No ordinary Alice band, the ‘power headband’ is having a moment

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Royal flush ... Princess Eugenie sporting the ultimate accessories - a royal baby and a headband.

Royal flush … Princess Eugenie sporting the ultimate accessories – a royal baby and a headband.Credit:Getty

The royal nod to the headband was mere icing on the cake for makers such as Behr. Indeed, the accessory has been in something of a purple patch thanks to Gorman and the reboot of noughties series Gossip Girl, not to mention its suitability to that very 2020 style state of mind, “Zoom dressing” (the notion of only dressing smartly from the waist up for video conferencing).

While for many of us, a headband was a convenient COVID hack for being meeting-ready in a flash (no hairbrush required), in the case of Gorman, the accessory carried added significance, according to some experts.

“We saw that – the whole world saw that – the way Amanda Gorman held herself like a goddamn queen,” said Ateh Jewel, a British beauty journalist and diversity advocate. Jewel began wearing headbands last spring when the pandemic started, both at home for herself but also in her television appearances, as a celebration and a call to action.

“The headband has made me turn the volume up on who I am, my ambitions, my aspirations,” she said. She collaborated with Roseings London, a hair accessories brand in the UK, on a limited-edition pink embellished style called the Kamala; she encourages people to post pictures with the hashtag #crownyourself.

The humble headband has morphed from a preppy status symbol to an empowering exclamation point, its purpose now less controlling than crowning. The designs trending today, puffed up with padding and glittering with gemstones, have the height and sparkle of fine jewllery reserved for royalty. Cast aside your childish Alice in Wonderland connotations; these headbands are about making a statement.

The Duchess of Cambridge loves the occasional headband.

The Duchess of Cambridge loves the occasional headband.Credit:Getty

“It’s such a powerful way for women to take back symbols that traditionally were used to diminish female power,” said Nell Diamond, the chief executive and founder of Hill House Home, the lifestyle brand. Fans of the brand’s Nap Dress styles often scoop up a padded headband in a matching print.

The one-size-fits-all, mood-lifting headband owes a bit of its popularity to the pandemic, too, standing out in a shoulders-up Zoom. “You’re not going out, you’re not buying party dresses, you’re definitely not buying shoes and bags,” said Lele Sadoughi, the founder and creative director of her namesake accessories brand. “The headband has been something super special.”

This maxed-out headband moment is just the latest in the accessory’s long history. From Grecian goddesses to bobbed flappers, there has been a headband for every fashion era. Just think of its visible roots in modern times: the simple band Grace Kelly wore or how chic Catherine Deneuve looked with her oversize black bow.

Charles and Diana, wearing Queen Mary's necklace as a headpiece, at a ball in Melbourne in October 1985.

Charles and Diana, wearing Queen Mary’s necklace as a headpiece, at a ball in Melbourne in October 1985.Credit:Getty Images

Diana, Princess of Wales, stripped an emerald choker across her forehead in 1985, and Whitney Houston sported a wide white headband with her tracksuit to sing the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl. Hillary Clinton donned a padded headband as first lady, then a super thin version as secretary of state. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy opted for the tortoiseshell look. Would the style of Clueless be so iconic without headbands on Cher Horowitz and Dionne Davenport? As if!

“Headbands are such a potent place for personal expression,” said Elizabeth Way, assistant curator at the Museum at FIT. People must wear shoes or carry bags, but headbands are something “completely accessory”, Way said. “Decadent” is how Sadoughi describes them.

Today’s headband craze owes a special thanks to another queen bee: Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl. Hers were preppy, yes, and prim on occasion. But the embellished, oversize pieces had a hint of campy rebellion to them when worn tucked into tousled hair.

“In the beginning, people just didn’t know how to wear headbands,” said Behr, the designer. The teen drama gave people “a visual of how to have fun with them”.

Hillary Clinton pioneered the ‘power headband’ of the 1990s.

Hillary Clinton pioneered the ‘power headband’ of the 1990s.Credit:Getty

Back in the summer of 2018, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge arrived at her youngest son’s christening in a towering Jane Taylor creation. The padded, woven piece was dotted with beads and topped off with a corsage’s worth of faux flowers. It looked like a headband aspiring to be a hat; a hatband, if you will. “One could wonder if the Duchess just sparked a new trend of chunky headbands going forward,” Marlen Komar at Bustle mused. A few months later, Prada sent a parade of padded headbands down the runway for its spring 2019 collection.

In the years since, the statement headband crowd has split into two factions, the have-knots and the not-knots (padded). Both have been bedazzled in a big way – pearls, beads, rhinestone, bows. Babba Rivera, founder of the hair care brand Ceremonia, recently launched the Frida Headband, a voluminous braided piece inspired by Frida Kahlo. Eugenia Kim was so inspired by the inauguration fashion that soon her accessories brand will launch a capsule “Unity” collection with headbands in red and yellow, à la Gorman, but also the other colours on the stage, including vibrant purple and deep burgundy.

If you’ve never worn a statement headband, it can take a bit of courage to wear your first. “Ummm, am I even worthy to wear this gorgeous piece?” someone on Instagram asked Autumn Adeigbo, who designs headbands as part of her eponymous fashion label. “Um yes you are queen,” Adeigbo wrote in her repost, punctuating her reply with a crown emoji. Her creations, she told me, are “to remind ourselves that we’re worth it”.

Gorman recently wore one of Adeigbo’s designs on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but the designer assures me that there’s no need to go anywhere in order to wear a fancy headband. You can be “the queen of the Zoom”, she said. “Or the queen of your home, or the queen of your car.”

New York Times with additional reporting by Melissa Singer

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