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This standby L.L. Bean tote is having a viral resurgence — here's why

TikTokers are swapping out the preppy monograms and printing these iconic bags with funny phrases.

There are a few clothing items and accessories that are synonymous with summer, no matter the year: flip-flops, linen basics, white jeans, simple black swimsuits and L.L. Bean's canvas Boat & Tote bag. The New England-favorite tote has been a staple for East Coast beachgoers since 1965. But over the last two years, it's had a resurgence over the entire U.S. via TikTok, thanks to the brand's customization tool. Yes, people on the social media app found a way to make the classic tote more trendy by embroidering ironic words or quirky short phrases on it in place of monograms.

It's really just another way to make a bag more personal to you, even if it does deviate from the bag's preppier origins. For example, some of the ironic totes might read "slay," "bee's knees," or "Tini time" (referencing martini happy hours) on the front. As long as it's under 10 characters, L.L. Bean will embroider it for just $8. Well, within reason of course — no profanity or registered trademarks.

Other than the embroidery, the bags are pretty much a classic, heavyweight cotton canvas tote. But they're super durable. They have a double layer at the base 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 feel reassured that I can confidently carry my laptop, groceries, beach stuff or even my small dog (more on that in a bit).

There are a few Boat and Tote styles available on L.L. Bean's website, starting at just $30. The most popular are the Open-Top and the Zip-Top. (The price varies based on the style and size.) You can probably guess from the name, but the Open-Top doesn't close, it stays open. It comes in the standard ivory canvas, 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.

More than 5,800 shoppers on L.L. 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 during a visit to the L.L. Bean store back in 1973 when I was in my mid 20's. We are both still going strong (although we're no longer 'pristine'). The only thing I've had to do is add some reinforcement to the tops of the handles about 20 years ago when the stitching frayed a little," wrote one person.

"I've owned well over 15 L.L. Bean Boat and Totes in various sizes. These rugged and heavy-duty totes are by far the most durable and the best tote bags on the market," said another.

$35 at L.L. Bean

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

The Zip-Top tote is about $10 more, but it includes a zipper on the top (like the name suggests. More than 5,100 L.L. Bean shoppers give this one a five-star rating too.

"Love these totes! I have one in every size, each one a different color," wrote one fan. "The zippered top is great to have and when not using it, it folds flat away as if it isn't even there. These totes are top quality and long lasting. My oldest one is over 40 years old."

$45 at L.L. Bean

While I didn't grow up on the East Coast, seeing people's tote bags online and watching enough Nancy Meyer's movies made me wish I did, at least for the "old money style." Then, after seeing the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker sporting these around town, I knew I had to buy a Boat and Tote. And after I did, I ended up buying a second one.

I first bought the medium-sized Zip-Top tote with regular handles in the Natural color. I printed the word "saucy" in red script, a cheeky nod to my own bold personality, but also to an inside joke with friends about my love of all sauces. (Ranch dressing, horseradish aioli, spicy mustard — no meal is complete with a sauce!). I was surprised at how sturdy the bag was. It can stand up on its own without wilting over.

two L.L. Bean boat and totes, one with a red dog inside
Here's a picture of both of my L.L. Bean Boat and Totes, with a photo of my pup standing up and putting his paws over the side in his. Note that they're both the same canvas color, but the lighting differs a bit in each photo. (Ellie Conley)

That's when I had the brilliant idea to get a second bag to carry my small 12-pound toy poodle. Up until this point, I've had some less-than-pretty dog-specific bags to carry him in. I got the large Open-Top version with the long handles and his name "AJ" printed on the side. It's big enough for him to lay down inside, and tall enough that when he stands up, I have to fold a little edge of it down so he can see out. I put a small fluffy towel on the bottom to make it comfortable for him or a cooling towel for especially hot days. It's perfect for extra hot weather when I want to take him with me, but I don't want his paws to get too hot on the pavement or when we need to take public transportation.

All in all, I'm impressed! The gals of TikTok were smart to bring this affordable bag to the mainstream and who knows, maybe I'll get a third. For a bag so versatile, I may even gift a few this year as well.

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

$69 at L.L. Bean

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.