In common with many men, I suspect, I routinely used to tear the pockets of my coats and/or jackets by trying to fit into them items that really should not go in there. Newspapers are usually OK, some magazines less so, and books should be a no-no unless they are an especially small paperback. So what to do? Simples. Carry a tote bag.

The photo on the home page shows a comparatively voluminous tote bag displaying various London landmarks. My wife bought it for me as a Christmas present a couple of years ago – a matter to which I shall return in a moment. As a fashion accessory, the cotton tote bag became an item around 20 years ago (i.e. at a time when basically no one was buying vinyl albums!), although as a quotidian way to carry around one’s shopping it had been a staple in Africa and Asia for aeons until the environmentally unfriendly upsurge in the use of plastic and polythene bags. Nowadays, such bags are increasingly seen slung across the shoulders of men – and women – wandering around the streets of Britain.

Two essentially black tote bags (plus a bit of white) from the very modest collection I have at home

And increasingly they come with a message; or, more accurately, with a logo – which takes me back to the point in the previous paragraph, about having been bought one. In a recent light-hearted piece on the subject of tote bags in The Times, Simon Mills wrote: “How much do they cost? Zero. Nada. One must never buy a tote – it has to be gifted or (legally) removed from a hotel room cupboard. [Perhaps think of it as a non-clothing version of the bath robe?] Supplied as part of a cult magazine subscription deal or given away at a literary festival or tech conference, or on exiting a groovy party at Salone del Mobile in Milan.”

The two of mine shown in the photo above do fit, I think, within those parameters. The one on the right came with a jacket I bought – some sort of promotion, I presume. The other was handed to me, apparently as part of the price of the entry to an exhibition at the Centro Botin in Santander. (I think that doesn’t count as paying for it since I had bought the ticket before I knew I would be getting the bag.)

They don’t fulfil every requirement you might have when it comes to carrying around what you need. Sometimes there might be no alternative to a briefcase or a holdall. But often a tote bag will be just perfect. And your pockets will be grateful.