The big blue IKEA bag may only go for 99 cents, but it’s as iconic as a $50,000 Birkin. And unlike the Hermes status symbol, there’s probably not a person in New York City who hasn’t toted something or other around in a Frakta (the actual product name of the bag), whether it be dirty sheets, an ex’s belongings or three bags of mulch you found someone in Ridgewood giving away for free on Craigslist. And though that big blue polypropylene shopping bag is still changing hands across the five boroughs, we are noticing a new contender in the massive-bag-for-lugging-things-around-NYC scene: The Alo Shopper Tote.
Move Over Blue IKEA Bag, This Is the New Big Tote New Yorkers Are Using for Everything
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Just as Alo came in hot for Lululemon, the brand might also be posing some serious competition for our favorite reusable oversized shopping bag. In places we’ve been accustomed to seeing those large noisy blue duffels, the newer gray tie-dye one is slowing cropping up in its place—a woman dragging two through the door of a laundromat; a student using it as a pillow in Washington Square Park; a man sipping coffee across from one filled with who-knows-how-many Sunday editions of the New York Times.
So how does the bag stand up to the stalwart IKEA one? The Alo Shopper Tote, though still oversized, comes in a bit smaller at 20" x 14" x 7", compared to the IKEA bag’s 21 ¾” x 14 ½” x 13 ¾”. It’s also 100 percent cotton, making it much softer and more comfortable to lug around all day—especially when it comes to peak summer MTA carry-a-thons. This is especially true for the Alo handles, also cotton, which, unlike the polypropylene IKEA handles, make for less painful indents on your shoulder after hauling two decade’s worth of T-shirts to sell at Beacon’s Closet (and then hauling it all back when they don’t buy anything).
And of course, the IKEA bag has some features that the Alo one doesn’t. For one, you could take it up with you to summit Mount Everest and it probably wouldn’t be worse for wear thanks to its fatigue- and water-resistant polypropylene, which “retains its shape after a lot of torsion, bending, and/or flexing.” The thermoplastic also makes for niftier recycling. And if the shocker of the “Cotton Tote Crisis” of 2021 taught us anything, it’s that all those free cotton totes aren’t saving the planet, but hurting it.
That said, the Alo tote is not free. In fact, it’s a whopping $48. Not cheap for a tote, and about $47 more than the Frakta. But of all the totes this writer has come across, I have to say, this is the tote bag to end all tote bags. It’s…great. Dare I say it might even be worth that overpriced price tag? Like the IKEA bag, it can be the convenient home for all the possessions in limbo in my apartment. Unlike the IKEA bag, it doubles as a stylish carry-all. But hopefully, like the many IKEA bags in circulation, one will just magically come into your possession when a friend drops off the books you lent her or because your cousin left one on the coatrack and will simply never ask for it back. (Yay.)
So is New York City big enough for these big bags? Well, for anyone who’s ever had to make the “stay out all day in Manhattan” day work, or for anyone who’s had to lug three woven baskets from the Upper West Side’s Home Goods to Bed Stuy, or for anyone who had to make a “quick stop” at Trader Joe’s and leave with a year’s worth of frozen chana masala—which is to say, everyone—then yeah, the city is big enough (and most certainly inconvenient enough) for both.