Zubaz, Fanny Packs, and the Ribera Steakhouse Jacket: A History

Lt. Commander Robert Truax was one of the world’s great rocket scientists. A career Naval officer with a nuclear engineering master’s degree, his early backyard experiments led to the creation of liquid-propelled missiles, and ultimately the Thor, Viking and Polaris missile programs for NASA.

Sadly, the innovation of this Bob Truax will forever be overshadowed by a different inventor named Bob Truax…the creator of Zubaz pants.

Zubaz (pronounced “zoo-buzz”) are a common part of a typical 90’s male wrestler out-of-the-ring uniform. Along with a fanny pack and a graphic tee with the sleeves cut off, one could easily identify a wrestler from afar, nary a kneepad or singlet in sight. Additional accoutrements may include a cap or bandana, the bottom of your shirt cut off too, sunglasses (regardless of time/place), perhaps a hair tie for a coservative ponytail, and everything is a little wet from either sweat, a bottle of water dumped over the head or leftover oil/tanner. And for a select few, it’s topped off with a jacket with the logo of a steakhouse on it…if you earned it.

I wanted to dig deeper into the typical mufti of my childhood heroes, and see which of these looks can hold up in the present day, and consider these looks for myself.

The Zubaz

LAist

Along with his friend and business associate Dan Stock, Bob Truax owned and operated a gym in Minnesota, and applied their own scientific method to a common issue for their clients. Bodybuilders and weightlifters in their gym could not find comfortable pants to fit their essentials due to their massive, hulking thighs. Together, they designed baggy shorts and pants that caught on big with the gym warriors.

Like the slang word zooba, which is apparently St. Paul slang for “in your face,” they played with bright zebra-print patterns. When it came time to find an appropriately zooba pair of models, they simply turned to their partners in the gym, Hawk and Animal, the Road Warriors.

WCW Worldwide

Road Warrior Animal told WWE.com, “Hawk and I were wrestling for the NWA on TBS. Every time we went to the ring or did a TV taping, we had our Zubaz on. Once that started catching on and people started seeing those pants and wanted to buy them.”

In an infomercial for JCPenney, the new spokesmen for the brand growled, “Either buy them or we’ll kill ya!”

Soon, everybody from football star Dan Marino to supermodel Claudia Schiffer could be seen in the colorful prints, fearful that Animal was gonna pull one of his spikes off and stab them in the eye like they did to Dusty.

More Professional Wrestling

One news service described the phenomenon as the “new, fresh look for the ‘90s.” Another said, “Garish and oversized, the cotton-knit, drawstring-waisted, pajama-like pants have a pull on the waistline of America. Paris, London, and even Warsaw have felt the tug, too.”

As the trend faded, it unsurprisingly held on with the pro wrestlers loyal to their brand. As you know, wrestling is–say it with me–at best, five or ten years behind in what’s cool at all times.

Despite the zooba look (I love saying it), it’s surprisingly mainly used as part of civilian attire for wrestlers, rather than in the ring.

Ever since the brand returned, it has been adopted by nostalgia-mining folks for so long the irony cycle has already ran another rotation and now it’s just a thing that people in Buffalo wear to tailgate. Wearing these too casually could make you “the funny guy at the gym” even when you’re not at the gym, but also comfort is comfort, especially these days.

My consensus: Like whatever you wanna like.

The Fanny Pack

Also known as a waist bag, belt bag, moon bag, belly bag or bumbag, this invention combined belt and bag. While some credit Australian designer Melba Stone for this invention, who likened it to a kangaroo pouch, Sports Illustrated promoted fanny packs for cyclists in 1954, and Ötzi the iceman was rockin’ the look around 3100 BC. However, the look was de rigueur in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, before becoming a Seinfeld and “Weird Al” punchline.

However, this look carried on long after with wrestlers, who are historically undeterred by changing trends.

WWE

From Steve Austin to Shawn Michaels to British Bulldog to Scott Steiner to Hulk Hogan to Ahmed Johnson to Kevin Nash to Brian Pillman to Lex Luger to Harlem Heat to Randy Savage to Owen Hart to Scott Hall to Mr. Hughes to Diamond Dallas Page to Rick Steiner to Triple H to Road Warrior Hawk to Rob Van Dam to Kane to The Sandman to Scott Norton to Lance Storm to Mick Foley to Eric Bischoff to Road Dogg to Bill Goldberg to Sting have all pouched it in between their grunts and groans.

Hell, it’s the only thing Naked Mideon wore. And Randy Orton that one time.

Tori and Kane, “all dressed up” for the opening of the WWF New York restaurant, nightclub and store in 2000. (Did you know Prince performed at WWF New York once? Weird, right?)

“Back in the ’90s, and even the early 2000s, every self-respecting wrestler would be wearing a fanny pack,” Chris Jericho told The Trentonian in 2007. “If you were putting on a suit to the arena for some reason for a big show or big match, you’d still put on that suit and put on that fanny pack like it’s the last piece of armor if you’re going to fight a battle in King Arthur’s Court. It’s a glorious invention.”

Michael “P.S.” Hayes, wearing a fanny pack for the full duration of Ric Flair’s wedding.

“I rock mine because I rock to the beat of a different drummer,” Michael “Purely Sexy” Hayes burped while strutting towards a WWE.com reporter. “I do what I like. If I like something, I do it forever. 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.”

What is in a wrestler’s fanny pack? Pills. Probably. Maybe a sharpie? I’ll never get close enough to find out.

