I’m daydreaming about barrettes. Sharp parts lined with pearly hair clips, and a fantasy of matching vintage gold bars or combs punctuate the carefully curated future outfits I have yet to wear or find.
A list of which who-zits and whats-its I need to own occupies my Etsy “favorites,” full of potential to relieve my winter fashion fatigue. Between searches, I remember my chili-pepper scrunchie, which I made for myself from a DIY kit in elementary school. I tried to find it last year when scrunchies were decidedly cool again, only to discover that my mother threw out the bucket of barrettes and hair accessories that I stopped wearing circa 2004.
Now, my Instagram feed, clogged with images of adorable bars and bows (including the photo I found (and saved) of Behati Prinsloo’s perfectly parted layers held by long golden barrettes) recalls my craving for hair clips. In recent weeks, I’ve spent longer than necessary scrolling through photos of Insta-famous bloggers cataloguing collections of clips, entranced by streams of stylish ladies lining twinkly things along one-side of a slicked back bun. Typically, that level of popular enthusiasm around a trend turns me off, but I can’t deny the comfort I find in classic clips and the accompanying nostalgia.
Wearing barrettes felt like a little forecast of what womanhood would mean.
None of us are strangers to nostalgia trends; in fact, some say our generation has an insatiable need for nostalgia. I smile seeing lucite and acrylic bars and bows dotted with pearls and rhinestones – reminders of the plastic kiddie clips that were nearly impossible to snap shut between my little fingers, only slightly less frustrating than the fruitless attempts to close Ziploc bags on my own at that age. I remember barrettes bound to the elegance that emanated from my mother’s satin bow snapped over my ponytail, or the nuisance of plastic clips slipping loosely into the knots of my play-time hair. Back then, I wished to accelerate the ascent to puberty, often answering, “How old are you?” with a straight-faced, “Sixteen”. Wearing barrettes felt like a little forecast of what womanhood would mean. I watched women and thought that boobs and heels accented really living – and for a few moments, my mother’s hair clips made 7-year-old me a 17-year-old.
Nostalgia trends embrace growth, saluting what’s gone and what remains.
I had absolutely no idea what womanhood meant then (or what age a woman was), and in the context of constantly-evolving conversations about intersectional feminism and gender constructs, I’ll never hold a crisp and clear definition. But the current stream of overdue acknowledgement about pervasive patriarchy and sexual violence (among a bottomless barrel of injustices) helped carve my new beliefs about barrettes. A product of the 80s- and 90s-thread sewn through the last few fashion seasons, barrettes bring a sense of girlishness to powerful silhouettes found in oversized suits and chunky sneakers. The simultaneous clear and quiet call on femininity reclaims and celebrates girlishness with strength, displaying a preserved and protected child within. Whether indulging a child stifled by the constriction of gender constructs, or claiming itself a sentimental souvenir, I like to think of 2019 barrettes calling out, “A kid was here”.
Much like the carvings in childhood picnic tables or written on bathroom stalls, I think nostalgia trends serve a personal purpose. Some trends, like cute clips, add personality with some physical “flair,” but underneath superficial style preferences, nostalgia trends embrace growth, saluting what’s gone and what remains. Nostalgia trends are scrapbooks and postcards from our former selves, reminders of rotating taste buds and phases of fashion. Completing a contemporary look with a sparkly set of pins tells a simple story about the amount of living I’ve done, with a more accurate peek at me than boobs and heels could ever portray.