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.
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.