The Comeback of the Fanny Pack

No American dad’s outfit is complete without a pair of chunky athletic sneakers, a loose polo shirt, and—the ultimate cherry on top—a nylon fanny pack.

What was once strictly associated with paternal fashion and eccentric tourism is now worn slung across or cinched around Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and all your favorite fashion bloggers. The fanny pack (or bum bag, as the Brits call it) trend has hit fast fashion retailers like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, instantly marking its penetration into mainstream fashion. Belt bags, bum bags—whatever you want to call them—have somehow clawed their way from cringe to cool.

The fanny pack made its first hints at a comeback in 2015 at Alexander Wang and Celine. Though initially met with skepticism, the obsession with the bag hit full throttle last year.

The 2018 runways featured the infamous bag secured around models’ waists or torsos, and almost every luxury designer, from Gucci to Louis Vuitton, has their own version of the fanny pack. Though it took quite a while for the accessory to gain traction again, Spring 2018 collections solidified the bum bag’s “hot trend” status.

Evident from the runways, modern-day versions of the bag are significantly less utility-oriented than their ancient counterparts; some are even small enough to be impractical for daily use. Brands like Fenty Puma, Marc Jacobs, and Miu Miu have chosen to reincarnate the sporty look with neoprene fabrics, leather, and bright colors, while brands like Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci showcased smaller, more structured belt bags.

These bags are super convenient and there’s one for every occasion. You can rock a more laid back, casual look with a sportier nylon bag or a more sophisticated look with a quilted leather piece. Not to mention, the trend caters to every budget. One can cop a monogram Louis Vuitton belt bag for over a thousand dollars, or a Zara faux-leather bag for under thirty.  

For a more urban-chic look, the bag is typically worn across the torso (in true Alexander Wang fashion) or tucked under the arm. Repurposing the fanny pack as a cross-body is a great way to amp up the street-style factor. Conversely, for a more polished look, structured belt bags can be worn over jackets, coats, or blazers. Cinching the waist with a belt bag can make the outfit look shapely and flattering. The unique ways the bag is worn today is definitely a huge leap from its traditional use.

The original fanny pack was a curved pouch, typically made of nylon, attached to straps and worn around the waist. Its origins trace all the way back to the Stone Age, but Melba Stone, an Australian widow, is largely credited for inventing the modern version in 1962, apparently having been inspired by a kangaroo.

Utility and convenience drove the early allure behind the fanny pack. The bag became popular among European skiers who used it to hold first-aid kits or food and among tourists who liked using the hands-free, lightweight pouch as a money bag.

The fanny pack deviated from its sole utilitarian use and reached its peak fashion popularity during the 80s. Athleisure during the 80s and 90s was very on-trend, and the bum bag was created in vivid colors and nylon and neoprene fabrics. The accessory then saw its decline in the late 20th and early 21st century, as it was mocked and dismissed as an accessory for the older generations.

The cultural weight this mockery held kicked the fanny pack out of the fashion limelight. In the last decade, however, “retro” fashion pieces from the 80s and 90s have made their resurgence into contemporary clothing trends.

Today, no fashion model’s “off-duty” look is complete without chunky athletic sneakers and—you guessed it—the infamous fanny pack. The only thing keeping this outfit from looking exactly like dad’s is that loose polo shirt, but, who knows? Maybe that trend is soon to follow.

Photography by: Anastasia Yan