The Trapper Keeper is back


They’re selling Trapper Keepers again.

No, really. They are.

Now, perhaps Mead has been selling Trapper Keepers, or some version thereof, for all the many years since I was in the sixth grade. Probably they have. But this is the first year in many years that I have had legitimate cause to cruise the back-to-school aisles at Target and the like. My older son’s starting kindergarten in about three weeks, and I have a whole list–a very, very specific list, I might add–of supplies that I am supposed to buy for him. So I’ve started legitimately (and gleefully, I probably don’t need to add) shopping for school supplies. And this morning I discovered them. There, just a few yards away from the gluesticks, were the Trapper Keepers.

For those of you who somehow missed the phenomenon thirtycoughodd years ago, Trapper Keepers were three-ring loose-leaf binders. They were big and bulky and heavy and took up too much room in your little metal-and-wood student desk. And you had to have one.

And apparently, they’re still selling. Now, these are definitely not the Trapper Keepers of my generation. Think back to the Trapper Keepers that you knew and loved. Many featured stylized Miami Vice-esque graphics and photos that were often also spotted on airbrushed t-shirts. My favorite Trapper Keeper was blue, with a photo of a large colorful hot air balloon on the front. Inside, I kept a zippered pencil bag full of the standard No. 2 pencils that I was required to have and the glittery mechanical pencils that I preferred. I also kept a healthy supply of wide-ruled paper, per the school’s requirements. The front of the Trapper Keeper closed with a big circle of velcro. When I opened the Trapper Keeper, which I tried to do as often as possible, it made an unavoidable rrrrippppppping sound. It was nearly impossible to open quietly, which was fine, because you wanted people to look up and see you with your cool Trapper Keeper.

God, I loved that thing.

By contrast, the Trapper Keeper in the rack at Target today wasn’t anything like the hot air balloon binder that I dutifully stuffed into my desk in Mrs. Sidwell’s classroom each day. It was like comparing a 2011 car to a 1985 car. The new model is sleek and shiny and undeniably more attractive, objectively speaking, and probably a lot lighter and more aerodynamic. (What, you never threw your notebook at anyone? Did you not have boys in your class?) But it wasn’t the same. The new model featured a cover made of some hybrid of vinyl and canvas, smooth and monochromatic, with some odd sleek chrome magnetic closure. There was no photo. No velcro to announce its use. It did, at least, still feature the stylized Trapper Keeper logo–in the same familiar font, even. But it just seemed sort of…soulless.

I shook my head and stuck the binder back on the display with the others. My five-year-old is too young for a big loose-leaf binder anyway, and even if he did need one, I’m not quite sure I could bring myself to buy him something so quiet and tasteful. In fact, I was a little relieved when he insisted on choosing a bright Justice League backpack. It was like he was keeping the dream alive.


About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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6 Responses to The Trapper Keeper is back

  1. Abby says:

    Ah, Trapper Keepers. I know I had 1, or several, but I can’t for the life of me remember what design. I was in Target the other day & I was shocked they have these stretchy book covers now. Back in MY day (when we barely had electricity, let alone the internet) we had to make our own from brown paper bags. And I walked to school both ways, uphill in the snow. πŸ˜‰

  2. jenniferlarsonwrites says:

    I remember those brown-bag book covers! I believe we used to doodle on them with our four-color pens. Do they even still make those anymore?

  3. Shab says:

    I have to confess that I bought a replica of the one I had as a kid on eBay a few years ago. Yago will be using it (whether he likes it or not!) πŸ˜‰

    And he’ll either be ridiculed or a trendsetter…hmmm probably need to rethink this one don’t I?

  4. Yes, I loved Trapper Keepers. I still love to organize and plan for a project, like you would plan for the beginning of a school year or college semester. Fresh start, new projects ahead of you, pencils, pens, and notebooks just waiting to be used! Ah…

  5. Mindy says:

    Oh my gosh! This totally took me back. I had forgotten about the Trapper Keepers. How could I possibly forget? Thank you for bringing it back!

  6. Ben says:

    I remember Trapper keeper, I heard they have even been banned by some school districts because kids who could not afford them was beating kids up who had them and steeling them from them, I’m like over a Trapper Keeper, my word, I heard this happening over espensive brand name sneakers, but not trapper keepers that back in my day costed around $5 in the 80s or 90s around Northwest Ga. where I grew up, back then around here you could purchase a bunch of school supplies for around $10, and notebook paper costed around 25cents, limit 4 packs for a dollar, college rule, wide rule. But we would all go, and all buy 4 packs each, and then back again, and it was enough paper to last all year, at Kmart and Wal-Mart Stores. Now days the local schools have a list at your local Wal-Mart on what to buy, and you know kids today, as well as kids back then waste this stuff, drawing on paper, paper air-planes, pecncil fights, little spitballs, little yes or no notes to whoever you had a crush own or leave this stuff on the school bus. The complaint about the Trapper Keeper was they look good to start with, then started coming apart before the end of the school year, the plastic ripping apart, the binder tearing up, the folders coming apart, or the plastic pencil holder getting a hole torn into it. They where made out of cardboard with plastic thin sheeting around them, halfway through the school year they started to look awful, but to start out with they where cool.

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