fanny packs are back, whether you like it or not
Skepta and Supreme are embracing The Rock's former favorite accessory.
Louis Vuitton x Supreme jesień/zima 17. Zdjęcie: Getty Images/Victor Virgile
Say what you will about fanny packs, but they are practical. And so, despite mockery, they have endured. After peaking in the late 1980s to mid 90s, they weathered two decades of derision — clinging to the waists of lifestyle rollerbladers — only to resurface as unlikely style staples of the mid 2010s. Skepta wears fanny packs. Supreme and Louis Vuitton have collaborated on a logoed leather style. In February, A$AP Rocky wore a red Balenciaga iteration to Raf Simons's first Calvin Klein show in New York. Like Tevas, fleeces, and bucket hats, the fanny packs' renewed trendiness seems like a fortuitous front, behind which we can shamelessly enjoy their functionality.
Still, the fanny pack's bad reputation has lingered. I polled the office and some friends. Several people said "fanny pack" immediately brought to mind tourists at Disneyland. Others referenced hikers, nervous travelers, EDM festivals, unfashionable uncles, and the royal blue JanSport fanny pack Jerry mocks George for wearing on Seinfeld ("Looks like your belt is digesting a small animal").
It wasn't always this way. Proto-fanny packs (leather belt purses) were de rigueur among medieval Europeans before clothing had sewn-in pockets. Native American buffalo pouches and Scottish Highlands sporrans are worn proudly by each culture. And when the modern fanny pack initially entered the mainstream, it was embraced.
The first true fanny pack is thought to have been invented in 1962 by an Australian woman named Melba Stone, who was possibly inspired by kangaroo pouches. But much like their natural partners in crime — rollerblades — it wasn't until the 1980s that fanny packs truly transcended. In 1988, Adweek named the fanny pack the product of the year. Gucci and Chanel produced luxurious logo-covered versions. They appeared in Vogue editorials and music videos (most famously, "Pump Up the Jam").
And in 1994, the fanny pack was immortalized in that iconic photo of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. His other accessories: a silver chain (worn over a form-fitting black turtleneck) and a protective tissue slipped between his sweatered elbow and the ledge on which he is so leisurely leaning. When the photo came to light in 2014, Jimmy Fallon asked Johnson what he was carrying in his pack. "Pop Tarts and condoms," he replied.
But stars burn brightest before they die. By the mid 90s, the fanny pack's popularity was waning. And by the 2000s, it had become a punchline. In a 2001 episode of the British TV show The Office, potato-faced corporate accountant Keith Bishop advised his colleague Dawn Tinsley to bring a fanny pack on her upcoming trip to America, to safeguard her traveler's checks. Any trace of the fanny pack's coolness was long gone. Bishop also highlighted the significant problem that "fanny pack" has a very different meaning in British English.
In recent years, fashion labels and media companies have attempted to rebrand the fanny pack. Today, outdoor e-commerce sites sell "lumbar packs," "belt bags," "hip pouches," and "waist packs." And when fanny packs reemerged on the runways in 2015, at Alexander Wang and Céline, they were met with disbelieving headlines. But the fanny pack's inherent uncoolness is also its power. Its current popularity has been spurred, not hindered, by its crunchy connotations. New York magazine recently identified a new craze for earthy hiker essentials that it christened "gorpcore." And the movement isn't ironic. There is nothing more earnest than carrying your necessities in a bag as practical as a fanny pack.