July 05, 2021 4 min read
We love our vegan tote bags. They’re big enough to carry whatever we want in them while maintaining their simple, classic beauty. But where did these jack-of-all-bags come from? Believe it or not, designer tote bags got their start with the oldest human we know about and the Sumerian gods.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that handbags have been around since the very beginning. According to Metro, some of the oldest carvings we have depict something very similar to what we carry around today.
It seems like the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia (what is now the Middle East) thought their gods carried their divine belongings around in small, handled bags. The Olmecs in ancient Mexico agreed; their gods carried what looked like simple purses with small handles in reliefs carved in stone. Across the world from each other, these powerful civilizations agreed – even the gods liked to accessorize.
The evidence we have of actual bags – y’know, carried by humans – dates back even further. The oldest human we know about, an Alpine man we’ve named Otzi, carried with him a leather satchel that may have stored his hunting equipment. It’s still on display now, at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy.
The second oldest purse known to man dates back to about 2,500 BC (and it looks gross, too). Ancient Egyptians used reeds woven into baskets with lids to carry grain and other goods around in their daily lives. For about as long as we’ve needed to carry things, we’ve had bags.
Tote bags specifically couldn’t become a “thing” until the word, “tote,” did. This happened in around the 17th century, when the word developed as a way of saying “to carry.” The tote bags of that century weren’t something we’d recognize today; they were more like drawstring sacks made of leftover linen or canvas.
Tote bags as we know them came into being in the 1940s as a utilitarian bag from LL Bean. This new design was in that familiar tote bag shape, made from hardworking canvas. It was also originally used to tote ice to the freezer from the car; not the most fashionable of beginnings!
Still, people caught onto the usefulness of the bag for other non-ice purposes in the 50s, and by the 60s, they were a hot fashion item. This was the dawning ages of the designer tote bag.
Non-leather tote bags were the standard for many years. The introduction of leather as a material happened because the bags were becoming a higher fashion item, in the 50s and 60s. The use of leather actually detracted from the original pack-and-go purpose of the bags, so it really was a completely aesthetic choice.
Vegan leather came onto the scene in the 1920s in Germany, but didn’t gain popularity in the rest of the world until the environmentalist movements in the 1970s. So, right when they were needed most, vegan leather was born (although there aren’t many records about the first vegan leather tote bags specifically).
Totes now have taken their original utility and become one of the most versatile styles of bag on the market. Some of them are still true to their original use as chore bags, used for groceries and such, especially as grocery stores move away from the use of plastic bags. Some of them – like our cute tote bags – are also designed to look great while they work.
Tote bags look great on the runway, but did you know that they’re great for much more? Reuse This Bag lists some fun, unconventional uses such as:
We recommend waiting until you’re not going to use your lovely tote bag anymore to do any of these, though.
The folks here at Doshi are sure that we have the best vegan tote bags for your every occasion. From formal to relaxed, we’ve got a bag that suits you.
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