Hip flasks were traditionally made of pewter, silver, or even glass, though most modern flasks are made from stainless steel. Some modern flasks are made of plastic so as to avoid detection by metal detectors.
Hip flasks can vary in shape, although they are usually contoured to match the curve of the wearer's hip or thigh for comfort and discretion, known as a kidney flask. Some flasks have "captive tops" which is a small arm which attaches the top to the flask to stop it from getting lost when it is taken off.
A hip flask is most commonly purchased empty, and then filled by the owner. However, the term "flask" also applies to smallest bottle sizes of alcohol in commercial markets. Some flasks come with small cups to make sharing easier, although generally liquid is drunk directly from the flask.
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The hip flask is popular as a commemorative item, often being engraved. The Modern Drunkard Magazine describes the engraved flask as the best present one can give. The engravings may be a short quote, the recipient's initials, toasts, dates of memorable occasions, or signs of friendship.
The hip flask began to appear in the form recognized today in the 18th century, initially used by members of the gentry. However, less compact versions had been in production for several centuries. Notably, in the Middle Ages, there are several accounts of gutted fruit being used to store liquor. During the 18th century, women boarding docked British warships would smuggle gin into the ship via makeshift flasks, created from pig's bladders and hidden inside their petticoats. Following the act of prohibition in 1920s America, the state of Indiana banned the sale of cocktail shakers and hip flasks.
Antique hip flasks, particularly those made of silver, are now sought-after collector's items.
Carrying a hip flask filled with alcohol in a public place is illegal in many locations in the United States due to open container laws which prohibit possession of an unsealed container of alcohol in public or within the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
In popular culture
The hip flask appears frequently in comedy, in part because it allows drinking in inappropriate situations where a bottle would not normally be found—for instance, in Two and a Half Men, where Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) drinks alcohol from a hip flask during a funeral. It also appears rarely in The Simpsons, when Homer drinks from it on occasion, and even allows Bart to take a drink during particularly intolerable occasions. In another adult animation, Rick and Morty, the character Rick Sanchez, who is shown to be notably alcoholic, carries a hip flask under his lab coat.