Once a 1980s staple, the scrunchie is having a bit of a moment. Just ask Cara, Hillary and Madge
It's as dated as the shoulder pad, as reviled as the leg warmer, and had collectively been thrown out or lost by most of the population by the mid-1990s. But now, to the distress of some fashion purists, the scrunchie is back.
On recent catwalks Vivienne Westwood, Missoni, Louis Vuitton and others had wound scrunchies – a cross between a frilly antimacassar and a pair of nylon tights – around the ponytails of dozens of models as part of a revival that includes neons and grunge. Fictional style icon Carrie from Sex and the City famously declared that "no woman … would be caught dead at a hip downtown restaurant wearing a scrunchie".
Now Marc Jacobs, known for his cool streetwear, has put his fashion credentials on the line by introducing scrunchies at around £25 a pop. Some might say that's quite a lot for a bit of elastic covered with fabric, but a knitted version at Missoni is selling for £55, while Topshop and American Apparel are selling them by the armful from just £4. Socialites, including model Cara Delevingne and Prince Harry's girlfriend Cressida Bonas, are rarely seen without one, and they've been spotted on actresses Sienna Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kate Beckinsale.
Tina Outen, a stylist used by Vogue, thinks scrunchies are a good look. "They represented attitude, which feels like what young London is all about at the moment," she said. "I'd have fun with them: layering a few brights hides a multitude of sins if you haven't got that ponytail perfect, and they can add instant volume."
Madonna has a giant one, and when Hillary Clinton wore one an official congratulated her on her speech but added: "Some of us are looking to ban the scrunchies."
Some blame its return on the London 2012 Olympics, when many athletes wore scrunchies co-ordinated with their leotards. But one woman's tousled chignon is another's messy ponytail. Glossy fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar took a stand last month when it listed five reasons to hate the scrunchie and called it an unsophisticated accessory that belonged in the past and "one fad that Bazaar fashion team will be ignoring".
This view is shared by Leillah Sekalala, who struggled to find a hairdresser after moving to the UK from Uganda in 2004. She started a website where people could recommend hairdressers for Afro hair and called it NoScrunchie.com. "We always say that no one should walk out of a salon so unhappy with her hair that she puts a scrunchie on. I remember watching that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie attacks the scrunchie, and I quietly slid the scrunchie out of my own hair and hid it behind the couch."
But it has its supporters. It was patented in 1986 by an Italian-American woman from Florida, Rommy Revson, who called it the "scunci" after her pet poodle. But a Vancouver woman, Jane Reid, is said to have had some on show at a hair accessories fair in the late 1970s.
Luke Hersheson, of upmarket salon chain Daniel Hersheson, said: "The scrunchie is super 1980s and slightly trashy, and bordered on the naff in the early 1990s, but the long ones with wire and velvet that you can make bows out of are great."
Hairdresser Charlie Le Mindu, who counts Lady Gaga among his fans, agreed: "I like the scrunchie look, but it's better for older women, or underground drag queens. I like them if there are lots of them, used to create modern forms, not just something to tie your hair back."
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