History of the Fanny Pack/Cross-Body Bag
The old adage goes, “Fashion is fleeting. Style is forever.”
Most of the time at Heddels, we focus on the latter. Timeless pieces of well-made clothing, that no matter the context or climate, stay relevant and elegant. But not today!
Today we’re talking fanny packs, because it seems that now, in the age of memes, this 90s mom accessory has blown up in high fashion circles. The ever-adaptable fanny pack has taken a new name the cross-body bag, and (at least for a season) it’s cool again.
In The Beginning
An Australian woman, Melba Stone, is named by several authorities as the inventor of the fanny pack (or bum bag as the English and their Aussie comrades prefer to say). However, I am yet to find any credible source that substantiates this claim. But in 1962, at the time of Melba’s alleged invention, the fanny pack had been on the market for at least 8 years, its first appearance in a Christmas shopping guide for Sports Illustrated.
The leather fanny pack was meant for skiers and coincided with a postwar desire to travel to Europe and hit the slopes. So, not only did the 1950s ski-craze give us the ugly Christmas sweater, it’s responsible for the dissemination of the fanny pack as well.
Most people agree that when they think of the fanny pack, they think of the 1980s. Fashion was brash, loud, and synthetic. So, too , were the fanny packs of the era. What had been largely an athletic and outdoors accessory became a key part of a nonchalant streetwear look. Even reputable sources thought they were cool, in 1989 the LA Times went so far as to say, “they look chic in the same way that leather jackets do.” The death knell for the fanny pack was the 2006 song “White and Nerdy,” by Weird Al Yankovic. The late 80s and early 90s had been a fanny pack bacchanal, but by the new millennium, they were solidly on the way out.
The New Fanny Pack
Various attempts were made throughout the early 2000s to revive the fanny pack’s popularity. Jared Leto, unsurprisingly, sold several on his website, mostly targeted at hip concert-goers. Regardless of fickle public opinions about the fanny pack, they are undeniably functional and, to some degree, improve the lines of your outfit by eliminating unwanted pocket bulk.
Its given name as the fanny pack works just fine as such, but it’s its latest incarnation as the cross body bag that makes it a more natural and appealing accessory. Sure, you could wear it at your waist, but why?
At their simplest, cross body bags are actually just fanny packs across the torso, but there are far more varieties floating around.
Designer Virgil Abloh wears a slightly less tactical cross-body bag, which to me looks like a purse, but the difference between the two is basically nill. GQ attributes the rising popularity of these bags to the UK Grime-rap scene, whose proponents prefer the more techwear, synthetic styles, like that worn by Skepta below.
Strangely, the very best of the shoulder bags are fanny packs or at least fanny pack adjacent. The positioning across the chest is aesthetically pleasing and there’s a humor and fun to reconfiguring a classic (and oft-mocked) piece like the fanny pack into something else. The highest-end versions are sort of assimilating into the fashion mainstream, but are basically just reproductions of the ugly bags worn by polo-collar-popping Europeans.
When dressed down and wore playfully askew, the cross-body bags give one a debonair energy—almost like a modern-day, big city Indiana Jones. But when dressed too far up, they seem pretentious and a little forced. Best in synthetic tech fabrics that mock the neoprene one your dad used to bring on vacation, these bags are likely a fad, so keep ’em simple and be ready for the next thing.
Alright, we get it, you’re a slave to fashion and you want in on the crossbody bag action! The above bag is from Herschel and sells for a meager $29.99. Their options are simple and will do an excellent job of holding onto your stuff for you.
Nike has a similarly pared-down bag for only $25.
Adidas‘ offering to the world of crossbody bags is equally low-key and retails for $39.
(Lead Image: Dan Roberts for GQ)