STYLE AND CULTURE
CULT ITEM: THE TOTE BAG
By Kasia Hastings, 13 July 2018
While the term tote (meaning 'to carry') can be traced back to the 17th century, the word wasn’t used to describe bags until 1900 and the tote as we know it didn’t actually materialise until the 40s. In 1944 American outdoor store L.L. Bean’s original Boat Bag began life as a simple ice carrier, but the style didn’t hit the mainstream until the 60s when the retailer reintroduced it as an all-purpose bag. The tote’s fundamental architecture has pretty much remained the same since.
The bag’s practical, uncomplicated and hard-wearing design quickly popularised it among shoppers and in 1962 its next incarnation, the Cashin Carry Tote saw it infiltrate fashion. Designer Bonnie Cashin’s pocketed version became one of luxury label Coach’s signature designs, firmly positioning the bag as an iconic accessory.
On the rise
The 80s also brought the original cult branded tote bag from iconic New York City bookstore The Strand. Fast-forward to now and whether it’s the name of your favourite label, band, book store or just your previous employer, chances are you’ve found yourself carrying a tote that is no longer a blank canvas. Sure, there’s probably a selection of corporate freebies that will remain at the back of your wardrobe for eternity, but for many people a decorated tote has become a valuable piece of merch and a way of making a statement in a similar way to the slogan tee.