An ode to the scrunchie, the ’80s fashion invention we never forgot

In her 1993 book Mothers and Daughters of Invention, scholar Autumn Stanley argued that when assessing the value of an innovation, historians must consider not only the technological and economic impact, but also the human impact, “the effect on convenience and comfort of people. , and the quality of daily life.”

By that measure, Rommy Hunt Revson’s invention—neither a technological marvel nor an economic game changer—is a powerfully influential tool. Revson, a singer, songwriter and voice teacher who died on September 7, invented the scrunchie (a hair tie with loose fabric sewn around it that was originally called a “scunci”) in 1986, with the belief that there simply had to be a better way to hold hair together in a bun or ponytail. Until then, and even into the early years of the 21st century, most hair ties were usually held together with metal spikes; those who can remember using them are happy now. And for those who don’t know, just know that putting a rubber and metal instrument into long human hair can really get as weird as you’re imagining.

Scrunchies went in and out of fashion after their initial heyday in the 80s. In 2003, a “Sex and the City” episode revealed Carrie Bradshaw chastising her novelist boyfriend for describing an elegant woman in midtown Manhattan as wearing a dress: “No woman who works at W Magazine and lives in Perry Street wouldn’t be caught dead at the hip. restaurant downtown,” she shouted, “wearing a scrunchie!” Fortunately, its inventor lived long enough to see it triumphantly leap and fly back into fashion (as well as Vogue) in the late 2010s; at the time Revson died, hot fashion label Balenciaga was retailing an “XXL” silk scrunchie on its website for $275.

But the scrunchie’s legacy remains twofold: At some points in history, it’s been a fashion statement, and at others, simply a home comfort item—like a bathrobe or a pair of slippers, to wear outside the home. only up to the mailbox. . Its use is inconsistent, its widespread appeal less stable.

Our lives are full of innovations that, for some reason, really have it for our hair – and others that we use to protect it. We wear swim caps to protect her from pool chlorine and put oil on her to protect her from our dryers; a few generations ago, glamorous women tied scarves under their chins to protect their bits while riding in cabrios. Scrunchies, for many, are just one more way to make the world a little safer for our femmes: Earlier this year, a Vogue editor wrote in a roundup of hair products she “can’t live without” staff when it’s makeup -Time to leave at the end of the workday, she’s “always looking for a damage-free silk scrunch from Intimissimi. Wrinkles and squeaks, go away!”

Kim Kimble, a Los Angeles-based hairstylist and head of the hair department on HBO’s “Euphoria,” keeps her hair in braids. So silk scrunchies are an at-home favorite: “They don’t pull or get in the way,” like other hair elastics would, she says. “For me, it’s a convenience.”

Kimble, however, has been styling hair for more than 30 years and sees the scrunchie as a statement piece that she would only use to directly evoke the late 20th century. She is aware, of course, that she is in fashion again. But on “Euphoria,” a show known for its flamboyant fashion and keen awareness of the latest beauty trends, she’s only sported a scrunchie onscreen once: for actress Maud Apatow, in a flashback in the 1990s.

Ted Gibson, another LA-based hairdresser who has massaged the heads of the likes of Angelina Jolie, Serena Williams, Priyanka Chopra and Ariana Grande, is amused. (and delighted) to see scrunchies make a comeback as a fashion statement. Gibson’s granddaughter is a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he says, “and last year, that’s all he talked about. Scrunchies.”

Gibson has put scrunches in models’ hair for runway shows over the years, at New York Fashion Week and elsewhere. Sometimes it’s to add a splash of color or a pattern to the top of an ensemble, and “sometimes it’s because I want a little more volume in a bun.”

It was the off-duty models who, so the story goes, rang the bell for the latter-day return of scrunches: In 2017, scrunches were exploding backstage at runway shows, and by 2019 they were the runaway trend. of the year. That same year, Jason Momoa also wore a scrunchie on his wrist that coordinated with his pink velvet Fendi Oscars tuxedo (and the author of this story shared a pair of leopard-print velvet twins with her then-7-year-old niece , for which both parties were equally motivated). The following year, Serena Williams coordinated her court attire at the US Open with colorful scrunchies in her hair.

Gibson started styling hair 34 years ago, in the late 1980s – and has seen other outfits that people first wore with scrunchies come back into style too. “Fashion and hair kind of dictate each other, and right now, extreme shoulder pads are in. Double-breasted suits. Wide leg pants.”

In other words, maybe the big little puff of foamy, thick joy was just waiting for the right conditions to materialize. And now, once again, it’s everywhere. “What I love about the scrunchie is that it has them moments, not only in editorial, but also in films and television. It can cross all those pop culture genres,” says Gibson. “I think it’s done a great job.”

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