Trapper Keepers

By Julie Anderson

JulesIt’s mid-August of 1982. You’re with your Mom doing some back-to-school shopping. You want to project just the right level of cool for elementary school. To do that, you need a binder that’s trendy yet functional, well-organized yet hip. You need a . . .

Trapper Keeper, baby!

Oh, they were just the coolest; a whole new breed of 3-ring binder. The “keeper”, or outer shell, came in bold colors or mega-cool designs, and featured a fold-over Velcro closure that held it shut. The folders (or “trappers”) were glossy and primary colored. The rings weren’t the passé metal snapping variety that inevitably got mangled and off-kilter. Trapper Keeper rings were made from smooth white plastic and slid with a sweet little pull-tab action. I do recall that it was a bummer they didn’t hold all that much, once the school year really got underway. Also, the nature of the trappers was such that you couldn’t flip through your papers quickly; you had to take out a handful from one trapper at a time to look for your homework.

But, whatever, right? Who cared when there were sweet designs out there like these?

This one just screams 1980’s awesomeness in a Tron-universe sort of way:

Tron-like Trapper Keeper

For the dudes, nothing says “Back-to-School Cool” like Football:


I totally remember this hot air balloon one! Do you? And this one has got that gorgeous Lisa Frank candy colored dream-world thing going on:

Hot Air Balloons Trapper KeeperLisa Frank-esque Trapper Keeper

And guys: THIS WAS MY TRAPPER KEEPER! Oh, my glossy brown horse with the white star on her forehead, I loved you so! I thought this image was the pinnacle of natural elegance, with its grassy green background and that prancing mare:

Horse Trapper Keeper

My fifteen-year old son informs me that he’s never even heard of a Trapper Keeper. I am aghast. I did a search and learned that they DO in fact still exist, with some modifications to the original design, but their popularity is definitely nothing like what it was in the mid-eighties.

And why is that, I wonder? Sure, they weren’t the most durable binders on the market; that flexible plastic spine tended to split, and the punched holes of the trappers eventually ripped. But they were plenty tough for a year of fourth grade, right? And sooo very stylish.

I can remember the feel of mine clasped against my chest right now as I walked down the hall to Mrs. Barclay’s fourth grade classroom, buoyed by fresh equine beauty and the power of trendiness.

Good times.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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  1. Still have 4 of them. I used them at Motorola when I worked there, and kept assembly docs in them. Now they hold my important papers. Mead makes them for tablets now, and no more fun designs.

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  2. I buy them now for my son. I think they should make commercials again for them and also bring back more designs.

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