Bum bag, pouch, belt bag, sling, fanny pack, purse: If you’re reading this, you probably own one, or at least you’ve thought about it. A few years ago you probably wouldn’t have considered carrying your phone, wallet, keys, a lighter and cigarettes in anything but your pockets or a tote. But a succession of influences, from Japanese tourists, to Brooklyn hipsters dressing like those tourists, to the grime stars of London’s East End have conspired to turn this one time fashion risk into a staple of everyday urban transit. A man’s small bag is now essential.

The history of small bags is pan-global and cross-cultural. Hunter-gatherers tied bags around the waist while foraging. Before pockets were commonplace, medieval men too wore bags cinched around their hips. In Western society the advent of the railroad made handheld bags a lifestyle standard. The invention of the gasmask in World War I created the need for a sturdy but unobtrusive satchel.

Concurrent with women’s purses becoming a fundamental part of life at every price point, the first aid bags used by early ski patrol influenced the burgeoning outdoor movement of the mid-1900s. By the 1980s men and women both were aware not just of the things they carried, but of the bags that held it all together.

The transition from the 1980s to the ‘90s is probably the era most associated with the fanny pack. Images of the Fresh Prince come to mind, the iconic picture of The Rock, rollerblades, tights and the rest of ‘90s, L.A., DayGlo fashion. The aesthetic quickly burned out, but not before it made an impression on the children who would become the tastemakers of today.

Perhaps as importantly, these were the decades in which we became enamored with gadgets, Walkmans and cameras and mobile phones. Technology, and the fragility of plastic goods, created a demand for small, specialized bags. Your accessories required accessories.

Now it seems every few years fashion nods its collective head toward the era. In the late-2000s American Apparel sold glittery gold fanny packs. High-end brands continued the tradition of taking everyday items of the proletariat and remaking them as luxury goods. Fanny packs and hip-bags floated down the runways for Burberry and Givenchy. Prada sold a nylon version for $400. In this same era Acronym-obsessed “tech-ninjas” took fanny packs and slung them diagonally across the body, a positional rebrand from middle-America to pseudo-military.

In the middle of the current decade a handful of trends collectively and (some might say lazily) referred to as normcore once again brought hip bags to the front lines of fashion. Kids who dressed like your dad on vacation in bucket hats, tube socks and chunky walking sneakers DJ’d in Williamsburg to art school girls in mom jeans with fanny packs instead of purses. Normcore as a dominant movement was kitschy and short-lived, but it did spur a lasting respect for layman’s fashion, geriatric sneakers and the necessity of bags in urban living, even if it’s just to sneak a six-pack into the bar.

Philosophically, the tenets or normcore are not dissimilar from perhaps the most significant normalizer on man-bags: the grime aesthetic. Track suits, dad hats, accessible brands like adidas and Nike—the modern roadman has at least an appreciation of British working class style. If you’ve paid any attention to hip-hop in the past five years you’ve seen the immense influence of grime not just on how rappers sound, but on how they dress. If you’ve paid any attention to hip-hop in the past five years, you’ve seen a lot of dudes with bags you could describe as purses.

At the same time as grime’s ascent, the high-end outdoor industry was pulling in a certain strain of fashionable men, former adherents of Americana wondering why their favorite indie shop no longer sold flannel. Nylon and ripstop were the new raw denim and leather. Pouches and detachable pockets were an easy sell.

In 2017, once again, examples are not hard to find on the runway or on the streets of New York, Paris and Tokyo. Perhaps the most notorious contributor to the recent resurgence of the sling bag has to be Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2017 collaboration collection with Supreme. From the OG fashion houses to startup skate brands, the market is quickly crowding. Reasonably-priced, well-made iterations can be found from old favorites like south2 west8, Mystery Ranch, Muji and, of course Supreme. The bags are a little slimmer than the hipster’s fanny pack, at once feminine and functional, but big enough for the city essentials: your phone and wallet and keys. A book, a blunt. It’s probably worn a little higher, slung across the shoulder rather than sagging off skinny hips. And it’s likely these bags are here to stay. Next summer, when layers and pockets are less at hand, you’ll think little about “wearing” a bag. You’ll just grab it as you leave the house, as woman have done for decades. Slowly but finally, a man’s possessions have found their place.

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Tags: skepta, prada, supreme, burberry