The Last Scrunchie

You know that scene in crime shows, where the super-fit-actress-posing-as-detective enters a deserted house, accidentally backs into a cupboard, and screams as a skeleton clutching a paintbrush topples forward?

A similar thing happened to me recently.

By ‘similar’, I mean “has as much connection as an empty park bench does with Chernobyl”.

But still, there’s a common theme here: the abandoned. 

I was snooping around my childhood home the other day, sorting through a wardrobe of hoarded bit and bobs, when I came across a decorative metal tin about the size and shape of a roll of paper towels.

I’d recognized the tin, a childhood present from a friend – but couldn’t remember what was kept inside. The circular lid was on tight so I used my fingers to lever it off slowly, resisting against suction and then…*pop*.

I’d unleashed a spirit. The Spirit of the 1990s. 

For out flew, like pink lemonade bursting from a can that’d been strapped to a bucking bull, my childhood hair scrunchie collection: a dozen or more in a delicious assortment of colours!

There were the royal blue ones I wore to school. A purple Lycra one which matched my dancing leotard (back when I was fitter than a crime show actress). A holly-patterned one for Christmas. There was a lacy, periwinkle-blue one for the days I was feeling demure. Pink and silver disco-sequined ones for a splash of Eurovision. And my favourite – the most majestic of all – a cream velour masterpiece trimmed with tiny silver balls. If Princess Mary of Denmark were to don a scrunchie, I’m confident she’d pick this one.
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I can already hear people typing “Who cares?” and “There are more important things to discuss than fabric-covered elastic hair ties!”. You’re right, there *are* more important things. But there are less important things too. Like…nope, can’t think of one.

Nevertheless, before we all die from involuntarily eating horse lasagne, I’d like to acknowledge that once upon a time, these scrunchies meant something to me. Because for a decade, they were a daily part of my life. 

Every morning begged the exciting question – which one will I wear today? That vital choice could make or break the day. Think about it: wearing a sparkly one to school on free-clothes day could be just the eye-grabbing catalyst needed to spark a new lifelong friendship. Even a lack-of-scrunchie could trigger uncomfortable emotions. Can you imagine being the only girl in a uniformly-dressed dance troupe who forgot to wear hers? The only girl with a naked ponytail? Why, a fear of social disconnection could throw a girl’s performance right off!

If you think the humble hair scrunchie has no impact on one’s public image, just ask Hillary Clinton. Last year, the Huffington Post reported that Ms Clinton’s staff had wanted to “ban” her scrunchies. The thing was, Hillary needed to look camera-ready at all times, and she thought the easiest way to do this was to grow her hair long. This gave her the option to quickly tie it back – with a white frilly scrunchie – at a moment’s notice. 

Hillary’s logic makes sense. Because a plain ponytail can look too casual. And ribbons untie. That can be a pain, especially if you’re, say, backflipping. Was I the only one who watched the 2012 London Olympic gymnastics competitions and thought, “Hmm. That Russian girl’s wearing a scrunchie. Hmm. Interesting.”?

So why are Hillary’s staff anti-scrunchie? And why did I stop wearing mine? Because nothing screams last century like a scrunchie! At some point, they naturally started to phase out. And I knew they were truly in danger the day I saw an Oprah episode in which a male “stylist” announced it was “tacky” to publicly wear a scrunchie in any shade other than your own natural hair colour.

Blasphemy. That has as much logic as hanging a plain beige painting on a plain beige wall.

Nevertheless, I realised I was becoming out of fashion. And this realisation coincided with the turn of a new century and a journey into adulthood. So, as I entered this new phase of life, I decided to enter it sans scrunchie. With respect and good wishes, I stuffed them into a tin, and hid them away. Note: Hid. Not threw away. I’m not crazy.

Or maybe I am. Because even now, I still can’t throw them out. I had too much fun wearing them. And in the same way that thinking about food makes you hungry – the more I think about scrunchies, the more I think a revival may be around the corner. All it takes is one brave leader. Does Hillary know something we don’t?

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