How did the once dorky trend go from rags to riches?
Bum bags are arguably the most polarising bag in the accessory community. They’ve come a long way from being thrown in the bargain bins at Urban Outfitters.The hands-free bag has been a symbol for dorkiness among tourists and dads for the past several years, but they’re back as brands like Fendi, Zara and Balenciaga showcase the once unfashionable trend on their shelves.
Bum bags date back to the Copper Age when a 5300-year-old frozen human body’s wardrobe was shown to be wearing “belt bags” made of leather and fur. Time magazine’s October 26, 1992 cover story reported the discovery of the human, Otzi the Iceman, wearing “a leather pouch resembling a small version of the ‘fanny packs’ worn by tourists today.” That’s right. People were already sporting the trend, granted it was for a more practical use in hunting and gathering.
The United Kingdom first coined “bum bag” in the 1950s, but the bag is now more popularly known as a fanny pack. However, it wasn’t until the ‘80s when the trend gained some footing. Bum bags started popping up in its true form: nylon, neon-coloured and purely worn around the waist. They were being sported based on functionality rather than a fashion statement. Around the same time, tourism had significantly risen in popular cities, such as New York and Japan, and bum bags were simply being used for practical travel purposes.
By the ‘90s, the trend had shifted into athleisure wear, with women wearing their Kelly Kapowski biker shorts and fitted crop tops. Not to mention the iconic Dwayne the Rock Johnson outfit back in 1996 of the wrestler sporting a black turtleneck, light wash denim and an ever so tiny black patent bum bag.
Somewhere along the way, bum bags became “dorkier” and “dad like” rather than fashionable.
Fashion writer for the LA based website Good + Well Erin Bunch wrote an article titled: “How to wear a fanny pack without looking like your dad”. She says for a while, the trend was embarrassing to sport. She remembers seeing her mum and dad wearing the bags around their waist on family vacations during the ‘90s.
While the trend still got its bad rap in the media, Karl Lagerfeld created quilted black lambskin fanny packs for Chanel in 1994, while Louis Vuitton also started gracing fanny packs in runway shows. While designers started to join in on the bum bag fad, there was an irony that came with the look.
In her article, Bunch says it was the nylon material and utilitarian use that made the look so dated in the ‘80s, which is why the fad had faded. Bunch changed her opinion though during the early 2000’s, when she saw Carrie Bradshaw wearing a Gucci bum bag with a black crop top and striped skirt on an episode of Sex and the City.
“That was the first time I saw one and thought it was styled pretty cool,” Bunch says.“They came back in 2017 when I wrote that article because ‘it girls’ like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid were starting to wear them.”
Stylist and fashion blogger Jennifer Padilla frequently wears her studded leather Zara bum bag with her street and chic style on her Instagram feed. She remembers when she first saw fashion influencer and Youtuber Brittany Xavier sporting a red blazer and a Fendi bum bag cinched in at the waist. It inspired Padilla to purchase a bum bag of her own. She says as an ‘80s baby, she remembers when bum bags were simply made of nylon, cheesy neon colours and a zipper across the top.
“I remember even as a kid seeing fanny packs when I was growing up and thinking ‘Oh that’s ugly,’” the stylist said. “I think it’s about how they were styled back then. People would wear them with baggy pants or even overalls with the one strap hanging, but I mean look at all these couture high fashion brands rocking these pieces.”
For Padilla, the trend went from ugly to couture because the materials were evolving as brands such as Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga started showing them in a chicer design in 2015 fashion runways. The other reason she feels the trend has evolved is because more women and men started wearing them across the chest.
Bunch agrees that it all comes down to the way they’re being worn, along with the people who sport fanny packs today.
“I feel like today, trends don’t come in and out of fashion like they used to so intensely. Personal style is dictated through different ways now,” Bunch says. “It used to be strictly the runways that said what was in fashion, and nowadays it’s influencers and social media as well, so there’s so many more voices and style has become a lot more eclectic as a result.”
To see them go from a practical bag to carry sunscreen in to the accessory piece of 2018 is quite a statement. Now fashion buyers seem them in every iteration of brand from Topshop’s neon green bum bag to Nasty Gal’s silver studded black version of the bag. When you see Rihanna sporting a coral-coloured power suit with a matching cinched in fanny pack, it’s hard not to want to rock one too. So here’s to the fanny pack comeback!
How to Rock Your Fanny Pack
Over the Shoulders: People have been sporting their bum bags over the shoulders, and it virtually works with any look. The over the shoulder look is for street wear everyday looks. If you’re keeping it casual with sweatpants, you can keep your look minimalistic with a matching sweatshirt and a bright coloured bum bag. You can also wear it with a simple denim jean and t-shirt for a more low key look. For someone with a more athletic built or pear shape, this is the way to wear it to accentuate the top half of your body.
Keep it Classic: If you’re apple shaped, this will be the most flattering way to wear the bum bag, and it works the best for BBQ’s, amusement parks, or just a fun summer day out. The classic nylon bag is nothing to be ashamed of as you can rock it with distressed jeans and an open bomber jacket for some more edge. You can also wear it more formally if it’s slung over a long floral skirt and an oversized fuzzy jumper.
Cinch it in: If you have an hourglass figure and want to call attention to your waist rather than your hips, try purchasing a bum bag that belts at the waist. This is the sleekest way to rock a bum bag especially if it’s a boxier shape. You can rock it like Rihanna by wearing a satin blazer and smart pair of trousers, or you can keep it more casual with a simple A-line dress.