Tote (noun, verb): to carry by hand: bear on the person (Mirriam-Webster)
The origins of the word Tote in North America has uncertain origins. However, the roots can be traced back to West Africa. In Swahili, ‘tuta’ means “to carry.” In Kikongo, the word ‘tota’ means “to pick up.” A Tote bag is known for its functional accessibility, and is essentially a bag that can carry it all (hence at times also referred to as a 'carry-all' bag). It is used for carrying (or toting) a larger volume of stuff. Shopping bags are also, essentially, tote bags. But the advent of the tote in pop culture has made it into the fashion icon that we know it to be today.
When did the Tote Bag become fashionable?
Bonnie Cashin is noted to be the first designer who took the tote from useful and essential to fashionable and essential. She was the fashion pioneer of American design of the mid twentieth century, and many everyday designs that we see today - on the street and on runways (including the modern crossbody), has the mark of her innovation on it. It was the 1950s American housewife era that ushered the tote into the status of a must-have for errands and more importantly, the must-have for looking good while running errands.
Today, high end tote bags feature regularly on runways and fashion magazines. The Hermès Himalaya Birkin Bag is titled world's most expensive bag, at $500,000 - and yes, it is a tote bag.
The Make of a Tote Bag
You can find tote bags through the entire range: from canvas tote bags to leather tote bags. It's main function and the criterion which defines this category of handbags is its ability to carry a large volume of stuff with ease. For those more inclined to style, but also with a conscience for their carbon footprint, hemp and cotton totes are available in different sizes and designs. They are fashionable enough to be worn as a perfect compliment to your best streetwear.
Leather totes are on the designer scale of life, and are closer to handbags than shopping bags. But, keeping with their essence, their large opening and the ability to unfasten easily without the complication of chains and too many compartments mean they are gaining speed in the market.
Tip: If you are environmentally conscious, you can choose to use jute or cotton totes instead of plastic grocery bags as they essentially serve the same function, but are reusable.
How to wear a Tote Bag (and style it)?
A tote bag can be worn like a purse or handbag. It comes with parallel handles that can be slung like a shoulder bag on one side. The other important characteristic is the wide open top that allows an ease of accessibility. Most totes are large and contain space to carry everything you need for the day.
With the #tumblrgirl aesthetic, tote bags are perfect for the city girl in summer look and make adequate travel bags as well. They come in a range of sizes, from the large ones being about 22" in height and the smaller totes averaging 12". You should choose the perfect tote bag for you depending on your duration of use and the weather in which you are looking to use them (unwaxed totes have gained infamy for not being waterproof).
The leather tote can be styled with professional looks and are great overall for the added benefit of not being as fragile as their cloth siblings.
What are the alternatives to the tote bag?
The Shoulder Bag comes with one (or at times two straps) and is worn on one side of the body or slung across. This includes messenger bags and crossbody bags. Their advantage is that they leave your hands free and are a better fit overall if you spend your day on foot. They are not adequate to carry many items. Totes on the other hand are usually hand-held or carried on either side in the crook of your arm. The lack of compartments in a tote bag can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on your preference for organisation. The open top of a tote can however, be a clear advantage to the shoulder bag in terms of accessibility.
The Satchel is known for holding the body even when empty (much like a briefcase) and a set triangulated shape. This makes it a preferred accessory for business women. The tote has a marked absence of structure but does make up for it in room. If you're the kind of person who likes to carry a lot in their handbag, then a satchel might be too restrictive for you. Totes are more roomy, and generally in taste with women who have thrown caution to the wind in terms of organisation. So, pick wisely.
You can check out our range of tote bags online.