Back Down the Rabbit Hole

· Why headbands are the ultimate perennial accessory ·

Via Vogue

Since the 1960s, it seems that headbands have popped up every 10-20 years. The perennial accessory hibernates for a while before making a comeback, often in a slightly new way. We’ve reached another one of these headband moments and we’re anything but mad over here. 

We love headbands and the women who have famously worn them and are always happy when they pop up again. The current padded version recalls nineties headband icons like Princess Diana and Cher from Clueless which taps into one of the reasons why headbands can be so appealing: who has worn them before. No matter if they are currently “in” or not, headbands have been pulled off with aplomb by some of our favourite style icons over the years.

Arguably the original headband innovator was Lewis Carroll’s Alice of Wonderland fame. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice’s hair was tied back by a ribbon as illustrated by John Tenniel. Since these illustrations emerged in 1871, the accessory has been linked to the character to the point it’s called an “Alice band” in the UK. Ever since then, even as grown women wear the adornment, there has always been a schoolgirl innocence associated with it.

Though Alice may have been the original, there have been so many iconic headband moments since. In the sixties, Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve gave the girlish accessory a sexy spin. Bardot’s iteration had a headscarf/turban vibe while Deneuve’s often had a bow a la Alice. Both were accompanied by enviable sixties blonde bouffants and more allure than any of us can hope to have. Though they wore the style often and became associated with it, all of your favourite sixties style icons donned a headband at one point or another, too: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy…

There was somewhat of a reprieve (though not completely!) only for the bands to resurface in the mid-eighties. London’s Sloane Rangers loved this look with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York often picture in one. Later in the nineties her sister-in-law Princess Diana also donned the look. Across the pond, Hillary Clinton rocked a padded headband and bold nineties statement earrings with her signature skirt suits. Then, of course, there’s Cher and Dionne’s preppy schoolgirl take in Clueless. It is the most capable looking accessory, after all.

After another small break, headscarves and comb headbands rose in popularity in the early aughties… but we won’t talk about those. Instead, we’ll focus a little later in the decade and quite possibly the second most iconic headband-wearer (after Alice, of course): Blair Waldorf.

When Gossip Girl premiered in 2007, the headband quickly became Blair’s signature look. They were Queen B’s crowns. And in those early seasons, it spawned hundreds of copycats. Bows, rhinestones, pearls, flowers, no two headbands were alike. By the time the series wrapped in 2012, Blair had slowed down on the bands, but for a generation, headbands will always spark visions of Blair Waldorf and the Upper East Side glamour she represented.

As mentioned, by about 2010, Blair was wearing less of them, and we had one of those typical interim periods of relative headband drought. That is, until this past summer when Kate Middleton debuted an oversized headband instead of a hat or fascinator at Prince Louis’ christening. Since then, it’s become her new go-to: she’s worn one no less than five times since the July christening. Considering that she’s only worn a hat (including the hatbands) eight times in that period, it’s clearly become her signature.

Of course, the Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Prada paraded the padded headbands of nineties ilk down the runway in September. Between the two, we’ve seen more and more statement headbands pop up. At Princess Eugenie’s wedding in October, both maid-of-honour Princess Beatrice and high-profile guest Cressida Bonas, among others, opted for the accessory instead of a hat. Bonas also wore a feathered headband to the wedding of her ex, Prince Harry in May.

While the Prada versions and Kate Middleton’s Jane Taylor or Juliette Botterill designs will knock you back a couple hundred to a couple thousand, there are more accessible styles on the high street. But your best friend is Etsy. So many interesting styles at reasonable prices!

Because what better way to update your look than throwing on a headband? Such a simple act can make you feel pulled together and – dare we say it – regal. Not only that, but they can make us feel like all of our favourite headband-wearing heroines: Blair Waldorf, Alice, Kate Middleton, Catherine Deneuve, Cher, Hillary, and all the rest. What could give you more confidence than tapping into the secret of the headband that all these women have also tapped into?

And that’s why headbands will never go away. Sure, we’ll see them die down for a number of years, but they’ll always pop back up again. Their association with so many style icons, along with their ability to make you feel so instantly pulled together make sure of that.

Just ask Blair Waldorf. 


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