First Semester Style in the Bag


Katie Peurrung

Tote bags are practical and fashionable.

Amanda Burkett, Beauty and Style Editor

One way to automatically sidestep looking like a first year is leave your deteriorated, possibly neon, backpack from high school — at home. If you’re willing to forfeit practicality in place of style, the NYU campus is in many ways a catwalk and your Patagonia tactical hiking bag just isn’t going to cut it , even if it can hold 200 pounds and support your back at the same time.

In New York, there are probably more tote bags than there are people. These bags show subtle self expression and — I’m looking at any New Yorker subscribers out there —  even help you feign intelligence. Toss aside your shoulders’ old companion and consider the following variety of totes on the market.


Newspaper and magazine sponsored totes are some of the most frequently spotted in the city, thus declaring them the perfect “I am not a newbie” armor. The big catch, however, is that most only come with a subscription, which can be costly. For that reason, these bags follow the same rule as band T-shirts — make sure to only wear one from a publication you actually like and read, so you don’t freeze up when somebody asks you about it.


Though everyone in New York carries a tote, it’s still possible to maintain originality. Thrift stores in your hometown and around campus typically stock a bunch of bags that are worth checking out. If you have no luck in-store, online retailers often serve as an eccentric tote bag goldmine. Try eBay, Depop or Etsy for one of a kind bags that align with your interests.


If you’re from the Northeast, it is more than likely that one of these bags is gathering dust in your attic. The once cripplingly preppy L.L. Bean-style bag has somehow crept into fashion’s favor. For a durable tote at a decent price point, look at the L.L. Bean classic or the Noah remodel that brought it back to life. Both brands also make nylon alternatives if you’re afraid of carrying canvas in harsher weather.


Following the success of the Museum of Modern Art hoodie, museum apparel has become a class and intelligence-defining staple — not excluding museum tote bags. Basically all major museums sell a multitude of bags on their sites and in their gift shops. These bags can help you cultivate your artistic side and may even impress your professors.


If you have money to burn, there are plenty of totes fresh off the runway. Although these bags cost significantly more, they are an alternative way to embrace the trend. To keep it simple, try the Celine canvas tote, and for an edgier look, try the PVC-coated bag by Comme Des Garcons.

A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 26 print edition. Email Amanda Burkett at [email protected].