Fanny packs are back, baby! A weird fashion silver lining in a sweatpants year

I imagine this is how the first Scotsman who adorned himself with a sporran felt – proud, ready to tackle anything

By Hanh Nguyen

Senior Editor

Published November 26, 2020 7:52AM (EST)

 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
(Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This story is part of a series on good things that happened in 2020. Read them all here.

I love fanny packs.

This, despite the humble belted bag being the object of much condescension and disdain, perhaps because early '80s models were crafted in eye-bleeding Day-Glo colors and durable yet unglamorous nylon. I've never understood this bag snobbery. Pouches on waists have been worn since humans walked upright (probably) . . . or at least have been known to adorn the midriffs of Indigenous people who understood that practicality spelled survival.

When fanny packs fell out of favor after the '90s, I vowed to keep my arms unencumbered and transitioned to awkward mini backpacks, eventually adopting the small crossbody bag as my go-to purse. But on the bottom shelf in the dark recesses of my linen closet, a plain black nylon bag sat, ready to be strapped around my waist for emergencies, or maybe a visit to a dystopic theme park

About two years ago, the West finally got hip to the bum bag's potential and started outputting more versatile and stylish designs. Even though they didn't become popular with the majority (perhaps wary of challenging the dictates of fashion drilled into their heads for decades), I began to slowly build my wardrobe.

There's the tan pleather one with gold hardware that adds equestrian flair to my ensembles. A gift of a loud "cats in space" print is always a conversation starter at casual brunches. My skinny elastic black bag holds jogging essentials close to my body with minimal jiggle. I even invested in a rose gold quilted number that I sported in rakish crossbody fashion whilst attending a comedy in London's West End.

When I buckle a fanny pack on, the hands-free utility immediately adds an air of insouciance to my posture. I imagine this is how the first Scotsman who adorned himself with a sporran over his kilted groin felt: proud, ready to tackle a foxy time traveler or haggis. We may have not evolved like the mysterious marsupial, but by god, we shall be equipped like one.

And then the pandemic hit, and fanny packs became essential in my eyes. The bag's low profile and lack of swing reduces the chance of my stuff touching any tainted surfaces. A new blush-colored bag from Target is now part of my official COVID couture: big enough for everything I need, including one of those touchless button-pressing doodads and my Kindle for reading in line. It's waterproof and easily wiped down, yet its rose gold zippers lend it style, enough that friends and strangers have asked where they could buy the same.

While panicking marketers tried to frighten us into worrying about gaining the COVID 15, I didn't pay them any mind. Wearing a fanny pack made me feel poised for action; I would not remain idle. That would be failing the purposeful promise of the fanny pack, which keeps me honest about my girth each time I click its plastic buckle. So what if my silhouette juts out lumpily? This muffin top is removable and comes in assorted shades.

I've stopped using all other bags as purses; after all, I have nowhere to go except for quick forays to retrieve groceries or takeout. My job used to be filled with industry events and parties, but now I look at my dresses, rompers and accessories and wonder how long I should hold onto them. Taking a cue from the fanny pack, I consider how else I can Marie Kondo my life to only the jaunty essentials. 

By Hanh Nguyen

Hanh Nguyen is the Senior Editor of Culture, which covers TV, movies, books, music, podcasts, art, and more. Her work has also appeared in IndieWire, and The Hollywood Reporter. She co-hosts the "Good Pop Culture Club" podcast, which examines the good pop that gets us through our days, from an Asian American perspective. Follow her at Hanhonymous.

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