Tote bags are, hands down, the most versatile bags in any wardrobe. To state the obvious, they can be used to replace single-use bags when purchasing clothes at a favorite boutique or picking up a few ingredients at a local farmers market. But they are so much more than a reusable shopping bag.
“A tote bag is a very versatile piece to have in your closet, [as] it can be used for a variety of occasions,” says celebrity stylist Naz Meknat. “Whether you’re going for an overnight stay somewhere or taking it on a long flight, it can store all of your essentials." She also notes that a tote makes for a perfect everyday bag, as well as a work bag, of course.
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Our top pick when it comes to leather tote bags is none other than The Transport Tote from Madewell. The brand's signature tote is large enough to hold your laptop, books, water bottle, and any other essentials. We think it's a fair price point for the quality, too. If you're in the mood to splurge, you can't go wrong with the classic Saint Laurent Leather Shopping Tote.
For a more elevated take on the classic tote bag, we turn to leather (and vegan leather!), which can make the tote bag feel a little more intentional, chic, and all the more timeless.
From leather work totes to faux leather tote bags for everyday use, we tracked down the best leather tote bags for every occasion, and we share our curated list of must-have designs, ahead.
Madewell The Transport Tote
The Madewell Transport Tote is an all-time favorite among fashion editors and style enthusiasts alike, thanks to its roomy design, neutral raw-edged style (it goes with literally everything), and how gorgeous it looks with a little wear. As a bonus, Madewell sources its leather from a sustainable manufacturer, so you can feel good about your purchase. On top of that, you can add some personalization at checkout with a little monogram moment in your choice of a metallic or hued stamp font.
Material: Vegetable-tanned leather | Dimensions: 3.75 x 14 x 6.25 inches | Colors: True Black, English Saddle, True Black/Brown
Price at time of publish: $178
Kattee Vintage Genuine Leather Tote Shoulder Bag
Finding a high-quality, budget-friendly leather tote bag isn’t the easiest task, but we feel really good about this pick—especially with over 1,500 Amazon customers backing it up. This leather tote bag is made from vintage waxed cowhide and features a classic rectangular tote bag shape, only it’s much easier to stay organized with so many extra pockets and compartments for your things. The shoulder bag has a spot for everything, with two main pockets, a zippered pocket, two open pockets, a couple of slots for smaller items, and an outer zippered pocket.
Material: Vintage waxed cowhide split leather | Dimensions: 11.8 x 5.1 x 14.3 inches | Colors: Light Brown, Black, Green, Red, Brown, Blue
Price at time of publish: $64
Saint Laurent Leather Shopping Tote
If you’re looking to invest in a designer bag, you can’t go wrong with a designer tote bag, as you’ll get so much use out of it. This all-black leather Saint Laurent tote bag features a timeless and sleek design constructed in 100 percent calfskin leather with a detachable zipper pouch and key holder to keep you organized. It’s also adorned with a leather tag for added detailing.
Material: Calfskin leather | Dimensions: 11 x 14.6 x 5 inches | Colors: Black, Storm, Deep Marine, Dark Beige, Opium, Crema Soft, Khaki Fonce, New Vert Fonce
Price at time of publish: $1,250
Cuyana Classic Leather Zipper Tote
The classic tote bag is simple in design, ultra-durable, and spacious—and this Cuyana bag checks every box. This pebbled leather tote bag is made in Argentina in a small family-owned factory, ensuring that the highest care and quality goes into every bag produced. In addition to its classic design, the bag has a safety upgrade with a top zipper, so you can rest assured knowing that everything inside will remain in place.
Material: Italian leather | Dimensions: 13.5 x 18 x 5.75 inches | Colors: Navy, Caramel, Stone, Dark Olive, Burgundy, Black
Price at time of publish: $248
Best for Work
BÉIS The Work Tote
Beis is all about making accessories that are as practical as they are stylish—and The Work Tote is no exception. Made from vegan leather and designed to be the most functional for work, plus easily transition to out-of-office activities, this leather tote bag has a removable pouch to house smaller items, a padded laptop sleeve that closes to keep your device secured, a larger interior zippered pocket, smaller pockets, pen slips, and a key ring for easy access. The bag also has comfortable shoulder straps, plus a removable adjustable strap, and—get this—a zippered trolley sleeve that doubles as another pocket when it’s not in use.
