History of Tote Bags

History of Tote Bags

Browse a variety of Tote Bags and Tote Shopping Bags to get an idea what they look like.

Tote bags definitely have become one of the most used types of bags in the recent past. They are used for various purposes and probably that’s the reason why they have become so famous. They truly are American Classic bags. For any woman looking for a convenient way to carry her items around, the tote bag is definitely the most appropriate one to go for. Nearly every one of us has seen and used these bags. But, do you know how they became so popular and how exactly did they come into existence? Well, if you don’t know it yet then here’s a brief history of the tote bags!

History and Origins…

The term tote means to carry. Even these types of bags have been used for centuries, the term itself wasn’t used for them until 1900. Tote bags are simple large and open bags with a handle placed on the center top of each side. The classic tote bags used to come with arched straps but now variations can be found. Initially, tote bags never came with buttons or zippers.

The center area was left open to make it easier for the user to put in and take out stuff. However, since the need of protecting the previous items that can be placed in the bags were felt, zippers and other ways of closing the opening of the bag were introduced. Initially these bags were made with heavy duty cloth but now they are usually made from canvas, nylon and jute. The jute versions are traditionally used in the eastern countries especially countries like Thailand and Malaysia. In fact, jute tote bags were used in these countries long before the term was even invented.

In America, the whole craze started with LL Bean’s release of Boat Bag in 1944. This bag was their signature bag made of basic canvas. It was designed for boaters. However, the simplicity and sturdiness of this bag caught the attention of many, especially women. This was the time when the design of the tote bag came into the luggage market. Since tote bags make it easy to carry luggage, people found it more convenient to use these instead of other forms of bags. To make things better, leather tote bags were introduced which were definitely more stylish and sturdy.

During 1950s, tote bags came into the main scene. They were being used by women as handbags. Back in that era, practicality and functionality was considered more important by women instead of the style factor. More and more women opted for these bags since they were straightforward and didn’t really demand much care.

Even by this time tote bags weren’t considered part of the fashion world until in 1960s Bonnie Cashin released her own line of Cashin Carry Tote Bags. Bonnie embellished these bags and made them classier to suit the lifestyles of those who want style with practicality. Later on, during the 90s, Kate Spade was the one who transformed the luggage tote from being a travel bag to being a fashion bag. Since then tote bags became part of the fashion circle. By now, tote bags were not only being used for their practicality but also for their style factor.

Also, it is worth mentioning here that during the late 40s, tote bags were being heavily used by newsboys. They became so popular that people started calling them the ‘newsboy bags’. Students and delivery boys quickly adopted this fashion and went on to create history. Today, tote bags are being widely used by students and delivery boys alike. Even though we don’t realize it, most of the messenger bags and sports bags relate to tote bags.

Types of Tote Bags:

Initially, only canvas tote bags were made which were later replaced by leather tote bags and today tote bags are being made by almost all types of fabrics. In some countries, tote bags were also being made from animal skin which was later found to be devastating to the environment. Even today, fur made tote bags can be found in the market. In some countries they are banned and users can face severe penalties for using them.


Tote bags are widely used today especially by women for a variety of purposes. These bags are mostly used for heavy duty tasks such as grocery shopping, shopping in general, and carrying picnic items and the like. But, that’s not all. Today, these bags are also being used as fashion accessories. Leather tote bags are quite common among women trying to add a style statement to their personalities. On the other hand, even men use tote bags for a variety of purposes. For carrying their daily day items to work, for fishing, and a number of other purposes these bags are used.


Tote bags are a true American classic and nothing can change that. They are highly practical bags that can fade away with time.

Browse a variety of Tote Bags and Tote Shopping Bags to get an idea what they look like.