When the aliens finally try to understand human civilization in all its multiplicities, they may very well start with how we dress. And if that mysterious blue light that emanated over Queens in late December was a harbinger of extraterrestrial life and not, as the NYPD asserted, a transformer explosion at a ConEd plant, our new alien overlords could very well begin with Park Slope Moms and their Park Slope Mom Bag Straps.
According to the New York Times, the look du jour for moms of a certain zip code and/or tax bracket involves No. 6 clogs and eye-catching straps affixed to otherwise unrelated bags. In particular, they cited Salt, which was founded by two women who had the idea “on a fateful girls’ trip to Tulum.”
The straps are reminiscent of textiles made by the Wayuu people, an indigenous group who live in the Guajira Peninsula (what is commonly known as Colombia and Venezuela). The brand employs Wayuu artisans to make the straps and donates a portion of proceeds to a foundation dedicated to supporting the Wayuu people and their culture and traditions. (All of Salt’s designs feature English-language names.) They retail for $140, not including the price of the handbag to which you choose to affix your strap. The brand’s Instagram highlights women who attached theirs to bags from labels like Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Gucci.
Carolyn Mair, a psychologist, theorized to the Times that because the straps are marketed with a social-good angle, they could seemingly offset any guilt someone feels from, say, having the means to afford a $3,000 handbag. “I think it’s less acceptable now, at least in some circles, to be totally oblivious to the problems in the world. Perhaps by wearing the strap, these women want to be seen as acknowledging issues elsewhere by supporting a social cause.” The Times did not quote any strap-owner who cited the brand’s philanthropy as a reason for buying a Salt strap, though one woman did explain she wanted to support a “mom-owned business.”
Of course, there are designer options available to match those same designer bags. Dior sells straps ranging from $550 to $1,500, and Off-White’s caution-tape-inspired straps are now as ubiquitous as the orange tags on the brand’s sneakers. Etsy sellers also offer “guitar-style” bag straps in a variety of styles, including one reminiscent of Gucci’s green and red stripe motif. But none of this quite answers the question: Why wouldn’t you just buy a bag with a strap already on it? Or, if your bag already features a strap, why would you need to replace it with a different strap?
For the sake of anthropology, we discussed amongst ourselves:
Gabriella Paiella, senior writer: I saw the strap in the wild for the first time a few days ago and thought it was just “a funky bag.”
Jen Gann, essays editor: If I’ve seen them, I definitely just dismissed them as that.
Allison P. Davis, senior culture writer: I am now obsessed with the maker of this strap. I must know everything about her.
Anna Silman, culture writer: Damn, I like that strap.
Izzy Grinspan, senior editor: As a Brooklyn mom, I love my No.6 clog boots but I do not like that strap.
AS: I have a Clare V. strap, which I use to make my bags look more “funky.” I support a good strap.
Ella Cerón, writer: The straps remind me of something someone would buy in Tulum to humblebrag that they went to Tulum.
APD: These straps were, in fact, conceived in Tulum.
IG: The thing about the strap is that it makes luxury bags look like the kind of inexpensive bag you’d buy at a hippie boutique. It’s a classic “look rich by looking less rich” scam, IMO.
Erika Allen, culture editor: I do think it makes expensive bags look not as good, but more comfortable.
AS: I wouldn’t attach it to an expensive bag, but it’s a good way to up-cycle plain old bags you don’t really use anymore. Take a boring black bag and add a fun strap? Bingo, you’re partying.
IG: I mean … this is mom fashion, and moms have bad backs. The nice thing about a wide strap is that it doesn’t dig into your back like a skinny strap. (I am currently wearing an Everlane backpack as we speak because I can’t find a better way to schlep my laptop.)
Sarah Spellings, fashion writer: Camille Rowe, the model who was rumored to be dating Harry Styles for a while, ties bandanas as straps onto her Louis Vuitton bags. That’s kind of cute?
EA: I like the scarf-on-bag thing, but the strap seems different, and intentionally crunchy.
Rebecca Ramsey, style director: It’s funny that they promote attaching it to a fancy designer bag to make it “funky,” but it’s basically also apologizing for having the means to have a fancy bag? Just get a funky bag.
EC: Why can’t you just buy a bag that already has a strap, for the price of the strap alone?
APD: Which is 99 percent of bags? So you’re really just making work for yourself.
AS: Yeah, I guess they are quite expensive. But can’t you see getting like, a plain leather Madewell bag, throwing on a strap, boom, chic?
APD: I cannot see that, no matter how hard I try.