The Fanny Pack Comeback

I once read that if you follow a trend the first time it comes around, you can’t do it again the second time. My sense of style is a bit stunted, so this usually does not affect me, but then I saw an accessory with an obvious retro vibe making a comeback.  

I’m talking about the Fanny Pack.

Not the purple nylon accessory a-la the Mom from the Goldbergs, but bling-laden pieces from Gucci with thousand dollar price tags. They were slung on the generous hips of several Kardashians and belted up high and tight on the waist of none other than Sarah Jessica Parker. 

When I was growing up, fanny packs (now rebranded as ‘Waist Bags’ or ‘Belt Bags’ or ‘Bum Bags’) were the accessory of choice for European tourists in my adopted home state of Florida. In fact, they easily identified by their pale/firey red complexions, dark socks, sandals, and ubiquitous black leather fanny packs. 

I own a small cross-body Eddie Bauer backpack that is my primary Mom handbag. It’s functional and light, holds a small water bottle, spare keys and a day’s worth of snacks, wipes and essentials like my wallet and phone. It’s low on the Coolness Scale. 

Enter the Fanny Pack, with its promise of convenience and the allure of fashion. A friend inquired about a particular style on Facebook and the comments gushed with enthusiasm. “You will love the hands-free lifestyle!” one said. 

Is that a thing?

Intrigued, I took a test drive. I borrowed a friend’s pack and tested it out on several typical outings to see if I was ready to live the Bum Bag lifestyle.

Test #1: The Labor Day Party

We headed to the suburbs and I wore the bag around my waist with shorts and a tank top. I wasn’t sure how to style it (Do I also wear a belt? Is it a belt?). I zipped in my phone and lip gloss and made my debut. 

Results: It looked cute, but since I was there with the kids, out of habit I brought my trusty backpack, which I made my husband carry. I could have put my phone in the pocket of my shorts but then I ran the risk of dropping it in the toilet. Speaking of the potty, it was in the way when nature called although it did leave me hands free to eat and drink easily. 

Outing Rating: 3 glasses of rosé out of 5

Test #2: First Day of School

I actually forgot the bag on the morning, which gives you some insight to how the day went, but I remembered it for afternoon pickup. As before, I just carried my phone, keys and lip gloss, and I jammed in two granola bars. 

Results: I wore it over-the-shoulder style with a pocketless dress, so having a place for my phone was handy. Without my wallet I was guiltlessly able to refuse my kids’ requests for ice cream from the cart near the playground, although I felt naked without my backpack. Sensing the lightness of my load, my second grader was happy to allow me to carry his backpack home for him. 

Outing Rating: 4 Glue Sticks out of 5

Test #3: Grocery Store 

This is was my most real-world test of the Waist Belt and I started to see the limitations. I brought only a single credit card, my ID, my phone, and house keys. I was frustrated when I looked for some place to put my sunglasses (they ended up on my head), and realized that I hadn’t brought any of my assorted reusable shopping bags (they live in my backpack so I won’t forget them). 

Results: Walking home was easy without an extra gear weighing me down but I was irritated at having to pay for bags. I also forgot my headphones and I realized how many little, convenient things live in my trusty backpack. 

Outing rating: 2 Gallons of Milk out of 5 

The Verdict

I carry too much stuff around in general, some out of need, some out of habit. As my kids grow up they function with less and so should I. More often these days I’m out solo, so my list of must-have things is really quite short. Or at least it should be. 

Leaving the bigger bag at home was liberating, and if I cleaned out of my wallet, I could upgrade from my backpack to a cute and dare I say it, fashionable cross-body bag, just big enough for the essentials. And a few reusable shopping bags.

That leaves me teetering on the edge of the Hands Free Lifestyle, I know. I’m just not ready to embrace it completely. 

Now to try out a scrunchie. I hear those are back, too. 

This essay originally appeared in Fete Lifestyle Magazine, September 2018.