The Bum Bag: History, Origins & Styles

The Bum Bag

What is a bum bag?

Bum bag is a British term for a small bag attached to a belt. It is used to hold small or valuable objects. In America it is known as a fanny pack. It is also known as a waist wallet, belt bag, belly bag, chaos pouch, buffalo pouch, hip sack, butt pack, moon bag and in France as a sac banane. Originally designed to be worn around the waist or hips it is now worn in any way which the wearer can devise: slung across the shoulders, draped around the neck or used as a belt on top of a raincoat.

Origin and history

The History of the Bum Bag

Bags predate pockets and the forerunner of the bum bag, a small pouch attached to the belt by means of a hook known as a chatelaine, was the most practical way for men and women of the Middle Ages, to carry their valuables. The sporran, a small bag worn over a kilt, was necessary because it was not possible to include pockets in a kilt, and the sporran is a bum bag in all but name. The design of the modern bum bag is attributed to the Australian, Melba Stone who produced a bum bag prototype in 1962 but it was not until the late eighties that the bum bag became a popular fashion accessory. The practicality of the bag made it popular across a wide range of users, thus it became something of a style cliché for both drug dealers and middle-aged tourists. Inevitably its popularity resulted in its sudden unpopularity. But now the uncool is post-modern ironic cool again. Balenciaggia, Marc Jacobs and Gucci plus a host of other designer labels have reinvented the bum bag for the Twenty First Century and there’s scarcely a Hollywood celebrity, rapper or model who doesn’t wear one.

Bum bag vs Fanny pack

An example of the endless confusion that arises from two countries sharing the same language. Both America and Britain name the bag after a colloquial word for bottom. 

Bum Bags and popular culture

Bum bags have always been rather more of a statement than other items of luggage ware, such as the holdall or the tote bag. In the eighties they were initially hip and dangerous by the time overweight retirees were wearing them around Angkor Watt they were an accessory of ridicule. Now they are reborn as high-end fashion.

Bum bags for music festivals

Bum Bags for Festivals

The bum bag is a supremely useful bit of festival kit. Tickets, id, cash, sunscreen, not necessary if you’re at Glastonbury, or any other small personal effects that you might require can all be carried with security and in comfort. Despite their name, few people actually carry their bum bags on their bums anymore because they present rather an easy target for pickpockets. Worn in front, the bag is easy to access and more difficult, though not impossible, to steal from.

Bum bags for professional use

A less fun-loving application of the bum bag is that they can be used to carry a gun. The police sometimes use them in this way. For anyone who needs their hands free and also needs easy access to tools, the bum bag, usually with specialist adaptation, is an invaluable and popular accessory. Specialist sports bum bags are also used for a range of activities such as running, climbing or surfing.

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