The rise and fall of the fanny pack: Inside wrestling's most infamous accessory
Back in the early ’90s, if you spotted anyone wearing super-baggy Zubaz pants, a satin jacket over a Gold’s Gym tank top and a pair of snazzy cowboy boots, odds are, they were a pro wrestler.
However, there’s one item that tied the whole outfit together, an accessory that makes 99 percent of today’s population cringe upon its mere mention—the fanny pack.
“You wouldn’t catch me dead in a fanny pack,” Goldust made clear in a recent interview with WWE.com.
Although many of today’s Superstars wince at the thought of wearing a miniature satchel around their waists, the belt bag remains a symbol of a bygone era in the wrestling business for others. In the days before first-class travel and personal tour buses, grapplers strapped their lives to their stomachs and crammed as many of their burly brethren as possible into a station wagon and hauled thousands of miles across America, trading tales of the craft before the next show.
“I think of the golden age of men who carried every single thing in their fanny pack,” Cody Rhodes said. “If they could have made a fanny pack big enough to hold their boots, they’d put them in there, too.”
The fanny pack was a case of function winning out over fashion. Wrestlers wanted comfort on those long hauls between shows, which led to the rise of Zubaz and other gym wear as the outfits of choice for the locker room. While comfortable, they didn’t offer much in the way of pocket space or security, almost making the fanny pack a necessary evil.
“We carried so much stuff,” The Bizarre One said. “If you put all of it in your pockets, it would fall out when you’re working out.”
The Superstars WWE.com spoke with could rattle off the contents of their past fanny packs like it was yesterday: keys, wallets, passports, licenses, pagers, cell phones and maybe a snack or two for the road. Having everything minus their wrestling gear strapped to their waists at all times, it’s no surprise that even the most organized Superstar’s fanny pack quickly became a mess of crumpled cash and half-eaten protein bars. Still, the most seasoned grapplers learned to navigate their belt bag as well as they moved around the squared circle.
“I once had a conversation with Jimmy Snuka,” Rhodes recalled. “He told me he was going to give me his business card. He reached into his fanny pack, which was the size of Ryback’s head. Without ever breaking eye contact with me, he managed to find his card amongst pocket knives, money, candy and thousands of other things.”
There was even a little bit of competition back in the day, to see who had the nicest fanny pack.
“I had a Tumi one, which was pretty cool,” Billy Gunn told WWE.com.
“I had a Wal-Mart,” Road Dogg responded.
Despite the investment some wrestlers put into their fanny packs, as the 1990s gave way to a new millennium, the accessory faded into obscurity. Many have their own theories as to why belt bags aren’t prevalent anymore.
“I think, in the age of technology, you don’t need to fill that up with your belongings,” Dolph Ziggler explained. “People have locks, a little more security and all kinds of information on their phones.”
“I think, ultimately, people just found simpler was better,” Rhodes said. “The wallet and the belt was a better combo than the fanny pack.”
Others have ideas that aren’t so kind to the fanny pack.
“It went out of fashion because people finally understood how ridiculous it looked,” Bad News Barrett said.
“Because they’re hideous!” Road Dogg exclaimed.
While fanny packs have, for the most part, been relegated to something your dad might wear at Walt Disney World, there’s one WWE Legend who’s still rocking a fanny pack like it never went out of style.
“When I think of fanny packs, I think of Michael P.S. Hayes,” Ziggler said.
Indeed, the founder of The Fabulous Freebirds has become as closely associated with the fanny pack as he once was with a sequined Confederate Flag robe. Whether it’s a backstage meeting or a more formal occasion — like the annual WWE Hall of Fame Induction ceremony — Hayes and his fanny pack are rarely separated. The WWE producer has a reputation for being a sports-entertainment original, but his unique fashion statement still baffles most of the locker room.
“Maybe he just doesn’t like putting things in his pockets, I don’t know,” Goldust said.
To get the real deal on the fanny pack, WWE.com went straight to the source. The Freebird told us why he started wearing his belt bag years ago.
“It was the best way for me not to lose my wallet and all my personal items that I needed to take with me around the world,” Hayes said. “When I didn’t have them hooked to me, I lost countless wallets, driver’s licenses and credit cards.”
Hayes’ reasons for adopting the fanny pack are sensible. But why hasn’t he gotten with the times, as many of his contemporaries have?
“I rock mine because I rock to the beat of a different drummer. I do what I like. If I like something, I do it forever,” he explained. “I happen to like the fanny pack. I’m not a fad guy. I don’t do things because other people are doing them. I will rock this fanny pack into the grave and beyond.”
With Michael Hayes remaining steadfast in his commitment to wearing the fanny pack to the very end, it has us wondering: Will the fanny pack ever make a comeback?
“Absolutely!” Rhodes said.
Though Superstars aren’t on the road as much as their predecessors, there are still roadblocks that can make travel time consuming— namely airport security. Rifling through pockets to get every last coin onto the x-ray conveyor belt could mean the difference between making and missing a flight, so wouldn’t it make sense to put everything in a fanny pack and save time?
“The functionality of the fanny pack cannot be argued,” Rhodes said. “It is an ingenious bag.”
And with ’90s trends like Zubaz making a huge comeback, can the fanny pack’s resurgence be far behind? Michael Hayes doesn’t doubt it.
“When you see it come back into style, don’t thank me,” he declared. “Just know that I’m doing what I’ve always done, leading the way.”