Retrocon 2024

Trapper Keeper: The Ultimate '80s School Supply

Trapper Keeper: The Ultimate 80s School Supply

Back to school is here. As I have gathered school supplies for my own kids over the years, it always helps me to reflect back to my elementary school days. Of course, we didn't think about buying academic essays back then, but there was one thing every high school student dreamed of...the one must-have school supply on every kid's list each year during the '80s was a Trapper Keeper! It wasn't that we wanted to be organized. I'm not sure I ever had a separate folder for each subject or never lost my homework again as the ads made our parents believe. It was a matter of expression as was everything in "The Me Generation." With literally hundreds of amazing designs, there was a Trapper Keeper for every kid to express themselves. And if you were like me that ended up with one that was a little "Plain Jane" or a design you didn't like, there were always puffy and scratch n' sniff stickers to do it right.


In the 1970s, the consumer and office product company Mead invented unique two-pocket folders. Unlike the traditional file folders, papers could be stored in the two side pockets and then closed to trap them inside and prevent them from falling out. Mead naturally called them "trappers." They came in basic colors like blue, red and green, nothing too snazzy. They were three-hole punched to also store in binders and most also came with a handy conversion table for weights and measurements (after all, this was the time when the US was pressured to convert to the metric system.) 

Where Do You Keep Your Trappers?

Regular binder notebooks just wasn't gonna cut it for Mead. They invented their own notebook for us to keep our "trappers." (Yes, ladies and gents, it was that simple.) The Trapper Keeper was born into humble beginnings of a glorified three ring binder that folded up and closed with a snap...literally. It also featured a clipboard for storing a pad of paper and even a storage spot for your pencil. Organized finally had a name...Trapper Keeper.

Trapper Keeper...Meet The 80s

For those of us who didn't wear pocket protectors for our pens, there was only one way we were going to get organized for school...with flair, baby! There was no way the "cool kids" were gonna own a Trapper Keeper without a Lamborghini, a unicorn, or something exotic on the cover. It was destined to happen in a world of Miami Vice and Care Bears. We needed color...not just your basics colors, but bright colors and pastels. We needed something that didn't say "homework" every time we looked at it. Gazing into the eyes of a Bengal tiger or palm tree at sunset gave us that escape from the Trapper Keepers intended least until the teacher slapped the homework page down on our desk and woke us up from our daydream. Oh and the snap to close the cover, had to go. Velcro is our thing now, just asks shoelace manufacturers. And so, Trapper Keepers had a vibrant life through the '80s and even a good part of the '90s.

Alive and Kicking

Believe it or not, the greatest American school supply hero is still around today. It bears resemblance to its early predecessor and I thought that Mead might be keeping with the old school tradition. But what I found were just folders, regular three-ring binders, and notebooks. Really, everything but TKs? C'mon. No more stylish covers. No more plastic sheaths to protect those stylish covers. No more sharp plastic corners you could gouge people with. Seems to me that the latest Trapper Keepers could be described as correct...and BORING!!!! 

C'Mon Mead, there are millions of kids that you could influence again...maybe if they got a push in the right direction and got to still express themselves, they wouldn't be as disorganized as the Fat Boys at a hospital. Give me a call, Mead and let's talk about the new retro look of the ultimate '80s school supply...the Trapper Keeper!

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