Now an essential item when we hit the High Street, whether acquired from a fashion boutique or cheese shop, the unassuming cloth tote reveals more than you think about self-image and society.
The term “tote” means to carry, and at first glance, these bags are nothing more than functional carrying devices made from a modest choice of eco-friendly materials; jute, cotton, juco or canvas. A basic design with plenty of room and two parallel handles – simple right?
But as the popularity and necessity of reusable shoppers dramatically increases (particularly since the 5p charge for plastic bags in the UK) their infiltration into our lives has initiated a deeper consideration, not only for environmental sustainability, but of how sporting that bag represents us as an individual.
Now an essential item when we hit the High Street, whether acquired from a fashion boutique or cheese shop, the unassuming cloth tote reveals more than you think about self-image and society. With lots of different options out there; they can be printed with simple branding, witty expressions or arty images, our cotton carryalls are now used as a way to confirm credentials, which is why many choose carefully to pick the one to wear in public. Less ‘trad’ and more ‘rad’, tote bag meanings have become complex.
The new bolt-on of fashion and style, they are an expression of our personality and how we want onlookers to perceive us, as Hannah Marriott, Deputy Fashion Editor at The Guardian, explains:
“Remember: your tote bag should appear to be something you happened to have to hand because you’ve just decanted some incredibly expensive cheese. The backroom effort and minute planning required to achieve this happy accident must remain entirely secret. Totes casual, indeed.”
From the bag you buy locally that signals your postcode, to the event tote that only contacts and status can land you, they are unlike designer handbags in that they communicate not money (many are free) but access, ethics and culture. However, much like ‘it’ bags before them, bags for life are a new means to decipher social standing, without anyone having to utter a word.
Once its primary purpose of carrying stuff is no longer so important, there is an empty space to communicate a more personal story. Messages matter, and the tote bag’s emblematic qualities create allegiances, effortlessly swinging from the arms of those middle-aged and slung from the shoulders of the young and glamorous, their total disregard of age only strengthening their universal appeal.
Being termed as the ‘second bag’ (great news for those with a penchant for the clutch bag who can now cart around more than just a credit card and keys) re-usable shoppers are no longer stuffed into the cupboard under the stairs ready for gym trainers or spotted only in shop carparks – they’ve evolved into the accessory you want to be seen with. With many stylish upgrades available, the humble tote bag is having its biggest revival yet, and is always and forever in your size.
Leave us a comment below and let us know how you use re-usable bags in your business. Do you sell them or give them away? Have they increased business and foot fall? Have put your name on the lips of your high street? For more inspirational articles and case studies read our Newsbagger Issue 2 OUT NOW.