The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag is the bag we’d bring to a fellowship straight out of college—its faux leather belies its affordable price.
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag is a vegan leather bag, and it’s a great leather-style option if you avoid leather goods or want the leather look but don’t want to carry leather made from cowhide. It has more pockets than many of the totes we tested: If the Cuyana tote is the most impractical design pocket-wise, the Hayden may be the most organizationally practical—and reasonably priced—leather-style tote we tested. Its size allows it to sit comfortably on the shoulder, and it can fit a variety of goods underneath its top zipper, too.
The Hayden Tote Handbag is 11¼ inches wide and 13½ inches tall. Both of its leather-style brethren in this guide are much wider and taller, but they typically cost at least five times as much. It has one open pocket on the outside and three interior pockets hidden below a top zipper, an added-security feature that we liked.
On one hand, many Wirecutter testers immediately identified it as being cheaper than the other leather and leather-style options on the table. (“I freaking hate this bag.”) On the other hand, many other testers found it at the very least “fine,” and we think that if you’re spending $30, “fine” is an okay way to feel.
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag’s exterior is made from polyurethane, and its inside is lined with polyester. It doesn’t feel outstandingly constructed; its straps didn’t seem strong during testing, and its stitching threatened to come loose more than once. Although it may last only a year or so, it generally costs a sixth the price of leather totes we liked.
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag has a bunch of pockets inside and out for organizing your things as you see fit. Photo: Sarah Kobos
Pockets and organization:
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag has lots of pockets and organization: one slip on the outside and three inner pockets (one zippered). The cherry on top is its zip closure, which keeps everything inside protected—but there are still gaps between the zipper and the sides of the bag, so it isn’t weather resistant.
Many Wirecutter testers took issue with its zipper top, which doesn’t go all the way across. Photo: Sarah Kobos
Flaws but not dealbreakers:
The Universal Thread Hayden Tote Handbag isn’t the cutest we tested: Its one outside pocket was the most divisive feature on any of the bags we tested. People hated it. A pocket on the exterior of a bag is a nice perk, though, and you can easily turn the bag so that the pocket is toward your body and hidden out of sight, both because it’s kind of eyesore and because your possessions are safer that way.
Many Wirecutter testers took issue with the Hayden’s zipper top, which doesn’t cover all the way across. That’s true—if it starts raining, water can easily sneak past the zipper top and into your bag—but the added security is nice.
We tested the Hayden in light brown, which proved to be a pleasant and multipurpose color. Many of the other versions of the bag are aggressively unpleasant to look at—but as long as you stick to brown or black, you should be fine.
Testers noted that its straps weren’t strong, its stitching threatened to come loose, and it might wear out after a year of use.
Size: 11¼ by 13½ by 5¼ inches
Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces
Strap length: 23¼ inches
Closure type: zipper