The most notorious fanny pack moment has to be the photo of a young Dwayne Johnson, clad in turtleneck and chain, showing off his leather fanny pack while protecting his elbow from dust with a tissue. This photo took on a life of its own, inspiring countless Halloween costumes and even a Young Rock-promoting Thanksgiving Day parade balloon.

NBC

The look has even carried on with the modern day wrestler. Comedic wrestlers like Grado and Marko Stunt have made it part of their look and entrance, holding their packs above their head like a championship belt. Grado made them a key part of his merch.

The fanny pack was declared back in style in the late 2010’s. They can be seen on runways during fashion week, an over-the-shoulder look is commonplace these days, and you can even buy WWE and NJPW-branded fanny packs, including this Bray Wyatt-themed Lucifer’s-jockstrap look, which makes it look like The Fiend has burst through the flesh and skin of your pelvis like Freddy Kreuger at juuust the perfect height to scare little children and observant dogs.

WWE

With the look back in style now, we can be guaranteed wrestlers will continue to wear them for the next 20 years, because wrestling is—SAY IT WITH ME—at best, five or ten years behind in what’s cool at all times.

My consensus: Like whatever you wanna like. (But also, don’t wear the Fiend thing.)

The Ribera Steakhouse Jacket

One wouldn’t assume a piece of merch for a small steakhouse would become a truly coveted piece of fashion, but the Ribera Steakhouse jacket is no typical jacket.

“If you are in this business, you know exactly what that means,” Beth Phoenix told WWE.com after a 2011 tour of Japan.

The Ribera Steakhouse is an exceptionally tiny steak restaurant in Gotanda district of Tokyo, where the walls and ceilings are adorned with photos of professional wrestlers, most whom have benefited over the years from the hospitality of the wrestling fan owner Norikazu Yamaguchi.

Stan Hansen explained, “In Japan back in the late ’70s, early ’80s, steak was still foreign. It was very expensive. Just to get a normal steak was $20 or $30. Wrestlers had a hard time finding a place to eat fairly cheap and everybody loved steak, coming from America.”

Japan Times

Yamaguchi’s son, Toshihiko, who now runs a second branch of the restaurant in Meguro, explained to Japan Times, “It started purely with us wanting to give [Bruiser] Brody a present. More than the publicity, it made us happy to see Brody wearing the jacket in wrestling magazines. That feeling was what made us want to give out more.”

Again, like Zubaz, the fashion-forward Road Warriors helped make the look popular, proudly wearing their gifted jackets around the globe like a badge of honor.

CM Punk reminisced to WWE.com in 2013, “The first person I ever saw with a Ribera Steakhouse jacket was Terry Gordy. These guys used to wear their Ribera Steakhouse jackets as ring jackets. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about sponsorships and getting free steaks and extra money, you just think, ‘Whatever this guy’s wearing, it’s badass.’”

Since then, the Ribera Steakhouse jacket has become quite the collector’s item for traveling wrestlers and fans willing to spend the money.

The owner continued, “We don’t sell the jackets. We give them as presents, as a token of our appreciation. If we thought about it only in terms of publicity, the wrestlers would see through it. That’s not our intention.”

While receiving the satin is a right of passage for the gaijin, the lowly fan could buy a smidgen of respect with a replica jacket or maybe one of Bubba Ray Dudley’s old ones on eBay, but that takes all the fun out of it.

Reddit user IntelWarrior got a new version of the jacket in 2019 after a camera crew for a Japanese television show followed them to the steakhouse.

While you can try your luck getting an updated version of the Ribera jacket in Tokyo, you might have more luck meeting Toshiaki Kawada after he makes a bowl of ramen for you. Ironically, the new hooded jackets are produced by Zubaz (aw), though some still say they keep new versions of the 1980’s style satin jackets on hand for only wrestlers, because wrestling is—LET’S BRING IT ON HOME, NOW—at best, five or ten years behind in what’s cool at all times.

My consensus: Like whatever you wanna like. (But also, I want one.)

Should You Cop the Look?

The stars of TNA wrestling circa 2006, Christian, Johnny Devine, Bobby Roode, Eric Young and Scott D’Amore, pay tribute to traditional dress of the wrestler.

Zubaz pants are so comfortable, the fanny pack is so convenient, all your stuff is right there. I get what they were thinking at the time. Convenience and comfort.

– Brian Myers

In closing, this does seem like the perfect combination of zooba clothes for a road trip or a run to the gym. But while there are fun brands that make a more tasteful wrestling shirt than the typical WWE Shop detritus, in general, wrestling fans should probably not look to the squared circle to shape their day-to-day fashion sense (unless you’re this kid). However, if you are a wrestler yourself, only then is it your absolute fucking right to look like Sex Ferguson, makin’ towns.

Like CM Punk said: “Zubaz, fanny packs, Ribera jacket, maybe sunglasses indoors, high tops untied. It’s an homage to my elders.”

Where to get the looks:

  • A selection of stylish fanny packs on attractive people in DUMBO via The New York Times
  • Spend anywhere from $300 to $1300 on a Ribera jacket from eBay
  • You can “embrace the awesome” (if you must) at Zubaz
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Brett Davis

Brett Davis is an Andy Kaufman Award-winning comedian best known for a series of misguided projects like The Podcast For Laundry, The Special Without Brett Davis, and currently hosting WFMU’s Wrestling Club with Darren & Brett, a podcast about the thing.

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