You must have seen the Fanny pack being carried about by celebrities and social influencers, so by now it’s no secret that the fanny pack, the most scorned member of the handbag family, has been experiencing a massive resurgence this year.
Spotted during Fashion Week on both models and spectators alike, the current version of this hands-free accessory is much sleeker and chicer than its retro cousin. But what we think of as the original fanny pack—or “bumbag” has a history that’s as murky as its place in fashionable society.
An Australian woman named Melba Stone is widely credited with inventing the bumbag in 1962 (it is said she was inspired by kangaroo pouches).
Indeed, the fanny pack had been popular among European skiers for years before it caught on as a money bag for tourists in the ’80s and a drug receptacle for ravers in the ’90s. They were used predominantly because clothing at that time had no attached pockets. Fixed to a belt with a cord, these pouches were typically leather with a flap opening or cloth with a gathered opening. Some varieties like the Scottish sporran, worn over the front of a kilt, were not just utilitarian but also a symbol of wealth and status.
Yet the earliest reference found to the fanny pack is, not surprisingly, described as being for practical purposes. Time magazine’s October 26, 1992, cover story, “Iceman,” reports on the discovery of a frozen 5,300-year-old human body wearing an unlined fur robe under a woven grass cape. Among his accoutrements was “a leather pouch resembling a small version of the ‘fanny packs’ worn by tourists today. Inside he carried a sharpened piece of bone, probably used to make sewing holes in leather, and a flint-stone drill and blade.”
So whether the original fanny pack was invented in the Stone Age to hold tools or in the 1960s to stash frozen ski lunches, it’s an enduring trend that for better or worse doesn’t look as if it’s going away.