Material: Vegan leather | Dimensions: 16.75 x 13.5 x 7 inches | Colors: Beige, Cognac Croc, Black, Black Croc
Price at time of publish: $138
Cuyana Classic Structured Tote
Whether you have a lot to tote around (pun intended) or require a good overnight bag, having a large tote bag on hand is a must. We are obsessed with this one from Cuyana because, although it is a large bag, its design still has intentional structure, so it can hold your stuff while also holding its shape. This tote bag is made from Italian leather with a pebbled finish in a woman-owned factory that follows responsible practices.
Material: Pebbled leather | Dimensions: 13.25 x 19.5 x 6 inches | Colors: Black/Blush, Black/Caramel. Caramel/Blush, Cappuccino/Blush, Stone/Blush, Ecru/Blush
Price at time of publish: $248
Best for Travel
Calpak Haven Laptop Tote Bag
When shopping for a leather tote bag for travel, you want a bag that was specifically designed with jet-setting in mind. This one from Calpak will keep you organized on the go, with a durable and removable shoulder strap, zippered and magnet closures, a trolley sleeve, and a removable laptop sleeve that also features smaller pockets to keep items safe and snug when stowed.
Material: Vegan leather | Dimensions: 16 x 12.5 x 5 inches | Colors: Black, Petal, Toffee, Birch
Price at time of publish: $178
ASOS Claudia Canova Unlined Two Pocket Tote Bag with Removable Pouch
Fortunately, there are some great vegan leather tote bag options out there—some of which are listed in other categories here. For this category, we wanted to find a bag that is so great that the faux leather looks real. Our pick is this Unlined Two Pocket Tote Bag available at ASOS, thanks to its high-quality material, classic style, and super-functional front pocket design. On top of that, the tote bag is on the affordable side of the spectrum, which makes it that much more enticing to click "add to cart."
Material: Faux leather | Dimensions: 16 x 15 x 4 inches | Colors: Black
Price at time of publish: $73
Coach Mini Cashin Tote
Mini tote bags might not be the most useful, since they carry far less than your average tote, but we love them as an alternative for an everyday purse. This one from Coach might be small, but it has all the room you need for everyday essentials, with a spacious interior, a credit card slot, and a detachable shoulder strap to make it a cross-body. The bag is designed from buttery glove-tanned leather and is available in a neutral color that is sure to stay in style.
Material: Glove-tanned leather | Dimensions: 5.5 x 6.6 x 3 inches | Colors: Brass/Chalk
Price at time of publish: $250
Best for Moms
Leatherology Zippered Downtown Diaper Bag
For moms with young children, a tote bag that doubles as a diaper bag is ideal for versatility and organization. This full-grain leather tote bag has everything you need while chasing your little one on the go, with plenty of slip pockets, a zipper closure, and a removable fabric insert with five insulated pockets for diapers, snacks, bottles, and more.
Material: Full grain leather | Dimensions: 13 x 18 x 6 inches | Colors: Black Onyx, Bordeaux, Cognac, Camel, Scarlet, Charcoal +more
Price at time of publish: $260
Everlane The Italian Leather Studio Bag
Everlane makes some of our favorite tote bags, including this Leather Studio Bag. Made from 100 percent Italian leather, the bag has four pockets and is big enough to fit a laptop, so you can wear it as an everyday bag or transition it into a work bag, depending on your day-to-day needs. It features an elevated spin on the classic tote bag design with a bucket-like shape, a large front pocket, and a single adjustable strap.
Material: Leather | Dimensions: 13 x 6.25 x 9.75 inches | Colors: Black, Cognac
Price at time of publish: $225
Best for Class
The Leather Expert Leather Laptop Bag
If you’re planning to take your tote bag to school, you want one that has lots of compartments, including a spot for your laptop. This one from Etsy is made from full-grain leather and designed with tons of great pockets and zippered compartments. It's available in different sizes, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Material: Vegetable tanned leather | Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 4 inches (small), 17 x 13 x 4 inches (large) | Colors: Caramel, Coffee, Black, Wine, Aloe, Chai, Moss, Sunrise Rose, White Rose
Price at time of publish: $340
Poppy Lissiman Lio Tote - Black
This tote bag by Poppy Lissiman boasts the cutest black-and-white checkered print made with faux leather trim and canvas (although the printed part of the bag looks like it could be leather). If you're wanting something that will stand out and add a bit of character to your outfit, we couldn't recommend this more.
