It was not irony that led me into the hip-hugging embrace of a fanny pack this past spring.
I get it, though.
It’s that whole so-bad-it’s-good, geek-chic, dad vibes thing. But I wasn’t trying to make that kind of tongue-in-cheek fashion statement. Watching the Insta-girls (the Hadids, Jenners and Kardashians) stride through airport terminals with their streetwear-inspired sacks styled across their sternums for a calculated “off duty” photo op wasn’t a source of style inspiration either.
No, I was just trying to get out the damn door.
It should be a simple enough task. You put things in a bag and go. But for me it had become a time-wasting and back-breaking activity: Which bag to take and what things to take with me? Does my laptop really need to come with me, like, everywhere? My gym clothes? An errant and half-eaten sandwich? Why do I have all these receipts? Why do I have so much stuff with me?
I looked like a cry for help, my overstuffed bag digging into my shoulder, my life literally bearing down on me.
So one morning I grabbed a fanny pack—a souvenir brought back from a trip in Jamaica last fall—put my wallet, keys, chapstick, and sunglasses inside, and hit the streets. Breezing through Brooklyn, Harlem, downtown New York, it was like I had grown wings. I moved quickly, bobbing and weaving through human traffic. I handily pulled out my subway card as the train glided into the station, which any other day would have brought on a full on panic attack as I fumbled through the abyss of a purse for my buried wallet. I finally had my hands free while running errands.
It’s a feeling that most men will never even register. They leave for the day with keys, a phone and a wallet, pushing out into the world freely and unbothered.
Which is what made switching completely to a fanny pack a no-brainer. In fact, it streamlined my whole style. It was an accessory that went with everything: from my new uniform of a black sweatsuit and white boots, to my accumulating collection of vintage pantsuits.
I had finally figured out an efficient and yes, stylish, solution to lugging my shit all over the city. People side-eyed my little belt bag, not because they felt it was out of place but to find out what was inside (“A tiny revolver?” one bartender probed), or ask where I had purchased mine. With the teeming interest, I wondered why women haven’t taken up fanny packs en masse.
We are instead beholden to handbags. And that’s by design. They are marketed to be the crown jewels of our closets, an expensive habit (Nicki Minaj raps famously about it on hit “Feeling Myself”: “Got a black card that’ll let Saks have it/These Chanel bags is a bad habit”), and most importantly, status symbols. They also literally slow us down, hurt us, even. Being weighed down with a heavy bag can cause serious neck and back injury.
More than that, they just get in the way of real life. Laurel Pantin, InStyle fashion features director and mother to an adorable newborn boy, has embraced the convenient grip of the fanny pack. “As the owner of an especially clingy baby, I like anything I don’t also need to carry with hands or arms. My hands and arms are at capacity in terms of carrying!” she explains. “I like mine front and center where I can actually access it while cuddling my kid.” But even in the new mom’s pre-baby self-described “party dog” days, Pantin still kept a fanny pack close. Dancing the night away was much easier that way.
Which is exactly why model Paloma Elsesser began toting fanny packs around in her high school raver days. “I’ve never been a precious fashion girl and I want my accessories to be reflective of that,” Elsesser tells me. “They are super easy, hands-free, and a perfect way to dress down an otherwise sexy or over-the-top outfit.”
Case in point? Just check out the Chanel silver nylon hands-free pouch she paired with matching track pants and a blindingly neon green asymmetrical tank a few weeks back. Ready for both an Instagram photo op or a party circuit.
Speaking of which, DJ Mia Carucci reminds me that fanny packs can actually be a safety measure when going out. The queen of L.A.’s nightlife feels a bit more protected by her beloved leather Mickey Mouse fanny pack clasped across her chest—a piece she’s been sporting since she was a kid. “I walk a lot and honestly feel safer wearing fanny packs than purses. The chances someone’s going to go through the hassle of ripping my bag from my chest are just so low.”
Is this the reason I feel so confident walking down the street with mine? It would be easy and reductive to herald the fanny pack as a feminist fashion item—it’s not the answer to the gender wage gap or anything like that. But it’s true that they make women’s lives easier.