Branded bags seem to be used as a way of displaying status, especially among those who really care about fashion. I have to admit that I'm a little bit guilty of this, as I'm more likely to say yes to a carrier bag in some shops than I am in others, even if I don't actually need them - to be fair, I'll never say no to a pretty, high-quality bag. They show people that you can afford shop in certain stores, whether they are iconic or seen as being more high-fashion - let's face it, a lot of us would happily carry around one of the world-famous Tiffany's bags.
Just on one morning last week, I saw a woman on the bus using a paper branded bag from Mango as a handbag - which really isn't a practical choice for autumn in Leeds - and another woman writing a birthday card before putting it in a L'Occitane bag and rearranging the tissue paper that was in it, suggesting that she was using it as a gift bag. That afternoon, a woman in the queue ahead of me in Primark refused one of their bags for her mountain of shopping, instead, taking out a couple of large carrier bags from Harvey Nichols to put her discount clothes in.
While I'm all for re-using plastic bags, each of these situations stood out to me as being a bit odd. For starters, a paper bag is not a great alternative for a functional handbag, while giving someone a gift in the branded bag it came with seems to be a way of highlighting just how much you spent on them, which shouldn't matter if it's a gift. The Primark lady could very well have been thinking practically - we all know how rubbish their big bags can be - the Harvey Nichols bags just seemed a bit incongruous in that shop.
When it comes to fashion, it seems like the branded carrier bags you carry could be just as important as the handbag you use or the shoes you wear. This perhaps suggests why shops take steps to make their bags so iconic - just look at Bloomingdale's brown bags - so they stand out just as well as an on-trend item of clothing. It also means that people will use the same bag time and again, even if they haven't been into the store they got it from for a while, as they want to show others that they can shop there - which helps to advertise the store even more.
Branded carrier bags ultimately work like a fashion label, which is why people use them in such weird ways or refuse a bag from certain places. This has definitely made me think more about my carrier bag habits and when and why I'll make the most of certain branded bags.