Never has a bit of fabric and elastic inspired such devotion and derision as the scrunchie, the iconic hair accessory worn by “Heathers” and Hillary Clinton alike.
The last time we saw flocks of females wearing scrunchies? It was the late ’80s, early ’90s, and Brenda Walsh had a new ZIP code – “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
But Material Girls take note: Scrunchies are back on top.
Chanel, Rag & Bone, Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood have all brought back scrunchies as part of a ’90s fashion revival.
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The list of It Girls sporting scrunchies grows longer every day – supermodel Cara Delevingne, singers Selena Gomez and Rita Ora and the women in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video.
Online, the fangirl page Scrunchies of Instagram winks at the trend with photos of Shih Tzus, babies and the girls of “Saved by the Bell” wearing scrunchies. Two women working in New York’s fashion industry started the page after watching the 1988 Winona Ryder movie “Heathers,” which famously turned red scrunchies into symbols of mean-girl power.
Last fall when Italian fashion house Missoni introduced a $95 satin scrunchie, style editors went positively gaga with glee.
So take that, Carrie Bradshaw.
The “Sex and the City” heroine almost single-handedly killed off the lowly hair tie in an episode now famous in “SATC” lore.
In a scene with her author boyfriend, Carrie berates him for having his leading female character running all over New York in a scrunchie.
“OK, but here’s the thing. Here’s my crucial point,” Carrie ranted. “No woman who works at W Magazine and lives on Perry Street would be caught dead at a hip downtown restaurant wearing a scrunchieeeee!”
Point taken. But women are wearing them on college campuses these days.
“I was on the (University of Kansas) campus recently for a Seventeen magazine event, and I was a little thrown seeing college girls wearing scrunchies very casually with their Nike shorts and their college T-shirts, and it was cute,” says Kansas City fashion blogger Ashley White. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t hate this.’ ”
’90s trends? Shudder!
White works for the American Academy of Family Physicians by day and writes about shoes and fashion by night on her blog, LeStyloRouge.com.
She was a “huge scrunchie fan in the ’90s” and had a drawer full of “every color imaginable. It would take some considerable collecting to get back to that level.
“I would wear a high pony(tail), top of the crown, with the scrunchie … lots of hair spray and D.J. Tanner bangs. ‘Full House’ was it.”
But White has been slow to embrace this particular part of the ’90s resurgence. She’s loving the comeback of overalls, plaid and nude lip liner. But scrunchies?
“When it’s done by someone who has clearly never stopped wearing scrunchies … no ma’am,” says White. “We need to talk.”
Which calls to mind Hillary Clinton’s scrunchie transgressions. Two years ago while she was secretary of state, her predilection – she even owned one decorated with pearls to coordinate with her pearl necklaces – reportedly led her staff to “ban the scrunchies.”
Function, not fashion
Although scrunchies are enjoying a fashion moment, they never really went away, evidenced by hundreds of handmade ones sold on Etsy and scores more sold to sports fans in school and team colors. American Apparel started selling scrunchies in 2009 and now sells hundreds of styles.
Female athletes use them to keep hair at bay. The Tumblr page Olympic Scrunchies showcases women who competed for medals while wearing big ol’ scrunchies. American gold-medal gymnast Shannon Miller became known for her monster-size hair ties in the ’90s.
And whether they’ll confess it or not, a lot of women wear scrunchies in the privacy of their bathrooms during daily ablutions.
Function, not fashion. That’s why a lot of women wear scrunchies, the folks at Scunci, a hair accessories company, have found in their consumer research.
“It was really that go-to item,” says Scunci design director Nicole Hardcastle. “Many women say they come home from school or work and they throw their hair up. And it was such a comfort item, a staple that no one ever really parted with.”
Funny thing, though. When research groups are asked “who wears scrunchies,” a lot of women are shy about admitting it, says Hardcastle.
Maybe they bear the scrunchie scars that torment Jessie Artigue. The former Kansas City resident now lives in New York, where she writes the fashion blog Style & Pepper.
“I would have to say it’s my least favorite hair trend. I think I could find a bunch of people that feel the same way,” says Artigue. “I think it has to do with the fact that when the scrunchie was initially popular, I was at the most awkward phase of my personal style.
“It’s almost like I have post-traumatic scrunchie disorder. I see them and I go ‘oh’ because when I wore them, it was tragic. But I think they could be cute on someone else.”
Scunci is busy reinventing scrunchies in new fabrics and colorful patterns for a new generation of fashionistas who obviously aren’t put off by the stigma. The company’s new Scrunchie Bow Tie, for instance, has perky little tails for boho flair. (And for looking cute worn as a bracelet.) The hairstyle to wear it with? A messy, undone topknot or braids, Hardcastle suggests.
Fashion blogger White likes the idea of a scrunchie wrapped around a side braid or a really high ponytail.
“They typically work best when worn with casual pieces, in a cheeky way, with a T-shirt and jeans and Chuck Taylors,” says White.
No matter what Carrie Bradshaw or other scrunchie haters say, “at the end of the day, you should wear what you like,” White says.
Unless, of course, you’re secretary of state (or, perhaps someday, the president).