How fanny packs went from fashion’s laughing stock to 2018’s breakout star

Here’s how fanny pack has risen from a punchline in a Weird Al Yankovic song, to the forefront of streetwear and high fashion.

December 17, 2018

Growing up, I often questioned why things came into fashion. My brother was always be ahead of the curve, testing the waters for what might be the new trend. One day, he came home with what looked like a military waist bag: it contained a main compartment, two smaller compartments, and a couple of key loops. Of all the things he had worn, this was one I felt a true enamoration for.

The question was, why? Aren’t fanny packs supposed to be lame? The truly intriguing thing about it was the way it was worn—diagonally across the upper body, rather than around the waist. This was around 2016, right before the trend really took off. But again, why was this so intriguing? It was the fact that my pants no longer had to feel bulky with the items I brought around with me. Instead, I just stuffed them in my “waist pack” and carried them around, allowing my bottoms to flow a lot nicer with my outfit.

Credit: The Cut

The act of people wearing bags attached to belts has ancient origins, but the fanny pack that we’re familiar with today had its big boom in the 1980s and the 1990s. As an alternative to the backpack, the fanny pack was a hands-free accessory you could wear in the front or the rear of your body. However, for years this popular trend was viewed as more of a joke than a serious accessory, even receiving a scathing critique from normcore king Jerry Seinfeld in the first season of Seinfeld when he levelled a particularly biting review of the accessory: “it looks like your belt is digesting an animal,” he spit at George in the episode, “Male Unbonding.” Entering the new millennium, Weird Al Yankovic referenced the fanny pack in his song, “White & Nerdy,” describing it as a part of crucial looking like a nerd: “I got myself a fanny pack/They were havin’ a sale down at The Gap.”

But it wasn’t until 2016 when the trend started gaining traction, and really exploded into 2017 when Supreme launched their FW17 rendition of a fanny pack, which printed the word Supreme printed on the strap, and placed the brand’s iconic logo on the main bag compartment. This immediately kickstarted the bandwagon, as the youth jumped at the opportunity to buy into Supreme’s newest product. Little did they know, it would be the birth of a consumer phenomenon.

This trend has been a widely accessible and perhaps most importantly, a universal, non-gendered trend.

Flash forward to 2018, the fanny pack has risen above all as a must have accessory for every streetwear and fashion lover, accounting for 25% of the growth of the fashion-accessory industry this year. With such names as a waist pack, side bag or “bum bag” as they call in the UK, the fanny pack is now a necessity for a lot of trend conscious people due to both its functionality, and of fashion sensibility. However, perhaps the most defining part of the fanny pack’s 2018 renaissance is not the product itself but the way you wear it; diagonally across your body, just how my brother showed me.

Today, fanny packs have really become a staple in almost every area of clothing. In streetwear, dozens of brands such as Stüssy, Nike, Champion, Fila, Palace, A Bathing Ape—the list can go on for the rest of this article—all have their own version and style of some sort of fanny pack or waist pack. This craze has also been elevated to the realm of luxury fashion, with legendary fashion houses like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton all attempting their version of the fanny pack. Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky, easily two of music’s most notable fashion influencers have been seen sporting packs by Balenciaga. Although it seems like these fashion houses are only now diving into the trend, luxury brands always had a fascination when it came to the fanny pack: Both Gucci and Prada Sport have editions that date back to the origins of the fanny pack; the 1980s and 1990s.

Credit: High Snobiety

So it’s no secret that this trend is thriving following its most recent resurgence, but again the question remains: Why? I think the best answer for this is accessibility and the rise of “dadcore fashion.” From chunky sneakers and straight cut slacks, to nondescript baseball hats, as stated by Weird Al Yankovic, the fanny pack is the perfect addition to this look. This trend has been a widely accessible and perhaps most importantly, a universal, non-gendered trend. Anyone can wear any bag: nobody cares was section of the store you buy it in.  From finding one at your local secondhand shop for a couple bucks, to copping one from Supreme or Herschel, to saving up for a luxury side bag for your birthday, to seeing them embraced by style icons like the Hadids or Aleali May, there is literally a fanny pack for anybody.

Looking into 2019 and the future of the fanny pack, it’s become clear that it’s here to stay for a while. With the dadcore look far from falling out of vogue, streetwear brands and luxury companies continuously pushing out their insanely bulky shoes, and as everybody’s pants become seemingly getting wider by the second, fanny packs will be here to be the perfect complement for this look.The envelope will continued to be pushed for these bags, as they have transitioned to other byproducts of this trend, such as Alyx Studios’ signature chest rigs, to brands also using more of the satchel look.

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For myself, I never would have thought I would dive so deep into fanny packs and the different variations. Birthed from a curiosity and an idolization of my older brother, I now find myself deep into the fascination that is not just a fanny pack, but all sorts of other bags in fashion. Not only have I had multiple fanny packs, but now I have had several different kinds of bags, such as messenger bags and tote bags. As fanny packs begin to grow bigger, the array of different kinds of bags seem to trickle into streetwear, and it has only just begun.

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