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This classic LL Bean bag is making a viral comeback – here's why

There are a few clothing items and accessories that are synonymous with summer no matter the season: flip-flops, linen basics, white jeans, simple black swimsuits, and LL Bean's Boat & Tote canvas bag. The popular New England tote has been a staple for East Coast beachgoers since 1965. Over the past two years, it's made a comeback across the U.S. thanks to the brand's personalization tool via TikTok. Yes, folks on the social media app have found a way to make the classic tote bag trendier by embroidering ironic words or quirky short phrases on it instead of monograms.

It's really just another way to personalize a bag, even if it deviates from the bag's more preppy origins. For example, some of the tongue-in-cheek tote bags have “Slay,” “Bee's Knees,” or “Tini Time” (a nod to Martini happy hours) written on the front. As long as it's under 10 characters, LL Bean will embroider it for just $8. Within reason, of course—no swear words or registered trademarks.

Aside from the embroidery, the bags are basically classic tote bags made from heavy cotton canvas, but they're extremely durable. They have a double layer on the bottom with a reinforced flat canvas bottom, and the handles are tested to hold up to 500 pounds. While I don't think I could carry 500 pounds on my shoulder, it's nice to have the peace of mind that I can carry my laptop, groceries, beach stuff, or even my small dog (more on that in a moment) without worry.

There are a few boat and tote styles available on LL Bean's website, starting at just $30. The most popular are the open-top and zip-top styles. (Price varies by model and size.) As you probably guessed from the name, the open-top doesn't zip up; it stays open. It comes in the standard ivory finish, but there are 12 colorful handle options to choose from. It also comes in small, medium, large, and extra large sizes with two different handle lengths.

LL Bean

More than 5,800 shoppers on LL Bean's website give this style a perfect five-star rating, many of whom have been loyal fans for decades.

“I bought my trusty tote bag in 1973 on a trip to the LL Bean store when I was in my mid-20s. We're both still in great shape (though we don't look 'flawless' anymore). The only thing I had to do about 20 years ago was to reinforce the top of the handles a bit when the stitching started to fray a little,” one person wrote.

“I have owned well over 15 LL Bean Boat and Totes in various sizes. These sturdy and heavy-duty totes are by far the most durable and best totes on the market,” said another.

$35 at LL Bean

The brand also makes the Boat & Tote Zip-Top, which has a zipper to close the bag and keep all your belongings inside. This model also comes in the standard ivory cotton canvas color and in 12 colorful handle options; the color you choose will also be the color of the fabric around the zipper, for a fun added contrast.

LL Bean

The Zip Top Tote costs about $10 more, but (as the name suggests) has a zipper on the top. More than 5,100 LL Bean shoppers also give this bag five stars.

“I love these tote bags! I have one in every size, each in a different color,” wrote one fan. “The zipper on the top is great and when you don't need it, it folds flat like it's not even there. These tote bags are top quality and built to last. My oldest is over 40 years old.”

$45 at LL Bean

I didn't grow up on the East Coast, but seeing other people's tote bags online and watching enough Nancy Meyer movies made me wish I grew up there, at least in the “old money” way. Then when I saw people like Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker carrying these bags around town, I knew I had to buy myself a Boat and Tote. And after I did, I ended up buying myself a second one.

I first purchased the medium zip-top tote bag with regular handles in natural color. I printed the word “saucy” on it in red font, a cheeky nod to my own bold personality but also to an inside joke with friends about my love of all things sauce. (Ranch dressing, horseradish aioli, hot mustard – no meal is complete without sauce!). I was surprised at how sturdy the bag was. It can stand on its own without collapsing.

two LL Bean boats and tote bags, one with a red dog in ittwo LL Bean boats and tote bags, one with a red dog in it

Here's a picture of my LL Bean Boat and Totes, with a photo of my pup standing up and sticking his paws in his over the side. Note that they're both the same canvas color, but the lighting is a little different in both photos. (Ellie Conley)

That's when I had the brilliant idea to buy a second bag to carry my little 12 lb toy poodle. Up until that point, I'd had a few not-so-nice dog bags to carry him in. I bought the large open-top version with the long handles and his name “AJ” on the side. It's big enough for him to lay down in, and high enough that when he stands up, I have to fold a small edge over so he can see out. I put a small fluffy towel on the bottom to keep him comfortable, or a cooling towel for extra hot days. It's perfect for extra hot weather when I want to take him with me but don't want his paws to get too hot on the sidewalk or when we have to use public transportation.

All in all, I'm impressed! The girls at TikTok were smart to bring this affordable bag to the mainstream, and who knows, I might buy a third one. With a bag this versatile, I might even give a few as gifts this year.

LL Bean

If you prefer a crossbody strap, LL Bean recently released this version of its iconic bag. For a little more money, you can get the small bag with the signature top handles And a long, adjustable shoulder strap in four colors.

$69 at LL Bean

The reviews cited above reflect the most current versions at the time of publication.