Thursday, July 8, 2010

The L.L. Bean Boat and Tote Bandwagon

Reggie, like many of his readers, is a great fan of the iconic L.L. Bean Boat and Tote Bag and considers them to be indispensible in his day-to-day life.  Originally introduced by the company in 1944 as "Bean's Ice Carrier," they have been in production ever since, and are today widely used for purposes well beyond carrying blocks of ice.  Reggie first remembers seeing them in the early 1960s as a young boy, for Reggie's mother, known as Mummy Darling (or "MD"), was a great fan of the bags, and there were many of them in our household when I was growing up.  In fact, I can't remember a time in my life when there weren't at least several L.L. Bean Boat and Tote bags knocking around.  MD loved the bags for their sturdy good looks, easy practicality, and good value--attributes that continue to recommend them highly to this day.

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.

30 comments:

  1. They really are the best of the bunch. Attractive, sturdy and well priced. You really cannot ask any more of a tote.

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  2. They are the best- I keep one in the car for-whatever. My favorite one is my dearly departed MOSES bag-holding pride of place on a hook in the Laundry-holding Zetta's belonging, she inherited all his worldly wealth. xo, pgt

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  3. Have you may have read over on SG, we are a big fan of them as well, especially for going to the grocery and farmers market.

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  4. LL Bean totes really are wonderful. We've had them around the house since I was a small child. I carried my books in one in elementary school, and I still have that tote.

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  5. We do exactly the same thing! I have a New Hampshire bag and a Boat bag - actually several of each. I also have a bunch with my business name to lug things to and from trunk shows. My husband still calls them ice bags, a holdover from his parents.

    I have the LL Bean visa card, free delivery and free monogramming, so very handy for baby gifts, and later, off to college gifts!

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  6. What a great idea, embroidering them with "Darlington" and "Car." How civilized.

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  7. Boat and Totes are the BEST! Its truly one of the most iconic, American designs that simply is perfect just how it is. You can never have too many and oddly enough, I was just thinking of ordering another medium one (its my defacto summer work bag and the one in current rotation may be demoted to beach use) My mother is still lugging a large plain canvas one to the beach (40+ yrs and counting) and I find that size is perfect for a weekend away. I've given them for all sorts of presents: house warming, baby, hostess gift...what could be better! But, are you a purist or have you ventured into colors and the custom option?

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  8. Irvine and Fleming used these bags in red and white as their signature totes. They are great, but for me, they were a bit heavy to carry around Manhattan all day and schlep around the D & D. Still, I have fond memories of Keith and Tom coming in the door with these bags.

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  9. I love these totes also but have bought some from (dare I say it) Land's End because they offer a style with a zipper closure which keeps everything in it's place.

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  10. Yep. LFG and I have a bunch of them. We'll be loading two of them for trips to NYC and Rehoboth next week. The only exception we have is the green canvas tote from Hulme....

    www.jwhulmeco.com

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  11. I have a regular and even a super-sized one.
    ( it easily gets too heavy with camp stuff)
    the tiny size are good gift bags.
    I have made many mini ones for tools,
    gloves,hats, face masks and thermoses
    from when we made snow on 12 hour shifts at night.

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  12. The flagship store is about 30 minutes away from us. What is really fun... in the 'outlet' store they have canoes filled with the seconds, mis-spelled, or unsatisfied 'custom' totes. We have them for everything-and some with fabulous sayings, names and titles embroidered on them-in great color combinations! And yes, they last forever and are wonderful for storage.

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  13. Civilized, indeed!
    We're trying to name our cottage, so perhaps we'll invest in some bags when we have something clever to embroider.

    Any ideas, Reggie?
    Patterson would be the appropriate family name . . .

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  14. Love our totes here as well. We have several in all colors and sizes too, but the car idea is a new one for me...one that I may need to steal! Great tips!

