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After 60 Years, Coach Tote Bags Still Reign Supreme

Here’s the history behind the OG tote bag.

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A quality tote bag is the glue that holds your wardrobe together. It’s the most-worn, most loved, and most relied upon piece in your closet — and for many, it’s from Coach.

The all-American brand has been iterating on the ubiquitous carryall since the 1960s, and after decades of refining, they’ve all but mastered the craft. A staple piece across generations, the Coach tote is beloved by virtually every demographic.

But how did the brand secure such a firm hold on the fashion industry and what gives it such staying power? Here’s how a simple bag became an American classic.

The Coach Tote’s Luxurious History

Though today, Coach is synonymous with the phrase “cute tote bag,” the style didn’t actually hit shelves until 20 years after the company was founded. Bonnie Cashin first introduced the bag in the 1960s during her stint as head designer (during which time she also created Coach’s iconic turnlocks, modeled after the fasteners on the hood of her convertible).

Inspired by the functional paper shopping bags of the day, Cashin’s sturdier leather “shopping tote” ushered in a new era for the brand. The honest, hardworking style quickly became a heritage silhouette for Coach and is now reimagined nearly every season in various size and color options.

In the past 10 years alone, the leather goods label has released almost as many tote bag styles. Since Stuart Vevers took over creative direction for the brand in 2013, Coach has released several new designs, such as: the Dempsey, Rae, City, Cargo, Gallery, and Willow. They even reissued Cashin’s iconic “Cashin Carry” in 2019 for its fifty year anniversary.

The Cargo, specifically, is hugely popular among Nordstrom shoppers, says Linda Cui Zhang, the retailer’s associate fashion director. “Our customer appreciates the durability of the Coach Canvas Cargo Tote — a carryall bag that can also be worn as a crossbody,” she tells Bustle. “Versatility is key... We know that our customers gravitate towards totes that wear well and work hard.”

And work hard it does — throughout its long history, the classic style has served as a canvas for many collaborations, including the likes of Disney, BAPE, and Zabar’s, an iconic New York City establishment. And in April 2023, Coach debuted yet another fresh take, releasing youthful, puffy iterations as part of their Coachtopia line — a new sub-brand focused on recycled materials. This latest re-design effectively brought Coach’s legacy style into the modern age.

While Cashin’s original tote had a square-shaped body, with a short top handle, today’s popular styles — like the City, Willow, and Coachtopia — feature a wider, horizontal structure, with longer straps made for wearing over the shoulder.

Naturally, Celebrities Love Coach Totes

During its many years in the spotlight, celebs ranging from Karlie Kloss and Chloë Grace Moretz to Jessica Alba have all been spotted carrying variations of the Coach tote. Quintessential New York fashion icon, Sarah Jessica Parker has even been seen dashing around the city with a forest green Borough bag in tow.

Raymond Hall/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Raymond Hall/FilmMagic/Getty Images
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As a former ambassador for the brand, Selena Gomez has also been photographed carrying Coach bags of every sort — even at the 2018 Met Gala.

Wait, Coach Totes Cost How Much?!

For many budding fashionistas, Coach bags represent their first foray into the luxury fashion space. This is largely due to their long-lasting designs and expansive price range.

Pricing depends solely on the material — canvas and recycled polyester alternatives will hit on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Some styles go for as low as $120, while more refined fabrications, such as glove-tanned leather, run closer to $800. The crocodile-inspired, pebbled, and smooth leather finishes can cost anywhere in between.