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Why Do Tote Bags Not Have Zippers? Convenience Or Security?

Why Do Tote Bags Not Have Zippers? Convenience Or Security?

Tote bags are one of the most popular everyday bags that appeal to everyone. There is such a variety of designs, sizes, and prices where you can buy a tote for as little as $20 all the way up to $1500 or more. But the most common classic tote bag designs don’t have zippers.

Why do tote bags not have zippers? Having a zipper on a tote bag ruins the design and even cheapens it. The zipper will often get snagged on clothing, get stuck or even break especially totes with shorter strap drops. Finally, a zipper makes it less convenient to just reach in and grab your stuff.

Tote bags are so convenient in everyday life whether you are making a quick stop at the grocery store or simply taking your kids to the park.  But when you choose an open top tote over a zippered one are you simply opting for convenience over security?

I don’t necessarily think so but let’s explore the reasons most totes don’t have zippers and why some people wish they did.

Why Classic Tote Bags Do Not Have Zippers

Classic Bat Cat Cute Tote Bag

The design of a classic tote bag was ingenious in the matching of style and design with everyday use and convenience. Just like any other fashion accessory whether you choose a zippered tote over an open top tote is a matter of personal preference and daily use.

The classic tote is a very specific style of bag originally designed to appeal to everyone. The tote bag was designed to be a rectilinear bag with dual handles and an open top. Whereas a zipper bag is more like a Bolide style of handbag design.

Zipper Cons

Not only design but cost is always a factor with the addition of a zipper. To keep that mass appeal the savings between a good quality zipper, a magnetic snap, or a simple open top can be substantial when manufacturing thousands of tote bags. Thus, keeping tote bags appealing yet affordable for the average consumer.

Most people who prefer no zipper feel that adding a zipper ruins the overall design of the bag, especially on high-end tote bags. They feel the addition of the zipper really cheapens the design and look of the bag. If you’ve spent $1000 or more for your bag, I can definitely understand this view.

Of course, zippers can also be quite inconvenient. They can be a PITA to simply get things out when you need them especially if the zipper gets snagged or stuck. 

In everyday use zippers often get snagged on clothing and this is especially common with tote bags that have shorter strap drops. The zipper is also just another thing that can get stuck, break, or simply stop working.

Zipper Pros

Black Cat Leather Zip Top Tote Bag

Zip top tote bags are important for women living in urban areas especially if you use public transportation every day. Having a zipper to keep your belongings secure may not necessarily guarantee you stuff won’t be stolen but it certainly discourages thieves.

Of course, if you have a very large tote a thief would have to reach up to their elbow to touch any of your contents. But again, most people don’t want a potential thief routing around in their bags.

Another practical issue is when placing your tote bag down you don’t want it falling over and spilling all your belongings everywhere. If the tote is well made it will usually sit nicely even with an open top. But if it tends to topple over than a zipper or some sort of closure is important.

What I really hate is when I’m driving, and I have my bags sitting on the passenger seat and suddenly I have to stop. Then my bag will usually go flying off the seat and spill all the small contents everywhere.

Then I spend the next 5 minutes trying to find everything that’s slid under all the seats or is now broken. This is the worst and why a lot of women prefer a zipper or at least a magnetic or snap closure.

To keep the zipper from looking ugly and unappealing most zipped tote bags have an inset or recessed zipper. This prevents the zipper from tugging on your clothing while still looking fabulous.

If your travelling or carrying your tote for any length of time it’s a good idea to have a solidly built tote with wide straps. You will be far more comfortable carrying a tote bag with wide straps especially if you’re walking for several hours.

Tote bags are so handy and convenient no matter if you prefer open top or zipped top totes. I personally love the new custom printed designs. But there is something available for everyone no matter your budget or design preference.

A popular trend is to make your own tote bags or even add zippers to your existing tote bags. I wouldn’t necessarily go sewing zippers on to your $1000 leather tote bag. But for some people it’s a great option to help secure your belongings while traveling.

Can You Put A Zipper On A Finished Tote Bag

brown and black zippers

Adding a zipper to an existing tote bag is possible and some people will do it, but it is not commonly done. Most people will add a zipper to a tote bag they have just sewn or plan on adding a zipper when newly designed tote bag.

It becomes a little more difficult adding a zipper to an existing tote bag since you may not have matching fabric. it may be difficult locating the right length of zipper and by adding a zipper you may just turn a cute tote into an ugly tote bag.

It’s more common to add a zipper when your making your own tote bags or have just made one and still have the matching fabric. When adding a zipper, you have a couple options you can add a regular zipper or, as most woman prefer, adding an inset or recessed zipper.

Sometimes when adding a zipper, it is often too long for your tote bag and can end up sticking out on either side. This is not only ugly but will often get caught on clothing.

Some DIY guides suggest tucking the zipper on the inside of the bag when you sew the zipper. But, overall, your best option is to simply use a well-made inset zipper.

Here is a great instructional video on adding a recessed zipper to an existing tote bag:


Securing Your Open Tote Bag

Keeping your belongings safe and secure from thieves is the most common concern when using an open tote bag. This is also the most common reason why some women prefer a zip top tote bag.

It is very difficult to secure your belongings in an open top tote. I know they are super convenient and give you such easy access to your stuff, but this also makes it easier for thieves as well.

For everyday use like taking your kids to the park or a quick run to the grocery store this is less of an issue. But if you use public transportation or you’re travelling in highly populated tourist areas keeping your belongings safe from thieves is particularly important.

If you really love a specific tote bag, and you don’t know how to sew, you could opt for having a tailor or even a shoe shop add a zipper or even Velcro to your tote.

This does keep your contents secure but often a thief will simply walk by and try to rip your bag from your shoulder. This is unfortunately a common practice in popular tourist areas and many travelers have fallen victim to this.

One of your best options would be an inexpensive sturdy crossbody bag with an inside zipper pocket to put your credit card/cash in. Or simply have another small wallet or purse inside to keep your phone and other valuables.

A cross body bag is one of the more popular options for women how travel a lot or use public transit. Also, it’s easier to keep a crossbody bag secure while you’re sitting down, and you’re less likely to forget it when you get up to leave.

Related Questions

Can you iron a tote bag safely? You can iron a canvas tote bag by simply spraying the tote with a little water and using a handheld iron. Ironing with steam is also effective at removing wrinkles. In both cases the iron needs to be on the highest temperature setting. To avoid scorching cover with a damp towel or Teflon paper.