what's the big deal about scrunchies?

In the latest installment of Cleo’s Closet Case, i-D resident trend–spotter Cleo Le-Tan investigates the return of the most controversial hair accessory of them all.

by i-D Team and Cleo Le-Tan
06 August 2014, 2:15pm

A scrunchie is an elastic band camouflaged with any type of fancy fabric sewn around it, creating a sort of cotton, polyester or velvet cream puff to be worn either around a ponytail, a bun, a half pony tail, or in fact, around anything you want on top of a young (or not so young) girl's head. I own one or two, and I must say, they are a very comfortable and convenient hair accessory. The principal advantage of the scrunchie over other methods of hair attachment is that it is softer and less damaging. Since their heyday in the early nineties, scrunchies fell out of fashion for years, cemented by Carrie's damning anti-scrunchie speech on Sex and the City. But now the unassuming puffs are back, with blogs and newspapers like The Huffington Post and The New York Times buzzing about their return. So why all the fuss? Let's take a closer look.

The original scrunchie trend started before I was born, and came to full fruition in the early 90s. Hillary Clinton has been known as a life-long fan of the scrunch, wearing them to state functions and on Air Force One. Figure skaters have historically used them to fasten tight buns. In the show Beverly Hills 90210, not only did the cool girls Brenda and Kelly wear scrunchies, but Andrea the nerd did too, proving that scrunchies are designed to be worn by everybody. And now, since the 90s are so cool again, the scrunchie effect is indeed… in full effect.

The scrunchie is now finding a foothold in the fashion world. In 2012, two cool London girls launched a label called My Crazy Scrunchie. They got their friends Cara Delevingne, Alice Dellal and Suki Waterhouse to model in little videos for the brand, and Vivienne Westwood even commissioned MCS to design some scrunchies for a Red Label show.

In French, scrunchies are called "chouchou", a word also used to mean "darling" or "teacher's pet." The word itself is as naff as it sounds - inevitably, as is a scrunchie. Yes, I find scrunchies stupid. I am not sure stupid is the right word, because it kind of entails scrunchies have a personality, which they don't. They do have a following though (that has been made quite clear), and I suppose it is that following I find excessive. A scrunchie is a useful yet unattractive hair accessory, and nothing more. It does not need, nor does it deserve all the attention it gets.

Still attempting to understand the appeal of this scrunchiness, I decide to talk to Katalina Sharkey de Solis, one of the founders of the popular Instagram account @scrunchiesofinstagram (yes, an all-scrunchie Instagram exists!). She says: "The scrunchie is definitely enjoying a comeback moment right now, kick-started by some strong trend-setting celebrity promotion and cemented by a royal endorsement [former Prince Harry gf Cressida Bonas]. And consequently, the public at large, motivated by a strong sense of nostalgia for popular culture from the scrunchie era has really responded."

I decide to give up and to let the scrunchie live. Not only do I have no say in the matter, but also, the scrunchie is absolutely harmless. If anything, it's convenient and it protects from damaging hair! My problem with the scrunchie is not the scrunchie in itself, but its popularity and all the nonsense around it. Do people fuss about bobby pins and hair elastics? They don't really, so all I demand is for the same to be done with scrunchies. I would like the scrunchie to be left alone. It gives our hair a breather, so why can't we do the same to it?


Text Cleo Le-Tan
Photography Pierre Bailly
Styling Cathy Kasterine
Model Alek at Select
[The P.Y.T. Issue, no. 302, Pre-Fall 2009]

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