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The Fanny Pack is Making a Comeback

The Fanny Pack is Making a Comeback

Brace yourself, I've got some horrible news.

The fanny pack is making a comeback.

New York Fashion Week starts this week, and as I was listening to an NPR news report, they announced that the bulky butt backpack usually worn by the tragically unhip was making a comeback after 20 years as a fashion punchline.

But the fashionistas in New York don't want you to call it a fanny pack, because that would make it seem stupid.

Instead, they want you to call it a "hands free bag" or "bum bag," which they believe is decidedly less stupid. (It's not.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, designer Yvan Mispelaere wanted to bring them back, saying they "represented motion, dancing, and celebrating the sun." I suppose if you're a famous fashion designer, you need to say things like "represents motion, dancing, and celebrating the sun" when you charge $325 for something you could originally get for $9.95 at a gas station.

The other reason designers wish you called it a bum bag instead of a fanny pack is because of the British slang term for fanny. I can't say what it is, except to say only women have fannies.

These new "hands free bags" are no longer the utilitarian butt backpacks worn by pudgy, balding insurance salesmen wearing button-down short sleeve shirts, shorts, and mid-calf white socks, being screamed at by his bratty kids at Six Flags.

Now they're a high fashion accessory more suited for holding an ID and credit card, a cell phone, and a tube of lipstick.

Mispelaere says that calling them a hands-free bag conveys "a functional shape, but with a touch of glamour, a touch of luxury, and a touch of seriousness."

Actually, I don't think the term "hands free bag" conveys any of that. It conveys utility, convenience, and the ability to fight off bears should the need arise. For $325, it had better come with a year's worth of free hamburgers and a model to feed them to me. Drop the price to $275, and it can be a hand model.

I've carried a hands-free bag for years. It's called a backpack. I can put my laptop in it, four books, several electronics connector cords, a computer mouse, two Moleskine notebooks, a digital camera, and an iPod. There's even a place to stick a water bottle. Best of all, it only cost $25, or 92 percent less than Mispelaere's bag.

Not so surprisingly, designers hate the old-fashioned fanny grannies we're so used to seeing. TV presenter and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi despises fanny packs.

They are forever associated with "scary American tourists at the Louvre," Mizrahi, an American, told the Wall Street Journal. "You either love them and make them part of your life, or you fight them until the end," he said. Then he snickered and said, "until the 'end,' get it?!"

This year's designers are serious about shedding the old fuddy-duddy image, because they can't sell them to people with more money than sense (way more money) if they're called fanny packs. If we use the same term for these new accessories that we used for butt purses, then designers like Sang A Im-Propp can't sell an alligator version of her "belt bag" for $1,995.

"The term 'fanny pack' is just eww, so cheesy, so tacky, so horrible," she said, oblivious to the the cheesy, tacky, horribleness of using the skin of a dead reptile so some bubble-headed model has some place to stick her lipstick and coke vial.

It gets worse: Hermès has a fanny pack that costs $4,675 and will hit stores in the Spring. You could buy a 2004 Ford Mustang for that much, secure in the knowledge that "Mustang" is not a British slang word for things we're not allowed to say in a newspaper.

But apparently, these new fanny packs are useful for more than just carrying stuff. LA fashion designer Lizz Wasserman says she has more than 20 different fanny packs, and they come in handy when she's in the clubs.

"If you go out dancing, a fanny pack is very necessary," said Lizz. "Especially if you don't want other people dancing with you."

Umm, okay sure, Lizz. The fanny packs are why people aren't dancing with you.

I don't care what the fashionistas demand that we call these bags in some desperate attempt to hide the fact that they're nothing more than ridiculously priced, slimmed down butt backpacks.

They'll always be fanny packs to me. Painfully small, seriously undernourished fanny packs.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that people who have a fanny pack probably also own a Snuggie, i.e. backwards robe.


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