The Fanny Pack Has Made a Comeback

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Don’t laugh – the fanny pack is back with new designs, materials and smart technologies that transform the once-maligned “hip pouch” of the 1990s into one of today’s trending accessories.

A hybrid between a wallet, purse and belt, the fanny pack has a checkered past (and that’s not a reference to their style of fabric). Small and inexpensive, the belted satchel gained momentum with the fitness craze of the late ’80s and early ’90s, allowing power walkers and weekend joggers to take along wallets, keys and sunscreen with ease. This hands-free convenience was perhaps too seductive for ordinary older folks who wore “bum bags” without discretion, destroying their legitimacy for decades to come.

Yet the fashion world shifts in unexpected ways and the fanny pack is now on a revival run. Big names like Alexander Wang, Karl Lagerfeld and Tory Burch have showcased fanny packs in runway shows speaking to haute couture, “norm core,” and ’90s nostalgia all at once.

The zip-up pouch hasn’t completely lost its association with the fitness industry – many new versions include headphone ports – but it has softened around serged edges to change perceptions of how, when and where the gender-neutral travel accessory should appear on its wearer. The fanny pack has finally reached its potential and just keeps on evolving. So what’s changed?

Materials

Metallics, sequins, leather, brocade, faux reptile and fur are a few of the fun departures from the previous fabric standard of twill, cotton and nylon. Italian designer Versace spins fanny packs to guys as alternatives to the “man bag,” attaching them to blazers, trench coats and other outerwear aimed at the career-oriented masculinist. When constructed of luxury materials or gold-toned hardware, and then inscribed with a legendary logo, this version of the fanny pack is more aptly called a “belt bag,” lending it the linguistic distinction a Versace bag deserves.

For women, Chanel constructs fanny packs in their iconic quilted texture, capitalizing on the pack’s versatile ergonomics via luxury zippers, hooks and latches that transform the bag into a purse or clutch.

Shape & Versatility

Fanny packs aren’t just the darling of famous designers. The utilitarian clothier Herschel and some outdoors sportswear companies have introduced their takes on the fanny bag; some of these versions are large enough for an entire change of clothes. Any trendsetters who wear fanny packs as a statement of irony or out of nostalgia? A quick search of indie manufacturers on Etsy.com will turn up a selection of packs designed especially for music festivals, protest marches or long hiking trips. Some of these fanny pouches are handmade with zippers from UCAN Zippers USA, including numerous designs at SPIBelt and Clare V.

Although many purists prefer vintage packs in the traditional double-zip slouchy style, many of today’s pack-wearers are open to square and rectangular bags held to the body with removable belts. The notion of the fanny pack as strictly a hip pouch is also challenged, as many enthusiasts embrace bags that wrap around the torso or shoulder instead of the waist.

Technology

The fanny pack’s hands-free, lightweight portability is fundamental to exercise enjoyment, a fact that technology manufacturers are beginning to appreciate by incorporating packs with GPS, heart-rate monitors and other smart wearable devices. Less impressive but more important are fanny packs outfitted with LED lights, bottle holders and other features that help ensure the wearer’s safety and survival. Usually made of nylon, the outdoor-oriented fanny packs sometimes have more than one zippered section.

There are many things to like about fanny packs. If you still feel a little disdain at the idea, think instead about what’s so easily zipped inside: A passport, pen, pet leash, pollinator seeds for the bees, and maybe a tube of hand lotion or a granola bar. Choose your poison and pack away your prejudice – it’s time to join the fanny bag fun.

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