Editors' Picks

Fanny Pack Come Back?

New Icon of Empowerment


Once regarded as unattractive appendages of the fashion unconscious (tourists, hikers, grandmothers, etc.), fanny packs have appeared in fashion blogs and on the hips of celebrities, sorority girls, and (male as well as female) runway models.

If we are to believe Jaime Lowe, our new favourite New York Times Magazine contributor, a fanny pack is more than a fashion statement. It is a weapon against oppression, a key that unlocks the shackles of the past and opens doors to the future.

“What other accessory ensures the safety of your essentials, with easy access, while also liberating your hands? The fanny pack, when used properly, enables a whole host of activities that other bags render awkward: a deep embrace, a dance party, the ability to quickly find and swipe and secure your MetroCard. Through its rare combination of aesthetic contrarianism and functionality, it enables a life of wild abandon.”

While not all New York Times readers have been won over, a woman from Tennessee wrote that she sensed “the beginnings of a new ‘liberation’ movement or just a support group. Whichever, count me in as a founding member.”

Calling the fanny pack the new iconic symbol of female empowerment, a woman from California observed, “I’ve long thought there are three reasons women don’t rule the world—childbirth, high heels, and handbag—so a fanny pack is more than a convenient holder of necessities. No, indeed. It could be the first step toward global domination by females. I’m buying a new one today.”

With praise like those, who can resist? I immediately went to the mall—invariably a headache-inducing experience—in search of a fanny pack. Unfortunately, all I could find were neon-colored nylon bags suitable for hiking and pink plastic versions with Miss Kitty’s image affixed.
Thank heavens for online shopping. It took some sleuthing. I found out that many of the most interesting fanny packs don’t go by that name. They are “belt bags,” “belt envelopes,” “waist packs,” “waist bags,” “bum bags,” etc. (It turns out that “fanny” is in other English-speaking countries what the p-word is in the U.S., a term for female genitalia, not ordinarily used in polite company.) 

Whatever name they go by, I wanted two of them. One had to be big enough for Mr. AC, who years ago gave up hip-pocket wallets for man bags, which allow him to carry hands-free his phone, wallet, checkbooks, receipts, business cards, and multiple pairs of glasses (regular, computer, tinted, and polarized).

The other had to be stylish enough that my architect friend Barbara wouldn’t demand that I self-deport the moment I stepped foot in Manhattan. While her standards may be higher than ordinary mortals, her aesthetic sensibilities are far from unreasonable.  No matter how convenient a belt bag might be, it will still hang conspicuously from your body. Like any adornment, it telegraphs your tastes and values, giving the world a glimpse into your personality.
Here are some of the goodies I found:
  • If you have a soft-spot for dangling monkeys (like Jaime Lowe’s grandmother), you can still find ones by Kipling, the Belgium originator crinkled-nylon belt bags back in the 1980s. dog-fanny-pack
  • If you want one with a designer label and a price tag to match, check out the “belt bags” in the $500 to $1,000 range at Neiman Marcus online.
  • Bloomingdale’s has Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs designs that are less but hardly cheap.
  • If for some reason you want to go up in price, Prada sells a belt bag made of mink for $2,220. 
  • If you prefer something in the double or even single digit range, check on Amazon, Etsy, First Street Leather Inc., Trixie B True, to name a few. If you have any arts and crafts skills, you might design your own for yourself—and your best friend.

Always, AC

P.S. After writing this, I read more comments on Jaime Lowe’s article and came across a disturbing observation from a male reader in Massachusetts: “You’ve omitted one dark side of the fanny pack. It’s the easiest place to conceal a gun and have easy access to that gun. So goo-goo about your fashion passions, but keep a wary eye on any ‘interesting’ bulges in a fanny pack near you.”  

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