What's a Fanny Pack: Discover the History Behind This Popular Accessory

What's a Fanny Pack: Discover the History Behind This Popular Accessory

What's a fanny pack? This popular accessory has been around for decades and it's even making a comeback. Learn what it is and where it began in this blog.

What's a fanny pack? This popular accessory has been around for decades and it's even making a comeback. Learn what it is and where it began in this blog.

Fanny pack--it's a phrase most of us can't say without conjuring up thoughts of the 1980's. Perhaps you've never seen a fanny pack. Maybe you're asking yourself, what's a fanny pack?

A fanny pack is a fashion accessory that typically hangs at waist level and is used to store something. However, there's more to this old-school staple than meets the eye.

Fanny packs actually have quite a fascinating history behind them, and are even starting to resurface in popular culture. We'll delve more into this history in the paragraphs below.

Birth of the Fanny Pack

Much like spears, jewelry, or mathematics, the fanny pack is an item that doesn't seem to have one clear origin. Instead, any number of people can be credited, and it all depends on how one defines a fanny pack.

The oldest fanny pack may be over five thousand years old. Otzi, a late Neolithic (New Stone Age) mummy found in the Alps, was found to be carrying a belt with a leather pouch on it.

In Otzi's case, the bag was used to carry medicine and a few tools. Of course, Otzi wasn't the last one to carry medicine in a hip pouch.

Medicine Pouch

Another set of cultures to use a hip pouch to carry medicine are Native Americans. Not all indigenous peoples used medicine pouches, but several, including the Lakota, did.

In many cases, these bags and the items in them had a spiritual component as well as a medical one.


You may not have heard of a sporran, although you've almost certainly seen one before. If you've seen the classic image of a Scotsman wearing a kilt, you'll notice there's that furry thing that hands down in the front.

That's a sporran, and it turns out that it's another form of waist pouch. One major downside of a kilt was that they didn't have any pockets, which is why the sporran became popular.

One fun fact about sporrans is that for about half of their history, they didn't have fur on them. From the 1300's through the 1600's, sporrans were built with function in mind rather than fashion.

The fur was a decorative element that wasn't added until the 1700's.

Medieval Belt Pouches

The Scots weren't the only Europeans too make a trend out of belt pouches. Take a look at some Medieval paintings and you're bound to find a fanny pack--or something like it--somewhere.

Like the other entries on this list so far, the Medieval 'fanny packs' were built to be useful, not stylish.

Chatelaine Purse

The pouches from Medieval Europe eventually evolved into chatelaine purses. A chatelaine is a chain that women wore around their waists. Usually, these chains were attached to various items so that the wearer wouldn't use them.

A chatelaine purse was a bag attached to a chain. This is where the status aspect came into play, as women of higher status could more often afford more decorated bags.

The Belt Pouch of Champions

This brings us to the modern age, when belt patches stuck around in Europe, but took on a different purpose. At least as early as the 1950's, waist pouches were being used by skiers and other sportsmen to store supplies.

What's a Fanny Pack?

If you want to get technical, a fanny pack, or a bumbag, as they're known in Britain and other Commonwealth countries, is a form of waist pouch invented in 1962 by an Australian woman named Melba Stone.

The fanny pack fell into obscurity until the 1980's, when it became a fashion staple. It reigned for only a decade before falling from grace and becoming an obvious joke for comedians all around the world.

Flintlock and Fanny Pack

When you hear the words 'fanny pack,' you probably don't think of pirates, bandits, freedom fighters or anything like them. Oddly enough, that's was a big part of their function for most of their history.

Scottish warriors, Vikings, and numerous others wore belt pouches.

The thing about belt pouches is that they were relatively small, which meant that they were a great way to conceal pistols or a small blade. Even if you didn't have any need to be armed, they were a great place to keep useful tools or other useful items.

Keeping money in a belt pouch was probably not the greatest idea, since vicious bandits known as highwaymen roamed the roads of several countries. Popular culture tends to portray them as noble Robin Hood type characters, and one or two of them may have been, but most were normal thieves and murderers.

In fact, this was such a huge problem that a new word was coined to describe thieves--cutpurse. This word literally refers to thieves slashing belt pouches off of travelers.

Fanny Packs: Then and Now

What's a fanny pack? Historically, belt pouches have been any number of things, from carrying medicine to weapons, to sporting gear. In the fashion world, fanny packs are starting to make a comeback, though more as tiny satchels worn on the shoulder than belt pouches.

It seems that the question to be asked is whether fanny packs are here to stay.

If you want to know more about fanny packs or other fashion accessories, please visit our site. We'll give you a list of various celebrities and fashion icons who have started wearing fanny packs.

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