Key Moments In The Surprisingly Rich History Of The Fanny Pack

Features Writer
02.05.18

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For years, the words “fanny pack” conjured up cringe-worthy images of the ’80s and ’90s, back when the fashion accessory reached its undeniable zenith. A pouch of synthetic fabric designed to free up your pockets, wrapped around your waist and fastened with a plastic buckle, there was a time where the item was worn by just about everyone (especially rollerbladers) — broadcast in living rooms coast to coast thanks to George Costanza and scores of pro-wrestlers.

Although the fanny pack is commonly thought of as a jewel in the crown of trendy missteps, it actually has a much richer history than we give credit for. Today, the fanny pack, more commonly known as a bum bag across the pond (fanny having a much different connotation in Europe), has been seeing a real resurgence. Is it the result of pent-up nostalgia, a satirically cyclical embrace of an era gone by, or could these surprisingly timeless accessories be back for the long haul?

Here’s a look at some of the key moments in the surprisingly lengthy history, and inevitable return, of the iconic fanny pack.

Ancient History

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First off, it’s important to note that the once ubiquitous (and ubiquitously mocked) fanny pack wasn’t purely a spawn of the ’80s. Like all great clothing accessories, variations of it can be found throughout history. When the 5,000-year-old mummified body of Ötzi was discovered back in 1991, he was found to be wearing a simple belt pouch to carry around his tools. Indigenous tribes in North America wore a variation of a belt with a satchel attached, commonly referred to as buffalo bags.

Over in Europe, such garments were practically required, given that pockets had yet to become a standard feature in clothing. Everything from the Scottish sporran to the French chatelaine could be considered something of a distant relative to the modern-day fanny pack.

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