I would absolutely read a well-researched think piece on the cultural significance of the tote bag, because I can personally only offer speculation.
During the recent
boozefest convention T and I attended, he chided me about all the schwag I grabbed. We’ve been set on keeping clutter to a minimum, so naturally one would assume bringing in superfluous freebies would be frowned upon.
But I love a tote. I love the concept of a re-usable bag that is also kind of disposable. Like, you probably didn’t pay for it, so if you need to leave it behind because you’ve all decided to go out for drinks after the potluck and you don’t trust your host to return it, it’s no big D. Furthermore, though I usually dislike the idea of wearing a company’s logo on my person when I’ve paid them for the clothing already, the free advertising of freebie totes offers two bonuses: promoting the brand of the product/organization you ostensibly support and promoting one’s own status as someone who supports said brand/organization. It seems petty, but sometimes carrying the right Planned Parenthood or New Yorker tote bag can say more about you to would-be accosters than any of the words you might speak yourself.
I recently pulled out all the tote bags in my house. See photo above. Here are how they rank, based on quality, design and sentimental value, from least favorite to best best.