I hate street style. I look at street style blogs for outfit inspiration and check updates for fashion weeks in major cities as they happen. But I admit that I do so grudgingly. I don’t know a soul who would lay out a neon visor and two differently colored heels for the next day and say to themselves, “Yes, this is a good idea.” Unless they are selling them. I grumble and take notes on their outfit anyways. I end up wearing a tamer version of what some enlightened photographer saw as visionary.
“Confidence is the best accessory” is not a cliche. Clothes are just clothes, after all, and a person intentionally wearing something ridiculous lives more boldly than someone who simply puts on whatever they’re sold. A helpful piece of advice for the ladies: It’s hard to discredit a girl when she’s wearing red lipstick to her 9 a.m. lecture. You’ve always wanted to bleach your hair — when will you, if not now?
I like to nod and affirm such feminist liberation to wear what I want within my own bounds of modesty, but a fundamental obstacle to this logic arises. An exception of exceptions, this stumbling block is so controversial, so despised that it silences even the most liberal of feminist fashionistas from addressing it: the fanny pack.
Regardless of our personal judgments, we must all acknowledge the two inarguable attributes of the fanny pack, which are its practicality and its inherent tackiness. Somewhere in the 1990s, the fanny pack went from trendy to touristy. Today, we find ourselves conflicted and attracted to the idea of having all of our belongings within easy reach at all times but revolted by, well, actually having to wear a fanny pack.
The cause of the fanny pack isn’t helped by its ironic cool factor. I’m sure your Aunt Deborah would disapprove of these American Apparel hooligans with their band shirts and horn-rimmed glasses parading in her trademark bum bag.
I turned to the fashion industry for answers. When such strange trends turn up in the street style world, I tend to search for confirmation in runway presence so that I can throw up my hands, accept the bizarreness of fashion and move on with my life.
But as I dug further, I realized that I was pressing on a glaring inconsistency plaguing designers since the industry’s failed resuscitation of the fanny pack in 2011. Korean handbag designer Sang A Im-Propp was one of the many designers to unveil a new “belt bag” on the runway for the spring season, but when an interviewer referred to the article as a fanny pack, she decried the term “fanny pack” as “just eww, so cheesy, so tacky, so horrible.”
Perhaps the only solution to America’s fanny pack stigma is recognizing that Aunt Deborah’s fanny pack is beyond redemption in its current form, as is every rendition from Louis Vuitton’s to Etsy’s most recent galaxy cat print, because we cannot fight the reputation that comes with it. What we can do, however, is reinvent where and why we wear it.
As much as we’d hate to admit it, the fanny pack indicates freedom. Imagine a weekend, ladies, where we can leave the house with simply our phone, keys and ID like the other half of the population usually does, as opposed to lugging around a bulky shoulder bag.
The only barrier between us and the ideal is the courage to let go of the past. Just as a long dress and gym sneakers can be chic when the person wearing it carries herself with confidence, then even a piece with as much of a reputation as the fanny pack can be redeemed as stylish independent of irony or kitsch.
Whether or not you’re convinced to bring back the fanny pack, the parallel is still worthy of consideration. Even if we let the bum bag fade into history, at least we can convince ourselves that being self-assured in what and why we wear what we wear, can bring about a similar aura of confidence elsewhere.