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You Don’t Have To Be On The Amazing Race To Justify Wearing A Fanny Pack

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For over a year now, stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna, Rita Ora, Rachel Zoe and Fergie have been trying to convince me (and the world) that fanny packs — yes, those awful little pouches with built-in belts that hang along below the waist, grazing the hips — have somehow shed their I’m-a-nitwit-tourist badge of infamy and become a medal of bravado for adventurous fashionistas. Yet the fact that these celebrities are strolling around with Chanel and Gucci versions of the accessory will not make me drink the Kool-Aid. Why? Because, there are certain images I simply associate with fanny packs. Most prominent, of course, is that of the clueless, Clark Griswold-esque tourist making his way through Europe, visiting an amusement park during vacation, or sightseeing in Mexico.

And then, of course, there are images like this:

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Yes, that’s the girl in the Technotronic “Pump Up the Jam” video wearing a fanny pack for no conceivable reason.

Or this visual:

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You may remember all the Dylan-centric drama on Beverly Hills 90210 with a healthy dose of nostalgia, but please don’t long for the good ol’ days when Steve Sanders (played by Ian Ziering) rocked a fanny pack.

More recent pop culture images include this nugget:

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Yup, a Segway and a fanny pack are Paul Blart’s jam!

And, my personal favorite:

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30 Rock might remember this moment when Liz Lemon showed up to the office wearing sweats and a fanny pack while carrying a cat she’d named Emily Dickinson, proclaiming she was “leaning in” and accepting her inevitable fate as a spinster.

There are, however, situations in which I can forgive the bulky fanny pack faux pas — case in point: when contestants on The Amazing Race strap these pouches around their waists to keep their passports, clues, maps, and cash safe and sound. I mean, when you’re running, digging through stacks of hay or rolls of Persian rugs, carrying mattresses through narrow streets in India, carrying wooden carts with giant cheese wheels down a steep hill in Switzerland, and stacking watermelons into giant pyramid shapes, you’ll be thankful to have both of your hands free and unencumbered.

These guys right there, then, get a major pass:

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Another key exception: if you’re going for a jog or hike and need to keep your valuables somewhere safe but don’t want the hassle of carrying a backpack.

These scenarios aside, however, the whole fanny pack business has always made me cringe — and yet, maybe, just maybe, my stance will start to shift thanks to the evolution of the fanny pack or, rather, the emergence of what is now being dubbed the “belt bag.” What’s the difference? Well, both are small bags that can be strapped along the waist, but the new “belt bags” come in more fashion-forward shapes and luxe materials so that they can enhance, rather than deter, from an outfit. They’re no longer bulky nylon pouches that make you look like a misguided kangaroo, but streamlined envelope-shaped or canteen-like bags that happen to have wide belt straps so they can sling from the hips easily.

One designer who is nailing the reinvented fanny pack is New York City-based designer Molly Shaheen, who launched her eponymous line in 2014. Her “Mollypacks,” some of which are shown above, come in chic shapes, colors, and textures, making them a far cry from the scratchy fabrics and tacky neon hue of yore.

Take, for instance, the Molly Shaheen Scaled Stone Fringed Circle with Orange Tips Leather Fanny Pack ($245 at MollyShaheen.com), shown above at top, which measures 6.5″ in length, 15″ in height, and 2″ in width. The tan-colored leather bag features embossed scales for an elegant reptilian look, while the fringe dangling along the bottom gives the piece a youthful energy (and plenty of movement). The dip-dyed orange tips of the fringe, meanwhile, make the piece feel all the more vibrant. Best of all? the detachable strap can be adjusted to your desired length (from 32.5″ to 44.5″) for use as a cross-body or shoulder bag or it can even be removed completely so you can wear the piece as a clutch.

Similarly, the Molly Shaheen Soft Black Fringed Circle with Turquoise Tips Leather Fanny Pack ($245 at MollyShaheen.com), shown second from top, features the same shape and dimensions as the aforementioned number, but this time it’s made of a very soft black leather with suede fringe featuring turquoise tips.

If you prefer more linear shapes, Molly Shaheen also offers several envelope-shaped styles such as the  Molly Shaheen Bubbled Blood Orange Zip Flap Leather Fanny Pack ($175 at MollyShaheen.com), shown third above. Measuring 8″ in length, 5″ in height, and 1.25″ in width, this bag is crafted out of a rich leather and features a bubbled 3-dimensional texture that gives it a futuristic attitude. Another clever option is the Molly Shaheen Navy Bandanna Leather Fanny Pack ($175 at MollyShaheen.com), which features a metallic blue leather surface with an embossed paisley pattern that nods to the classic motif found on bandannas.

And, as mentioned, all these Molly Shaheen pieces can also be worn as cross-body bags, over-the-shoulder purses, or clutches, so you don’t have to commit to the fanny pack idea if you’re still trying to wrap your head around the concept. But no matter what you choose to do: no one will think of you as a Paul Blart wannabe if you dare to strap one of these packs around your waist!

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