Material: Canvas and leather | Dimensions: 11.5 x 11.5 x 6 | Colors: Black
Price at time of publish: $160
Sarep + Rose Maral Daily Tote
If you’re going for an everyday tote bag, you want to consider a cross-body bag, as the additional strap can make it much easier to carry your essentials hands-free. This one from Sarep + Rose is made of sustainably sourced fishskin leather and features the classic tote bag straps with a detachable shoulder strap for versatile wear. As far as organization is concerned, it has two interior pockets, plus a top zipper to keep everything safe and secure.
Material: Fish leather | Dimensions: 10 x 11.5 x 4.75 inches | Colors: Camel/White, Black/Orange, Black/Green, Black/White
Price at time of publish: $325
Best Pop of Color
Sarep + Rose Sara Mini Tote Indigo Croc
Most leather totes are available in more natural and neutral shades, but we can’t help but look for a splash of color. Our top pick for a colorful leather tote is this mini tote bag from Sarep + Rose. The purple bag is made of East African full-grain leather, which is one of the most luxe leathers available. This bag features a zippered top closure to keep items secure, two handbag straps that give it a classic tote feel, plus an adjustable shoulder strap to make it a cross-body.
Material: Full-grain leather | Dimensions: 7 x 4.5 x 4.25 inches | Colors: Indigo Croc
Price at time of publish: $235
Meet the Expert
Naz Meknat is a Los Angeles-based celebrity wardrobe stylist and author. She's worked with celebrities including Sterling K. Brown, Tara Reid, and Nyambi Nyambi, among others.
What to Look for in Leather Tote Bags
When shopping for a tote bag, weight is an important factor to consider. “Make sure the tote isn’t too heavy,” says Meknat. “As you add your essentials into the bag, it will get heavier and hard to carry."
How you will use your tote bag is also important to think about. “Consider what the bag is going to be used for. For example, if it is for traveling or work, a nicer leather tote would be ideal,” Meknat explains. “However, if you want to use it for shopping or a picnic, you might want to consider a different material [such as canvas]."
If you’re shopping for a tote bag for everyday use, you’ll want one that goes with anything. “Choose a neutral-color tote like black, brown, or tan, so it won’t clash with the colors of your outfits,” Meknat advises.
What is a tote bag?
A tote bag is typically an unfastened bag that is rectangular in shape with handle straps that parallel each other on each side of the bag. Totes are pouch-like and traditionally feature one large opening. However, many modern tote bags are designed with additional pockets or bag inserts for better organization.
How to care for a leather tote bag
While leather tote bags can’t be thrown in the wash like their canvas counterparts, caring for them is fairly straightforward—so long as you are aware of what can cause damage.
For starters, Meknat says that leather can absorb oil and grease very easily, so it’s important to be mindful of where you place your bag, and avoid grabbing it if you've recently applied a product with oil in it to your hands. “If it gets wet, blot it with a dry cloth as soon as possible,” says Meknat, adding that it’s a good idea to wipe the bag every few days with a soft and slightly damp cloth to get rid of dust. “For a more deep cleaning, use a leather cleaner, or take it to a professional who knows how to handle leather goods."
In addition to cleaning, conditioning the leather can also ensure that it stays in pristine shape. “You can use a leather conditioner to keep the leather soft and prevent it from cracking,” Meknat explains.
Storage is also important when considering care. “Store your leather tote in a dry climate-controlled storage area,” Meknat suggests. “Stuff it with bubble wrap or parchment paper to keep the shape, and leave it in a dust bag when not used."
What do you put in a tote bag?
“You can put any items that you need to transport in your tote bag,” says Meknat. “It can be used for travel or even for shopping,” she adds, noting that cotton or canvas tote bags are popular for a trip to the farmer’s market. “A leather tote is also a great work bag if you carry a laptop or iPad."
Meknat says you can also use tote bags to carry your workout accessories—such as a yoga mat—or even as an overnight bag in place of a duffle. “If you have small children, a tote bag is a perfect-size bag to carry a few diapers or toys for the little ones while out and about," she says.
Why Trust Byrdie
Contributing writer Jessie Quinn has a bachelor's degree in fashion journalism. From working in the fashion closet and interviewing designers at NYLON Magazine to now writing about the best style trends for various publications, Jessie researches and sources the best fashion finds. When researching the best leather tote bags, Jessie looked for high-quality options that wear well, are versatile, and have an organization factor to keep items from being thrown about inside.