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The History of Fanny Packs

Fanny packs, or bumbags as they’re known outside of the United States, have surprisingly ancient origins. According to a 1992 story in TIME magazine, a frozen body that dates back to the Stone Age was found with a leather pouch “resembling a small version of the fanny packs worn by tourists.” In Medieval times, similar accessories were used to hold small items because most clothing lacked pockets. Some versions, such as the Scottish sporran, were also symbols of status and wealth. In Victorian and Edwardian times, the chatelaine purse, which was based on a similar Medieval accessory, became quite popular. More recently, fanny packs were mentioned in a 1954 issue of Sports Illustrated. The bags on offer cost $10 and were “designed to hold a cross-country skier’s wax and lunch.” The article also mentioned that the bags were “useful for cyclists, hikers, [and] equestrians.” And indeed, fanny packs or bumbags were popular among European skiers for years before they caught on with a wider community. They were officially invented in their modern form by an Australian woman named Melba Stone in 1962. She was reportedly inspired by kangaroo pouches. Fanny packs then caught on among tourists in the 1980s and partiers in the 1990s, but were soon rejected as “unfashionable.” Today, the hands-free bags have made quite the comeback and regularly appear on runaways. The modern iteration tends to be sleekier and much more chic than the retro version. Interestingly, they’re also worn differently — modern fanny packs are often worn across the chest rather than around the waist. Seen as both practical and fashionable, these unique bags have made quite the name for themselves and are especially popular among fashion-forward youths, athletes, and concert-goers today.

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