Photo by Boy Fenwick
The first Boat and Tote bags I remember were made entirely of colorless canvas, with the handles and the body made from the same plain white material. Later, contrasting handles and bottoms of nautical red or blue appeared. Over time, as the bags gained popularity, additional color options were added, and today the colors available to purchasers of these bags are virtually limitless, particularly when taking advantage of L.L. Bean's custom color palette choices.
At Darlington we have quite a few Boat and Totes, and we use them all the time. Many of our bags have "Darlington" embroidered on them, as we use them to transport flotsam and jetsum between our city apartment, where we live during the week, and Darlington. When we are in the city we keep one or two bags open and at the ready for receiving stuff, such as clothing and books, to take to the country, and we do the same in the country for the reverse trip. In addition, we keep a bag in each of our automobiles embroidered with "Car" to hold things like bungee cords and reflectors, and Pompey has several bags for his belongings embroidered with his name, too.
We don't just use Boat and Tote bags at home, either. I use one embroidered with my initials to lug documents back and forth to my office (just as I did for books in school), and Boy uses and supplies his staff with Boat and Tote bags embroidered with his decorating firm's name and logo, ordered from L.L. Bean's direct-to-business arm.
Since Boat and Tote bags are virtually indestructible, we are reluctant to let go of ours when they become worn. And so we use our older bags for purposes that don't require them to be in pristine condition. Once we cycle a bag out of the clothing and personal effects transport phase of its life we use it for groceries and other shopping expeditions, and our oldest bags--worn ones that still remain sturdy--are used to transport things like tools, or for storage.
As far as I am concerned, there's no other place to buy these bags than from L.L. Bean. Why buy them from imitators when the "real thing" is readily available from the original purveyor at an attractive price? Just as I don't buy fake Gucci loafers or Belgian shoes, I don't buy Boat and Totes made by any other supplier than L.L. Bean. And I think you shouldn't, either.