Tote bags are symbolic of Gen Z fashion and trends

February 5, 2024 — by William Norwood
Graphic by Isabelle Wang
My tote bag collection portrayed by Isabelle.
The tote bag is no longer just a functional item, but a fashion item made to endure the test of time.

Every morning, I hop out of my car, exhausted after completing a lengthy drive to school. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I grab my tote bag and backpack before walking to class. You may be thinking it seems redundant to carry both a tote bag and backpack to school, but no, the tote bag is for my lunch. 

You might jump at the hypocrisy — William, how could you possibly use a backpack while endorsing tote bags as the superior method of storage? 

Here’s how I can justify my actions. Tote bags are far more fashionable and convenient than backpacks, and when it’s possible to fit all of my materials in a tote bag, I always elect to do so. Unfortunately, my excessive workload as a Saratoga High student pushes me to favor backpacks most days. 

The tote bag was originally created by L.L. Bean in 1944 as a water resistant canvas bag to carry ice from a car to an ice chest. Since the 1960s, the tote bag has evolved from a water resistant bag to a fashion statement — sometimes an admittedly pricey one with costs running into the hundreds of dollars. Still, rather than dying out like many other fashion trends of the day, the tote bag transformed into the bag Gen Z knows and loves today adorned with screen-printed designs or embroidery if you’re posh (I’m British). 

The modern tote bag is by far the most convenient bag, and it doesn’t sacrifice utility in its pursuit of fashion. It has no random, rarely-used inner pockets with zippers and mesh, but is simply one large pocket. This prevents you from losing stuff in some random backpack pocket you can never find again.

 This added factor of easy access makes tote bags the most reasonable method to transport your belongings from place to place when possible. 

A tote bag often includes a cute design on the front. If you smack a design on a backpack, they often look 10 times worse than a plain color, but with a tote bag there is far more stylistic freedom. A tote bag with a design is chic and stylish; it can elevate your outfit. On the other hand,  a backpack with a design makes you look like a serial killer or a fifth grader.

Adding to their allure, tote bags have become a key addition to level up any outfit, and they aren’t an exclusively gendered item. Within the fashion industry, certain items are often associated with certain genders. The tote bag breaks the traditional boundaries of fashion, and it has become a staple accessory to simply add a softer edge to any outfit. 

Picture this in your head: someone wearing some light jeans, a boxy black hoodie and some sambas. The outfit is pretty mediocre, but when you add a tote bag, you not only look like a functioning member of society but somehow, your outfit becomes more cohesive.

Tote bags are no longer just a functional item, but they are an expansion of you as a person, and a sure-fire way to increase the fashionability of any outfit. 

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