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Canvas Bags: The New Look for 2013?

Updated on March 19, 2013

The more Whole Foods and Trader Joe's that work their way into my neighborhood (not complaining), the more I've been noticing a distinct new trend in accessorizing for both women and men: canvas bags. And this is still the winter where I live in Chicago. By the time summer rolls around, I'm calling it now, canvas bags will be seen by the side of every chic starlet and every leggings-wearing girl on a bicycle in the city — it's looking like they'll be as ubiquitous as Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Every year, food co-ops and organic markets get more and more "in" amongst those who can afford them. And with them, shopping "green" has become more standard — that is, bringing your own shopping bag instead of going paper or plastic — but, in the past year or two, I've been seeing more women with canvas Trader Joe's totes waiting for the train to downtown than I have actually coming out of a Trader Joe's. Or, like the above photo, faux-vintage canvas totes are a perfect summertime look.

I might sound snarky about this, but honestly, I would love a fashion wave of these canvas bags spread across every gossip magazine cover from the soda refrigerator to the Snickers bars.

Chic on the Cheap

Forget Gucci: A nice canvas tote means looking fashionable with your accessories for about $5. More and more these days, fashion hasn't necessarily been about buying expensive designer clothing, but often now it's all in the creative thrifting. A beyond-low price tag for a seriously stylish vintage ensemble is a stamp of your fashion prowess, not something to be belittled, Pretty Woman-style. Just check out those fatally fashionable folks over at and countless personal Tumblr pages if you don't believe me.

People who know me know that I love nothing more than a summery look on the cheap — somehow, getting less clothes for more money just doesn't rub me the right way. I'm all about the $6 Old Navy flip-flops, the dirt-cheap knock-off Wayfarer sunglasses and the repurposed Goodwill cut-off jeans. That's where a bare-bones brown canvas tote can come in handy. It gives you a vaguely island look for barely any cash at all, with enough space to carry around an emergency bathing suit and whatever other summertime treats you want (I'm not saying I would carry around a 40-ounce beer in there, I'm just saying it's an option). Plus, with just one big pocket and not 20 small ones, I might have a fighting chance of finding my keys in there in the morning.

Canvas Messenger Bags

For a little more money, getting yourself a canvas messenger bag can be the ultimate blend of style and function. Canvas bags are durable and lightweight, and are resistant to the elements, which should appeal to anyone whose expensive leather bag was ruined by a sudden rainstorm — unless that was just me.

Form and function don't have to be mutually exclusive. Adding some trim to your canvas messenger bag can't hurt, but the rule of thumb for this trend is to keep it simple. Just take a look at current ultra-hip style icons like Zooey Deschanel as a model of this idea; she's been wearing canvas bags both on and off the set of New Girl lately and looks great matching an intricate multi-layered ensemble with a beyond-simple canvas bag. It's been a ground rule for a long time now, but many women still need to learn not to over-accessorize, and a basic canvas messenger bag can bring a look back down to earth.

Stylish Canvas for Men

Messenger bags made out of practical canvas are nothing new for fashionable men, but they've also never looked better. In the case of men, I would even say that, the more practical and utilitarian the bag, the better. I'm a big fan of repurposing military-style canvas bags for urban use — if you want the ultimate display of both originality and practically, you could contact an all-purpose commercial sewing manufacturing company to get a bag to your own specifications.

If you're a more style-centric guy, a whole lot of great designers and stores will start putting out lines of canvas messenger bags in the next month or two. Zara has consistently great bags for men, and Urban Outfitters or somewhere similar will be sure to carry a few very chic men's canvas bags for very affordable prices.

Put Away the Leather and Go Canvas

There are a lot of different reasons why a lot of different kinds of people will be wearing canvas bags this spring and summer. They could be going "green;" they could be trying to stay on top of the summer style wave; they could be simply practical; or they could be on their way to the nearest whole foods. Whoever they are, they look great doing it, and with the bonus of never having to spend much money to do so — and, the other reason I personally carry a canvas tote with me almost everywhere I go, if the bag gets torn or dirty or used up, replacing it won't even put a dent in your paycheck. I know I'll be rocking a few different canvas bags every week this summer, and as far as mixing sense and style goes, you couldn't do any better. Your boyfriend and your budget will thank me.


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