Tote bags are one of the most versatile bags on the market and can be used for just about anything. They are stylish, durable, and can hold a lot of different items. Although they’ve taken on many many different looks and styles in the last 200 years, the concept remains the same — durable strength and versatility.
A leather tote bag may actually be the most practical and yet stylish tool you’ve ever had in your closet.
A Brief History Of The Tote Bag
We’ve all seen graphic totes on the street. Chances are you have a branded tote from your favorite store hanging in your closet right now. The humble beginnings of the tote were very practical, but this versatile bag has seen many iconic evolutions of designer reinventions over the last 200 years.
To put it simply, the definition of the word tote means to carry. Tote bags were initially designed in a world before plastic as a means to make transporting purchased goods on foot more comfortable.
Enter The Iconic Branded Tote
One of the first known instances of the tote bag was by an Ohio based shoe store in 1886.
The story goes that an Ohio newspaper salesman named Jasper Meek witnessed a young girl drop her school books in the dirt and formed the idea that children should carry their books in a bag and that these bags should have advertisements on them.
Since he worked in newspaper printing, Jasper Meek had access to a printing press and could print the advertisements on the bags himself. After formulating his idea, he approached his friend, the owner of Cantwell shoe store. He proposed that he would print the bags with Cantwell’s logo and advertising.
Then Cantwell could buy the bags from Meek and give them out for free with each purchase so the customer could carry their shoes home and could reuse the bag later as a book bag for their children to carry to school — touting the free advertising everywhere where they went.
This experience became an instant success. The bags went over so well that both Cantwell and Meek’s businesses grew. It was a win-win because the children of the town benefited by having an easier way to carry their books to and from school while advertising the business for Cantwell. It is even said that one of these first bags is on display in a museum in Coshocton, Ohio.
The Tote Bag — At The Forefront Of Innovation
Let’s fast forward a hundred years to the state of Maine when outdoor company L.L. Bean first produced their ice bag in 1944.
L.L. Bean was an established store that created and sold outdoors for the rustic Maine lifestyle. They began producing a thick canvas bag with wide easy to carry straps to make the process of carrying a block of ice home to your icebox easier. This bag was reinvented 20 years later, in the 1960s, as the signature bold trim canvas boat bag that the company is known for.
And while L.L. Bean may have hit their peak design in the 1960s, the concept of the tote bag began to spread like wildfire with companies across the U.S. releasing their own tote bags, not just made of canvas anymore.
By the 1980s, tote bags in a variety of materials were everywhere. Canvas was still widely used, but straw and even polyester were being used to create these versatile bags.
In 1983 Jane Birkin, a British actress, just happened to be seated next to Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermes’ chief executive, on a flight from Paris to London. The contents of Birkin’s handbag spilled on the floor, and a conversation began about Berkin’s need for a bag bigger than a handbag but smaller than a piece of luggage and the first leather designer tote, the famous Birkin bag was born.
From Humble Origins To Trend Setter
Since that first Birkin bag, hundreds of handbag designers have taken on the task of redesigning the iconic tote. Totes have been released in various animal hides, designs, and sizes and took off as the nation’s carry-all bags by the mid-90s.
Women all over the country began incorporating tote bags into their everyday use, not just as a catch-all shopper, but as their staple handbag and as a style accessory to accent their wardrobe. Tote bags were taken to the streets as the premier do-anything, conquer-anything bag of today.
There are endless ways to use a designer leather tote bag. The most effective way is going to be a way that simplifies your life and manages your day to day, individual needs. We’ve pulled together some of the best ways to get the most out of your beautiful, long-lasting, and stylish leather bag.
Here are our top 15 ways to use a leather tote bag:
- A shopping bag — First and foremost, we have to mention the most basic way to use your bag. Are you taking a quick trip to the market? Headed downtown to shop with your girlfriends? A leather tote is the perfect bag for comfortably and fashionably carrying your recent purchases. It is especially great for carrying items that may need extra care when transporting, and it’s large enough to hold a new pair of shoes and anything else you may have snatched up throughout your afternoon.
- A commuter bag — A large tote bag is the perfect accessory for the commuting worker. Not only can it hold all the items you need for work, but it can also store items that will make your commute more comfortable, like a backup charger for your phone, a snack, and a few books to read on the train.
- An overnight bag — A tote is the perfect sized bag for light packing. Generally, they can hold several outfits, your makeup bag, and your toiletries bag with ease. Are you headed somewhere relaxing and comfortable? You can even tuck in a pair of silk jammies and your favorite slippers for keeping those toes comfy while you are away.
- A travel office bag — Work from home some days, the office others, or frequently travel for work? A reliable, sturdy tote can unassumingly carry an entire mobile office complete with a laptop sleeve, work cell phone, day planner, file folders, and a change of clothes to go from travel comfy to business casual in a flash.
