When it comes to the ongoing, prospering fashion revolution of bad-taste-is-good-taste, it feels as if we’ve seen it all. Christopher Kane’s bejeweled crocs, the revival of Tenenbaum-esque tracksuits, chunky Balenciaga sneakers that mirror dad’s old pairs …and, well, just about anything Demna Gvasalia has been sending down the runway since his inaugural collection in 2014.
This summer has even brought us the revival of Hawaiian shirts—the kind plucked from a thrift store for no more than a few bucks—plus a momentary embrace of second-skin biker shorts worn, (obviously), not to bike. As we wind down in the final days of this heat and all eyes—shielded in tiny Matrix-inspired sunglasses—look to fall, there appears to be another peculiar fad brewing. Not really a bag, nor really a wallet, the hybrid comes suspended from the décolletage as what can only be called a neck bag.
A Google search for “neck bags” will draw up polyester, nylon, and canvas pouches in shades of stale beige and tired forest green, while to-the-point product names include a string of words like “adjustable,” “RFID-blocking,” “double zippered pockets,” and “anti-theft.” Sensible, functional and entirely stripped of anything even remotely “fashion-forward,” they’re fuss-free, utilitarian accessories that also draw up images of ultra-cautious, starry-eyed tourists wandering unfamiliar territory. Or, freshly minted college freshmen who haven’t yet realized just how strongly they’re divulging their newbie status with a dangling lanyard. In either case, ease of access and keeping said neck bag in direct sight are prioritized over looks.
Sure, the runway versions didn’t feel as pedestrian. At the Fall 2018 shows, Marc Jacobs presented them in gleaming navy leather with gold chain link embellishments and quilted fuschia. Giambattista Valli sent a few down the catwalk, too: embossed, crocodile leather versions in bubblegum pink and a shade reminiscent of the ever-popular Essie “mint candy apple” polish. Blurring the lines between what constitutes a bag and what constitutes a necklace, Tod’s offered a teeny-tiny round, coin-purse lookalike. Not to be missed, designers also gave the guys their own dangling looks: Jacquemus’ debuting menswear collection featured drawstring styles and pastel hues, while at Prada, black leather iterations resembled a passport cover or ID-holder.
Perhaps the purpose of bringing neck bags to the runway was to gussy up an overlooked, somewhat geeky staple, turning it into something that could be called an accessory when reimagined under the eyes of, say, Marc Jacobs, instead of a mass-market store like Walmart. As for their use in everyday life, as well as their comfort, it’s hard to say they make a compelling case. Think about it: assuming you’re actually using a neck bag for an activity where your hands and shoulders should be free of straps, you probably wouldn’t want the alternative to be hanging directly down the middle of your chest, swinging and swaying with any pace slightly faster than a beach stroll. Despite its purpose-oriented reason for being, it can’t really be any more in your way when actually worn. I beg to differ, there are better options.
Mini bag devotees already know how to travel light, and those who truly insist on being hands-free can find solace in fanny packs—which designers were quick to upgrade in a slew of textures and prints. At a music festival, on a hike, or engaging in any other activity where you might want to reserve your hands for something more important, the fanny pack can continue to be your trusty, stable and convenient friend.
While it’ll likely only be a matter of time before neck bags appear in Instagrams with the caption “Camping/Airport security/Sightseeing, but make it fashion,” if you must go hands-free, please keep your neck out of it.