"Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life."
The revival of bum bags (“fanny packs” for friends across the Atlantic Ocean) embodies the two golden adages in fashion: what goes around comes back around and, can we turn a “Ew no” into a “Hell yeah”? Okay I made that one up myself but how did the once fashion joke get fairy dust sprinkled all over itself and become a street style hit?
It’s no easy task to track down the exact origin of this ugly little duckling of the handbag family. There are traces of lookalikes found throughout history and around the world. For example, Chatelaine bags, a small purse attached to a belt with a chain was popular among Victorian and Edwardian women to carry their little trinkets. It is also said to derive from the French chatelaines of the Middle Ages.
Native Americans wore buffalo pouches around their waist or neck instead of simply sewing pockets into their clothing for reasons we will never know. And Scottish men in the 1800s sported sporrans, a fancy upgrade from plain waist pouches worn by Medieval Christians as they decorated the leather bag with metal plates, feathers and tassels and hang it right in front of the body. A perfect but absolutely random chance to accentuate their you-know-what, right?
An Australian called Melba Stone is widely credited with inventing the first bum bag in 1962 as we know it today. It is said that she got her inspiration from—you guessed it—her motherland’s most-loved, pouch-bearing roos. No brainer, that one.
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the bum bags have always been around in modern fashion, and are apparently here to stay. The 1980s showed the first glimpse into normcore, one of the biggest trends in recent fashion history: while tourists started to wear them everywhere to ward off wallet-snatchers so they can do even more tourist things, Neneh Cherry, made a bold fashion statement by adding a gold one to her red carpet look for the MTV awards.
And it doesn’t stop there.
There’s nothing high fashion loves more than a good underdog comeback story. In the 1980s Chanel came out with the first designer bum bag that is now spotted on Kendall Jenner. And Vivienne Westwood’s 1996 limited edition creation for Louis Vuitton made it to the history books, literally.
Fast forward to this year’s fashion scene, bum bags in all shapes and colours are seen on runways models at Gucci, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Fenty x Puma, and the list goes on. It has also become a staple for show-goers and street style stars. So don’t be discouraged to sport one on a day out (or even a night out!). Even if people don’t get the chicness of the trend, you’ll have free hands to hold an extra drink to block out their comments.
Yes, bum bags might never escape in the dad chic territory, but the ‘dad bags’ designed by British Albert Pukies literally turn you into a dad, and the ‘dad-est’ of them all—the Internet-viral bum bag is covered with a disturbingly realistic print of a hairy pot belly. (£10.99 on Amazon) This one shall forever be in the ‘Ew no’ category.
Meg is a full-time fashion journalism student at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. She moved to London at the age of 18 to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.