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What is a Hip Flask?

Hip flasks were often tucked into womens' garters.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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A hip flask is a container used to hold a beverage, typically alcohol of some form. It is shaped to fit into a trouser pocket, and designed to be thin, so that it will not interrupt the line of a pair of pants. Engraved flasks are sometimes given to people as commemorative gifts. Many companies also make highly ornamental hip flasks which are designed to admired as well as used. These flasks are passed down as family heirlooms, since they are often made with costly materials like silver.

Various containers have been used to make alcohol portable for centuries. In the 18th century, precursors of the hip flask began to appear, primarily for use among the upper classes. Like modern flasks, they were typically made from metal, because metal is a durable material which can stand up to high use. Silver was a popular choice of metal, and the flasks were often ornately engraved.

The popularity level of the hip flask really started to surge in 1920s America, after a Constitutional Amendment banned alcohol. Numerous social rebels started to carry hip flasks of illicit alcohol, or hooch, so that they could drink discreetly. The small size and slim profile would have made it easy to slip a hip flask from one pocket to another, or tuck a flask into garters designed to hold up stockings. Like short skirts and Tommy guns, the hip flask is a 1920s cultural icon for Americans.

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After the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed with the Twenty First Amendment in 1933, drinkers no longer needed hip flasks to be discreet. However, their close association with the lively cultural period of the 1920s ensured that hip flasks would live on. Many members of the armed forces carried them during the Second World War so that they could have a ready supply of bracing alcohol, and people continue to use and carry hip flasks to this day.

Generally, people are open about drinking from a hip flask, despite abundant laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol. These laws specifically prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public. The flask is used more to imply style and social status than anything else. A hip flask might also be taken to an event which charges for alcoholic drinks, or smuggled into a venue where alcohol is prohibited. In these instances, the hip flask is usually concealed, just as it was in days of yore, so that authorities do not confiscate it or pour the alcohol out.

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Post 4

@backdraft- I have a friend who carries a hip flask, and I admit it is kind of endearing, at the same time it also sort of worries me. There are places, especially now, where people should not bring them, such as schools and other places likely to have kids. I'm sure it is rarely, if ever, a problem, I just worry about what would happen if someone was "caught" with one in an inappropriate place, or if he, too, developed some sort of drinking problem from having it.

truman12
Post 3

@tigers88 - You will probably find the best hip flask selection if you go online. You will probably also be able to get the engraving done relatively cheaply and easily. If you would like to go to a store you might consider trying a nice tobacco store or a fine liquor store. Often times these stores will carry at least a few different flasks. Happy hunting. These make really great gifts for the right person.

tigers88
Post 2

I want to buy a really nice engraved hip flask for my boyfriend but I have no idea where to find one. Is this something you can find in a big department store like Macy's? And I definitely want to get a nice one, not just some camping flask or whatever. Does anyone have any suggestions for where I might start looking?

backdraft
Post 1

I will always remember that my grandfather carried around a hip flask filled up with gin wherever he went. In fact it was more likely that he would have that flask than would have pants on. Whenever he would pass someone on the street and they would ask "How ya doin" he would knock on the side of his flask twice and say "doin fine" with a wry smile. I realize now that my grandfather probably drank more than he should have but this was never really a problem. In a certain way I find it kind of charming.

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