- A gym bag — It might sound strange at first, but even a leather tote bag can double as a gym bag. These days, most of us are too busy to run home from work to grab our gym clothes, especially when the comfy couch is calling your name as soon as you walk in the front door. Having a tote that is multipurpose and can store a water bottle and your yoga pants or tennis shoes keeps your motivation high and makes it easy to stop by the gym on your way home because you’ve already got everything you need.
- A laptop bag — Maybe you are a freelance designer that enjoys working from the coffee shop a few days a week. A sturdy leather tote with large top handles and a removable strap is the perfect answer for comfortably carrying your laptop wherever you need to go.
- A travel carry-on bag — A tote is an excellent contender for a carry on bag. It fits in the upper compartment easily, is perfect for organizing your items for getting through a security checkpoint. Not to mention it’s a stylish multi-use accompaniment to any outfit while traveling and still leaves you room to fit souvenirs you picked up that won’t fit in your checked baggage.
- A diaper bag —There are so many gadgets we need as parents these days to ease the work of taking our kids with us. A stylish tote will look like a perfectly accessorized bag to any outfit. It can easily house the diapers, wipes, pacifiers, special blanket or stuffed animal, and our little ones’ snacks without anyone being the wiser. Choose a bag with an adjustable/removable crossbody strap to make carrying your bag and keeping up with the kiddos that much easier.
- A picnic bag —In need of a romantic afternoon away in the park with your special someone? Leather totes are roomy enough to carry a soft picnic blanket, a bottle of wine, and your favorite charcuterie from the local deli, all while keeping things classy and beautiful. What is more special than a magic moment with someone you love without having to worry about planning a huge trip or getting dressed up?
- A book bag — An ode to the roots of the original 1886 tote bags. A designer leather bag is durable and robust enough to carry even the most massive college course books along with all the necessary notebooks, pens, or tablets. You could almost very stylishly carry your entire dorm room in a tote bag, or at least enough school supplies to get you through your classes with ease?
- A change of clothes bag — With our busy calendars having us on the go all the time, it’s super normal to need a change of clothes to go from the office to a little league game or to a night on the town. A tote bag can store everything you need for a full outfit change, including shoes, a little black dress, a clutch or your sneakers, a team shirt, and a ballcap.
- A pet carrying bag —We first saw designer totes being used as pet carriers in the quintessential movie of the early 2000s, Legally Blonde. But you don’t have to be Elle Woods to be able to accessorize with our furry friend. A tote can easily carry man’s best friend, a bottle of water, and a baggie of treats so you don’t have to go without your best bud while on the go. You could even grab a matching leash so you and your pet can accessorize together.
- A car catch-all bag — It’s no secret that our cars house many items to help us get through our day. Why not organize your needs in a leather tote bag for easy grab and go when you pick up the kids. Leather totes are big enough to hold life’s mess while keeping it organized and out of sight. Not to mention they store easily behind a seat, in the floorboard, and make light work of tidying up the trunk of your car.
- Storing your favorite throw blankets — Who says you have to carry your tote for it to be effective at storing your most needed items? These days we see designer bags used in all kinds of decorating, from hanging storage in a mudroom to a beautiful container for storing folded throw blankets for a future cold night. Totes can be a functioning statement piece in a room just as much as an ottoman or side table. They are also perfect for storing your daily sudoku, newspapers, and magazines.
- A gift bag —The most reusable gift bag ever, a leather tote is an excellent vessel for putting together the ultimate gift bag for someone special in your life. Totes can easily hold a variety of different sized and different themed gifts, and it’s actually a bag your friend or loved one can reuse after they unpack their gift. Totes are beautiful and will continue to be useful even after the party is over.
How To Shop For Your Next Leather Tote
Shopping for totes to ease the burden of life should start with top quality leather. Built to last, leather is one of the strongest materials on the market and takes fine craftsmanship to get it right. So starting with leather is going to guarantee some sturdiness and strength in your bag.
We’ve put together a quick guide of things to keep in mind when shopping for the perfect leather tote bag for you:
- First, you should look at the design features of the bag. Does it have strong, accessible straps? Does it have pockets to hold your essential items?
- Next, versatility in design goes a long way when packing and organizing all the things one needs just to manage a single ‘day in the life’ or when transitioning your bag from work to play to travel. Look for high-quality tote bags that put design at the forefront, and you’ll be carrying your tote for years to come.
- Lastly and most of all, your bag should be comfortable to wear and fit it with your personal style. A tote is all about making your life easier, but they are made to be beautiful too.
- Finally, when all is said and done, choose a tote that speaks to you, feels good, and you know will last you a lifetime.
Leather Tote Bags Are Convenient, Stylish, And Versatile
In conclusion, no matter what day-to-day life throws at you, you can always be prepared and well accessorized with a designer leather tote at your side.
Whether you are a workaholic, a student, or a parent, your bag should be equipped to do the heavy lifting for you and be strong enough to transition with your life and serve your every need for many, many years.