Fewer bags have found as much use as that of the Boston bag. Be it a carrier of books for school children, a trusty companion for a lady on a shopping spree or a businessman attending a meeting, the Boston bag is the ultimate utilitarian. A bag that has been around since the civil war, it is safe to say that the Boston bag has been a possessional requisite of every proud Bostonian. The wealthy flaunted the finest quality of leather bags, while those who weren’t well to do, carried a bag made of cloth with a leather base. Regardless of the different versions of the Boston bag, they were a prized possession of every Boston woman.
Dating far back in the 16th century – Witney, a rural Oxfordshire town known for its high quality produce of woolen blankets shipped these blankets worldwide. During the Second World War, nearly a million blankets were woven in 1944 alone.These blankets found other applications as well. Local leather workers turned the blankets into robust bags that were utilized for everyday use. The fine British craftsmanship made these bags popular.
One of the first recorded instances where the Boston bag was used can be attributed to the English House of Commons. Originally a shade of green, the Boston bag would be used to hold public petitions and was placed behind the speaker’s chair. Attorneys back in America named these the ‘green bags’ but as time passed, it became a lingo amongst everybody. The ‘green bags’ were used to hold everyday items ranging from books to groceries and other such supplies. You would be marvelled by what one could fit into a Boston bag. However, over the years, the Boston bag saw variations in shape. Approximately a foot long and high, it consisted of a flat bottom with relatively short handles along with a closure strap. Its fabric much lighter than that of a modern canvas tote.
Initially, leather wasn’t as prominently used in the world of bags. It found application to reinforce base of bags. Eventually, all leather versions of the bag grew in popularity. One common bag, contained hinged openings, resembling a doctor’s bag. A similar but much larger version was termed as the Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Intended as a rugged industrial article, the Boston bag soon became a necessity among folks, making it the go-to tote.
Women residing in the Big Apple chose to wear shoes and bags that fall into the classification of ‘dainty’ when compared to their much more practical Bostonian sister. Strolling down the streets of New York or cruising through sunny Los Angeles, one would always be identified as Bostonian, based on the Boston bag they chose to adhere to. The Boston Daily Globe famously stated: “Even if there was or ever will be some sort of a conspiracy in society intended to discredit the boom of the Boston bag, would but fail.”
The introduction of L. L. Bean handbags in 1912 was but the closest to the cloth and leather-based Boston bags. The all canvas rendition of the Boston that contained a zipper as well as shoulder straps that were crafted by L. L. Bean.
A light, well-crafted handbag that resonated with its user, the popularity of the Boston bag surged in the 1920s where it found wide application ranging from a sturdy companion for an overnight trip to a meticulously organized bag carried to work. The original Boston bag, however, has become seemingly harder to find. As time moved on, the Boston bag title was awarded to almost any handbag with short handles. While premier luxury brands such as Ralph Lauren and Gucci might term their bags as ‘Boston bags’, the shape they’re crafted in seems much different from the original Boston bag. The ‘Gladstone bag’ crafted by J. Peterman is much closer to the original Boston bag despite the fact that it introduced both, a zipper as well as a lock. A rendition of the 1928 tote cloth bag commonly donned by schoolboys was crafted by the Boston Bag Co. minus the closing strap.
In 1921, Guccio Gucci brought his trademark green and red stripes along with a metal horse bit. Gucci’s interlocking ‘GG’ soon became an emblem of status and wealth. Its power as a brand in the fashion industry became a force to reckon with. Even today it continues to drive the purchase of luxury goods.
Regardless of its humble origins to fashion’s most desired accessory, the Boston bag has been designed for every occasion. A handsome and practical bag with over 400 years of history!