First of all, ladies, look at your bodies more positively: we’re not getting “thicker in the middle,” we’ve got curves! :D
And though it’s true that waist/fanny packs are not the best look for those of us blessed with such curves, the reason I bought the Side Effect (though it hasn't arrived yet) is precisely because it has those waist straps. I guess survival trumps vanity; or in other words, I care less about how I look than I do about function. I would never have survived two trips to Disney World with my son and a seething mass of young nieces and nephews without a cheap WalMart waist pack: it was small enough not to get in the way but large enough to carry the essentials, and it kept my hands free to do things like wipe ice cream off sticky faces, and grab hot, cranky five-year-olds who decided they’d be a lot cooler if they jumped into the water at Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Later I discovered a Mountainsmith lumbar pack, and for a while, I was in love. It was large enough to carry everything I needed for a day hike in the mountains, and because it was nestled in the small of my back, it felt natural, like an extension of my body. Makes sense, since that’s where both your balance and your muscle strength are centered. But alas, it was too large for daily use, and I made the mistake of selling it on eBay.
Now I use that same ancient WalMart pack when I walk my dog: I need both hands to pretend I’m in control when a rambunctious 140-pound Newfoundland wants to drag me down the street. Since I’ve taken up Nordic walking, both hands are occupied with the “ski” poles, so I need a small bag that won’t bounce or slip off my shoulder to carry my cell phone, ID, tiny notebook and pen (I’m a writer, and I get my best ideas when I’m walking), iPod Nano, earphones, bandanna, etc. That’s what I plan to use the Side Effect for, so I have to put in my vote NOT to remove the straps.
However, I do like the suggestion that a few folks made about making the waist straps removable somehow. That sounds like a perfect solution.
Just to contradict myself, I do think one version of the Side Effect would look better strapless—that's if it were made in that yummy Ultrasuede. I'm crossing my fingers that one day soon we might see an Ultra-SE.