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  15. Long story short, something caused my car to catch fire a few days ago while I was driving, and to explode just after a nice passer by flagged me down to alert me and suggest that I get out immmediately. Lost in the conflagration were three L.L. Bean tote bags, one with a change of clothes to take to Brimfield the next day (needless to say, I didn't make it), another loaded with some treasured decorating and architectural books on their way from office to home (sob), and a third, kept in the car all the time, with the usual odds and ends that one needs in a car. They were destroyed in the blaze, the only time I have ever known anything to destroy these indispensable adjuncts to life here Down East. One of them I know to have been over 30 years old.

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  16. I have some of these bags that are over twenty years old! My standard baby gift is a medium-sized boat-and-tote with pink or blue handles, embroidered with the baby's name, and filled with a selection of children's books. It's always a big hit!

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  17. We LOVE them too, use 'em for everything. One question however...has anyone ever washed them in the washing machine? It says not too, but after many many years of use some are getting pretty bad. Love your blog...thanks!

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  18. Brother Dear: How amusing to see that you too lug stuff to and from your office in a Boat & Tote. I stopped carrying a briefcase years ago in favor of one of the older bags that came from MD's home after her death (10 years ago this August!). When that warhorse finally wore out - well past the ratty-looking stage - I replaced it with a new large bag ordered from The Source. The only time I carry a briefcase these days is when I am off to court and have an actual brief to transport. Your Loving Brother, Frecky.

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  19. I've been a bridesmaid in two weddings where the brides gave us monogrammed boat and tote bags as bridesmaid gifts. They make such a nice personalized gift and I love using mine, not only because they are indestructible, but because they remind me of happy times at my friends' weddings.

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  20. Also, daily daisy, my sister just washed and dried hers after seven years of ownership (warm wash, warm dry), and it came out wrinkled, but hearty, with no fading or running of colors, which is great, because she has the off white/dark green straps combo. It was at the point where she was going to throw it out if the wash ruined it anyway, but now she gets a few extra years out of it.

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  21. You can defintiely wash them though I haven't tried doing it in the machine. I will often soak them in some hot water and oxyclean overnight, then scrub them a bit the next morning before rinsing and putting outside to dry. Really perks them up.

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  22. I never leave home without mine. And my standard baby shower gift is the XL tote ~ the mother-to-be always looks at it like "wtf", but they ALWAYS thank me later.

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  23. When I was growing up, they were just called Bean Bags. It took me until about a year ago to realize they had an official name...

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  24. Irretrievablybroken: Yes, indeed, one did know them as "Bean Bags" until quite recently. I am glad that you brought that up, as this was an oversight of Reggie's, he admits. Thank you for your comment.

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  25. I now fully understand the comment you left and I concur! A busy zeitgeist. I am guessing that the lovely shade of green in your photo is the now unavailable Sweet Pea, upon which I did not act quickly enough.

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  26. I adore my boat and totes and I cant seem to have enough, the things you can do with them are endless!
    I also would like to know what is the size and the color of the first one posted?

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  27. Reggie Darling...
    I must take objection with your reference to these bags as the 'original'. In fact, they are a mass produced version of original sailcloth bags, widely adored throughout New England. Generally known as 'Ratsey' bags, created from spare sail scraps by the Ratsey Sailmakers, they have been around for centuries.
    Another blogger I frequent has an interesting history lesson on ratsey bags and the heyday of sophisticated sailing:
    http://yankee-whisky-papa.blogspot.com/2011/05/sailing.html

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  28. Great post! its nice to carry stylish and fashionable canvas totebag when going for shopping!

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  29. Since the bags are made out of recycled sailcloth,Sailing Totes they are resistant to sea water and harsh weather. Whether you are using them for boating life or daily life, you can get the best out of them

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  30. Ella Vickers Sailcloth Tote bags Collection (EVSC) is a selection of Recycled Sail Bags, Sailcloth totes, Sailing, Tote bags, Seabags, Duffel, Beach totes.

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