the ultimate school accessory and supposedly taught us organizational skills from a young age, though mine was always bursting at the seams with untidy clutter. They were generally pretty functional as far as elementary school supplies go, giving our parents less of a reason to veto their purchase on that all-important back to school shopping trip. They typically featured specially fitted folders, a handy pencil case, and a wraparound closure to encase all of our schoolwork in a neat little package. Don't even get me started on the satisfying sound of pulling open the Velcro tab. These babies were nothing short of a kid's dream.

Now in an age where kids are now sporting actual designer school supplies (Louis Vuitton pencil cases, anyone?) it's almost laughable to reminisce about a time when a run-of-the-mill product available for a few bucks at WalMart commanded respect and awe from our classmates. Kids these days (using this phrase is the first sign of adulthood) with their iPhones and Ed Hardy tee shirts are unlikely to appreciate the value of a simple pleasure like a Trapper Keeper. We, on the other hand, knew their worth. You know, as our Trapper Keepers had to keep our papers in order as we trudged to school on foot. In the snow. Uphill both ways.



In any given classroom during the 80s and 90s there were undoubtedly a vast spectrum of designs and styles on display. Trapper Keepers were all for gender stereotyping, offering typical boy- and girl-specific fare. For the girls, we had our dolphins, our kittens, our puppies, and all other types of aww-inspiring images to nicely complement our burgeoning sticker collections. For the boys, we had video game themes, sports team logos, masculine cartoon characters, cars, or extreme sports-type designs. Sure, there were crossover abstract designs that were pretty gender neutral, but dammit if I wasn't going to get a kitty cover like the rest of my female classmates.

These homework holders may seem benign, but mischievous kids were always able to find ways to provoke school administrators into banning these covetable caches. With a bit of destructive disassemblage, we could easy build desktop self-enclosing Trapper Keeper cubicles behind which to write notes, play with contraband Silly Putty, and engage in other banned activities. Other schools considered the binders to be more of a distraction than they were worth and because they created unnecessary class distinctions. All over something you could purchase all Wal-Mart, no less. Those were the good old days.



Nowadays, you can find Trapper Keepers again stocked in store shelves but they're certainly a different model than the ones we so craved. The satisfying sound of pulled Velcro is no more, as the new TKs feature a quieter, more demure magnetic closure. They have customizable covers under which you can slide your own photos or design. Heck, they don't even come with the signature Trapper folders, which have since been replaced with bland dividers. Maybe I'm reading into it a bit too far, but wouldn't that make it just a Keeper? I'm about to cry false advertising.

To make matters worse, a couple of years ago Mead released a model that would play music from your iPod. Really? What has this come to? I was happy just to have a picture of a panda doing some housepainting on the cover. Now these kids are using them as speaker systems? What exactly is this world coming to where a kid can't enjoy a simple school supply simply on the merit of its design alone? These kids can have their crappy new models. I'm digging up my old Lisa Frank prototype. At least then I can remember Trapper Keepers for the way they were.



Check it out:
The Surfing Pizza's Ode to Trapper Keepers

32 comments:

Shannon said...

Ah, I remember my Trapper Keeper. It was one of the abstract-pattern ones, but I loved it dearly.

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

who did not have a trapper keeper? WHO? love it

Little Mrs Domestic said...

I remember mine and do belive it may still be in a box somewhere. I had a Lisa Frank with that big yellow dog on the front.

Nic said...

Why did I not know about these? I love stationery. Stupid country.

Carol said...

I love my Lisa Frank trapper keeper! haha!

Katie said...

My school district did not allow Trapper Keepers, but my mom bought me one to keep at home.

I should call her ...

Manju said...

i had so many of these. i hoard stationery lol
thanks for dropping by my blog ^^

Scientific Housewife said...

I loved Trapper Keepers. I like how everyone had the velcro ones and then they came out with the ones that zippered shut and those were awesome too.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Absolutely!! I was born in 1985 but I was proud to have my Trapper Keeper!! Five star came along and i was SOOOO ANTI-them!! I'll never figure out why they were SO! expensive! It's funny i actually saw one these at a tag sale once and of course snatched it up!!

Good call on the Trapper Keepers! 90's kids totally rocked them too!

Sunshinemeg said...

Those were amazing and so totally cool! I wish I still had one to bring to work everyday and make my co workers jealous!

Queen Bee said...

I never had a trapper keeper. They didn't allow them in school. To this day I have no idea why.

Ink Obsession Designs said...

I so loved Trapper Keepers! I loved Mead products period. In fact my BFF and I use to pretend we were Mead executives. How sick is that?

Warren said...

Some kid stole my Trapper Keeper when I was in second grade. It was pretty traumatizing. I even devoted an entire blog post to it: http://confrontyourbully.com/2009/06/29/the-infamous-trapper-keeper-incident-of-1990/

Barefoot in the Park said...

ahh i HEARTED my trapper keeper. it was purple with pink hearts.

Newlywed Next Door said...

I freakin' loved Trapper Keepers. I had all the Lisa Frank ones, but I was partial to the bunnies. Trapper Keepers were the best part of back to school shopping. I wish I could tote one a meeting at work just to see the loop on people's faces.

Carrie said...

Lisa Frank I loved everything (I still do).

Hanako66 said...

SO good!

I was born in 80 and totally remember my neon trapper keeper!

Kristen said...

ahh I LOVE these!! I actually got a pink one last year :) Just so you know I get so excited to see what you are going to post each day!!

Kristina P. said...

OH MY GOSH. I hadn't thought about these in years! This is awesome!

Lil' Woman said...

Whenever I think of Trapper Keepers now I think about the South Park episode where Cartman had an evil Dawson Creek trapper keeper

Maggi said...

I was so in love with my Trapper Keeper!

@MrTrapperKeeper said...

I had the zebra-striped Trapper Keeper, part of the designer series. If you couldn't afford Vuarnet or Ocean Pacific, at least you could afford the Trapper Keeper. There are still some New Old Stock Trapper Keepers from the era if you poke around on Ebay. :-)

Ashley Lauren said...

I was alll about the Lisa Frank! The bright colors, the little stories, classic :)

Andhari said...

I think I wasn't a follower of this fad, it wasn't big here. I only know this is a huge fad back then because an episode of South Park :P

Kristin said...

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, the hideous geometric shapes. I adored mine.

valentine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
valentine said...

oh hot dang! i very much remember those, i think mine even had a mesh pocket inside. that's right, i was cool.

Nomad said...

there was a point where i would have trusted a trapper keeper as president! it could do no wrong!!!

PS. love your blog so glad i ran into it... i love stuff that i can relate to!!! come check me out too far a good laugh!

Therese said...

I had the sweetest Lisa Frank trapper keeper! I wish we could still rock flourescent colors on everything!

Benja said...

The abstract ones were the best! I loved getting the cool 80's future computer graphic ones. Only commercial one I had was a dope Jurassic Park one with a board game with spinner built in.

sketcher8it said...

I loved mine, It was a palm tree on the beach...

Blogger said...

You could be qualified to get a Apple iPhone 7.

Digg This!