With everything we have to shove in our backpacks these days -- notebooks, laptops, college applications -- there is still no need to leave style behind on the school bus.

Gone are the boring shapes, sizes and colors -- replaced by metallic hues, graphic patterns and streamlined silhouettes. And students are selecting totes, satchels and messengers instead of the usual backpacks.

"Messenger bags have become a must-have item for the hippest students -- they're a functional and fashionable alternative to the traditional two-strap book bag," says Mark Dwight, chief executive of Timbuk2, the leading manufacturer of bicycle messenger bags.

Opt for a separate lunch tote, though, so you don't end up with peanut butter on your term paper.

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Clockwise from top right: Marka's Hudson tote in beige and lime with removable laptop insert, $435 at Hysteria, 125 South Fairfax St., Alexandria, and Sassanova, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW, or Markaonline.com. Lorelei's Campbell tote in silver metallic, $340 at Loreleinyc.com. Rex Ray's Graphic Messenger in light blue, $100 at Timbuk2.com. Convertible messenger bag ($39.50) with basketball embroidery ($5) at Landsend.com or 800-356-4444. Ant lunchbox in green, $15 at LLbean.com or by catalogue. Green and pink messenger bags, $16.50 each at Old Navy.