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The Tote Bags You’re Most Likely to See in NYC, Ranked by Superlatives

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A tote bag seen at Frieze New York Photo: Melodie Jeng for Racked

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On city streets, tote bags are a badge of honor that showed off personality way before the current Pinvasion. Just got back from a recent trip to London? Boast about your life-changing European experience with a London Review of Books canvas tote. Just visited a new exhibit at the Met? Make sure everyone on your commute knows via your new canvas totem.

Tote bags fit everything you need (a wallet, your keys, a snack or two, that laptop that’s really getting pretty heavy nowadays) and are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to cleaning them — but let’s face it, it’s what’s on the outside that matters. Below, the canvas bags you’re most likely to see in New York City, ranked by high school yearbook superlatives.

Grocery totes 10% off at! #NPR #nprgear #nprswag #totebags

A photo posted by NPR Shop (@nprshop) on

OG Tote Bag: NPR

If you have a closet full of canvas tote bags, you can thank NPR for starting the craze. What started as a fundraising incentive — donate to NPR and get a free tote! — became a cultural phenomena with men and women alike donning NPR’s ubiquitous tote to grab groceries, go to work, and everything in between. Once people had a taste for tote bags, they had to have more and other brands started producing their own bags for devoted clientele. Sticking true to its charitable roots, buying a NPR tote today still donates money to fund valuable public radio programming.

Most Bookish: The Strand

The Strand means business when it comes to books. The essential NYC store boasts “18 miles of books and counting,” not to mention non-books like Strand-branded canvas (and, in the above case, nylon) bags. And luckily for those who abuse their totes, the store constantly updates its cheeky selection so that you can get something new every time.

#zabars #tote #bag #ny

A photo posted by FReeSLY (@freeslyfreesly) on

Most Old-School: Zabar’s

Zabar’s on the Upper West Side is a New York cultural institution. Whether you learned about it from You’ve Got Mail or stumbled upon it while tracking down the infamous Banksy, there’s no way you haven’t stopped in for a bagel, some lox and babka to finish — and tote bags let everyone know about it.

In store: totes.

A video posted by nplusonemag (@nplusonemag) on

Most Hipster: N+1

The New York-based literary magazine basically screams that you have applied (or are planning on applying) to that MFA program and own a fixed-gear bike. If you don’t have the latest issue for your subway commute, you might as well have the tote bag to carry your clear-rimmed glasses and that badge of literati-honor.


A photo posted by #withkkcp (@k.kcp) on

Most Wannabe French Girl: A.P.C.

Striped shirt and flats? Check. The A.P.C. tote bag is next. Whether you love the store for its subtle basics or raw denim, make sure to leave with a tote bag. Sadly, you'll exit at of the brand’s downtown stores and find yourself that you’re still in New York, but at least you’ll look ready to take the next direct flight out of JFK to Charles De Gaulle.


A photo posted by Sophi 소피 (@susophinoe) on

Most Skater-Cool: Supreme

Right now, streetwear having its moment. Thrasher tees and Vans are the new off-duty model uniform, and sometimes a stroll down the block can look like you’ve stumbled into a skate video shoot on the Lower East Side. Carry all the essentials minus the deck with this tote — just avoid the insane lines when trying to get it.

Officially #NewYorkerToteBag official! Big moment.

A photo posted by Michael Hirtzer (@mmmmmmmmhmm) on

Most Well Read: New Yorker

You might secretly have a pile of last month’s New Yorker magazines stacking up on your bedside table, but nobody has to know that while you’re carrying this tote.

When the chop is run out of ink, there is extraordinary design. #mujitotebag#mujimy#chop#totebag

A photo posted by Delicia (@delicia_cheers) on

Most Original: Muji

Japanese-transplant brand Muji has already infiltrated every other part of your life, most likely. At most stores, you can pop in, choose a bag, and decorate it to your heart’s content with creative stamps (or pick up a store-exclusive style). For those true minimalists, leave with a plain canvas bag.

Art Class Star: MoMA

There might just be one thing better in the art world than the constantly-rotating exhibits at the MoMA, and that’s the MoMA Design Store. The museum’s gift shops constantly restock with new tote bags that each show off design elements of the latest exhibits.

Best Dressed: Margaret Howell

Cool kids across the pond love Margaret Howell’s minimalist designs, and the British designer’s wares are finally hitting the hipper-than-thou Brooklyn set. The clean typeface practically demands that you don’t get this canvas tote dirty.

Thanks @verameat for hooking me up ✌

A photo posted by Carolyn Cina (@carolynrosecina) on

Most Creative: Verameat

Verameat has shops in the East Village and in Brooklyn and comes out with new tote bag designs all the time. Working with an in-house illustrator, founder Vera Balyura makes sure to never disappoint; past tote bag runs boast cartoons of celebrities as far-ranging as Parker Posey and Bill Murray.

American apparel totebag Rm46 exc postage #americanappareltotebag #totebagmalaysia #totebagmurah #igshop #igshopmalaysia #sayajual

A photo posted by Batch 2 end 20 July | MY (@littlesttyle) on

Most Popular: American Apparel

Everyone and their mother has shopped at American Apparel, and despite recent troubles, that hasn't stopped people from using their free-with-purchase tote bags to transport everything but the kitchen sink.