Despite the company’s controversial advertising campaigns, I like American Apparel—it’s usually my one-stop shop for a variety of basic wardrobe and accessory staples. When I heard the clothing company carried a laptop bag, I was excited to add it to my collection. But my optimism ultimately proved misguided—while “casual” works for the brand’s sweatshirts and tube socks, a lack of basic features render its $34 Vinyl Laptop Bag mostly unusable for laptop-toting purposes.
In defense of the Vinyl Laptop Bag, American Apparel’s Website heralds the accessory only as a way to move a laptop computer about in style, and style is one thing this satchel does have—it’s retro in appearance and is available in ten colors and color combinations. Roughly 15 inches across and 11 inches tall, with a simple design featuring two short arm loops and a 7- by 7-inch exterior zippered pocket, the bag looks more like a gym bag from two decades back than the plain, black computer cases we’re accustomed to seeing today.
Unfortunately, in this case beauty really is only skin deep—the Vinyl Laptop Bag doesn’t provide much beyond its surface appeal. In terms of protection, your laptop wouldn’t be much worse off in a plastic Ziploc bag, as there’s no padding to speak of. Dropping the Vinyl Laptop Bag with your laptop inside is likely to result in nearly as much damage as if you’d dropped the MacBook bare.
The bag is also uncomfortable to carry. While I’m used to my MacBook Pro adding significant weight to my bag, the Vinyl Laptop Bag does a poor job of distributing the weight of the computer, and the handles/straps are simply painful. Carrying a much lighter MacBook Air might reduce this discomfort somewhat, but I suspect the bag’s lack of any padding or structure will still cause the handles to dig painfully into your shoulders or hand.
While I like the concept of a laptop bag that doesn’t look like one, the label is used rather loosely here. American Apparel’s laptop tote doesn’t provide nearly enough protection, comfort, or laptop-focused design to warrant a purchase.
[Stephanie Kent is writer based in New York City. A former Macworld intern, she currently works at TED.]