Which second coming has been more hotly anticipated over the last 2,000-odd years: that of the messiah or the scrunchie? It’s a closer contest than you might think. The return of the humble scrunchie, that ’80s marvel of a hair accessory, has been rumored just about every year since its original heyday ended.
Maybe in these first few weeks of 2018, you’ve already seen headlines promising that this will be the year we bring scrunchies back. Outlets like Women’s Wear Daily, Bustle, Mashable, and Racked are on the case, and scrunchies have been spied in stores like Urban Outfitters, Lululemon, and Free People. There’s even a controversial rebrand effort taking place—a Danish label called Comfort Objects prefers the term hair cloud.
Only, doesn’t it seem like we’ve been here before? Haven’t we already gone through this whole song and dance about the scrunchie coming back, only for it to do no such thing? I present an abbreviated timeline of the scrunchie’s previous reunion tours.
The revival-that-wasn’t started more than a decade ago. “In 2006, fashion revisited a few traumatizing eras,” Stephanie Hayes wrote in a newspaper article syndicated in outlets like the St. Petersburg Times and the Seattle Times. One of those eras was the 1980s, age of the “Flashdance sweatshirt, scrunchie and Spandex leggings”—but, the article concluded, “save the Spandex for David Lee Roth’s next comeback.”
Cut to 2009: Refinery29 touted the scrunchie’s “gnarly return,” writing that the seeds were planted “as early as 2007, when trendsetting starlets like Mary-Kate Olsen and Sienna Miller were spotted sporting them.” This is around when American Apparel was reaching its peak, a sign that boded well for our fabric-surrounded friend. That same year, Vogue UK urged readers of its website to get to an Am. Appy and stock up: “Would it be controversial to say that we actually disagree with Carrie Bradshaw and actually think that they really are rather fabulous?!” (It’s impossible to talk about the scrunchie debate without invoking the Sex and the City character, whose once cutting-edge opinions on the stylishness of scrunchies have apparently aged right along with many of the show’s other messages.)
Whispers of the revival recurred over the next few years—posts on Glamour, Racked, and a trend watch blog in 2010, a Daily Beast list of celebrities in scrunchies in 2011, including, of course, Cressida Bonas. (Remember her?) Then came 2012, when Cat Marnell of xoJane pledged to personally bring scrunchies back and Cara Delevingne became a scrunchie spokeswoman, but the Daily Mail pointed to Olympic gymnasts as the true cause of the scrunchie-ssance.
Only a year later, the Guardian wrote, and Elle echoed, that it was Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, who was really responsible for both restoring the U.S.’s reputation abroad and the return of a certain flashy hairthing. (And Benghazi and a botched email server, too, depending on who you talk to. Sigh.) Also in 2013, the Huffington Post published a piece called “In Defense of the Scrunchie: Why It’s Time to Get Over Our Grudge.” That was seven years into its comeback—what grudge?
More of the same in 2014: a blog post from Nasty Gal on the triumphant return of the scrunchie, callouts to the scrunchies of Instagram, requisite trend pieces in the New York Post and the New York Times Style Section. Nevertheless, discourse about the revival showed no signs of slowing in 2015: Elite Daily collected “20 Photos That Prove Those Scrunchies From the 90s Are Making a Comeback,” Jennifer Lopez wore one on American Idol, and the Odyssey crowed about the reborn trend, suspiciously using some of the same photos that heralded it back in 2011.
In 2016, the beauty website Byrdie wrote that fashion’s efforts to bring the scrunchie back circa 2013 had fallen flat, but in 2016, it was going to stick this time: “Keep scrolling to see how Lily-Rose Depp is single-handedly resurrecting the scrunchie!” Did it work? Not well enough to stop the publication, in 2017, of a market report from Man Repeller on the scrunchie-surgance, nor Fashionista’s list of 17 Scrunchies & Scrunchie Sets to Buy Now Because They’re Back Whether You Like It or Not,” nor a host of others. Yet here we are in 2018—Today: “Hair Scrunchies Are Back, and We’re Not Even Made About It”; W magazine: “If 2017 was the year of the grosgrain hair ribbon [Ed.: It was???], we predict that 2018 will be the year of the scrunchie.” And so on, ad infinitum, forever.
So scrunchies are back. No, they’re never coming back. Wait, they’ve been back. They never went away. Maybe the only thing that’s being scrunched around here is … reality itself.