May 9, 2022

Vodka And Fanny Packs: They’re Baaaaack!

The Wall Street Journal is once again spot-on in predicting prior fads

By Ed Goldman

Now that The Wall Street Journal has decreed that vodka and fanny packs are both making comebacks, it must be true.

I need to clarify that most of us who’ve been drinking vodka, for at least a portion of our adult lives, never knew it had abdicated its position and gone into either seclusion or exile. In fact, since 1976 it’s been the most popular spirit in the world (take that, whiskey!). 

Edgy Cartoon

Trends and enemies

And contrary to myth and advertising, the most popular vodkas in the United States are made in Sweden, France, the U.K. and the U.S.—not Russia, just in case your conscience, not to mention your sympathy for the courageous people of Ukraine, was starting to bother you (as mine certainly was until I looked it up).

As for fanny packs, the first time I saw a guy wearing one, in the late 1980s on a trip to Disneyland, I barely suppressed a laugh. My reaction had nothing to do with current or latent machismo or misogyny, just pure aesthetics. The guy looked like a dork. It was as though he’d pulled on a pair of those equestrian jodhpurs sideways. Not that it really matters with how you rock your jodhpurs: they still make you look like a toddler whose baggy diapers have slipped down inside your pants .

In fairness—a goal this column vigorously strives to sidestep—the separate WSJ articles focused on: (a) vodka’s renewed popularity around the holidays and how it’s been coming out of the cabinet, so to speak, declaring its wokeness and newly discovered orientation; and (b) how men are accessorizing their look with designer purses and handbags. The men in question, it should be stressed, are fashion models, who’d still look handsome wearing fertilizer sacks over knee socks and Cole Hahn loafers.  

Let’s take a look at each trend. I’ll be brief. You’re probably facing or recovering from a busy day at the dinette set—oops, I mean, at the home office.

Vodka is no longer contented to be known for its relative lack of taste, color and aroma, traits for which people driving home from office parties and after-work cocktails have long revered it. (“Have I been drinkin’, ossifer? Me? D’ya schmell any alcohol?”) Yet now, more than ever, it wants to be a mixer. That means that in addition to tonic water, dry vermouth and the liquid from a jar of green olives—the latter being the additive for concocting a so-called “dirty” martini, though my hit-and-miss dishwasher makes most of my martinis appear that way—we’re being either encouraged or dared to consider drinking vodka made with cucumbers, mint, chocolate, coffee, and hot spiced tea (which to me makes for a shoddy toddy). 

A marketing client of mine once gave me a bottle of Smirnoff’s with marshmallows in it. The key word in that sentence is “once.” Apparently, this was the company’s way of saying, vis-a-vis my contract renewal, that it had decided to move in a different direction. (This wording, by the way, remains my favorite way of being rejected. Unfortunately, I’ve heard it more often in personal than business relationships.)

As for the resurrection of the man bag, I’d be very surprised if it caught on with younger people, who don’t seem to cart as much stuff in their shirts, pants and coats as I do, and not even a tenth of what my Dad used to jam into his pockets. If you don’t recall this phenomenon, watch an old movie sometime and see, if there’s a bedroom scene, what the hero loads his pockets with before heading outside: a fat wallet (even though back then it contained no credit cards since they had yet to be invented), a set of keys, chewing gum, a package of cigarettes, a lighter, perhaps a hard case for his glasses, and two handkerchiefs (almost a talisman of The Greatest Generation). 

He might also be wearing a wristwatch and also sporting a pocket-watch on a chain. That’s another touchstone of that era’s greatness: wearing suspenders and a belt. Why both? you may ask. Well, in those days, the pants were very big and with all that paraphernalia in the pockets, would likely have fallen prey to gravity.

In summary, if you must wear jodhpurs, please consider suspenders.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).