Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. Every other week I’ll be reminiscing about some facet of the 1990s, potentially drowning in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration is an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I’ll be using a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I ask you to talk to the hand while take this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.
Week 21: HuffPost list #1 – Scrunchies
Fun fact: I don’t like wearing my hair in a ponytail, bun, french twist, braids, or anything that takes all my hair up off my shoulders in public. I know very well that my morning routine would be so much easier if I didn’t spend time trying to style my hair (the keyword there is trying), but I just can’t throw my hair up with bands or clips or whatnot. Why? Because I look perfectly terrible with all my hair pulled back from my face. That’s why.
Awkward, but true. And it’s what immediately came to mind when “scrunchies” popped up as the next 90s topic. Due to my dislike of ponytails, I didn’t own and have never owned any scrunchies.
I’ve had long hair nearly my entire life, and have had little desire to ever cut it shorter than shoulder length. So one might easily assume that me and scrunchies were pals. As I’ve already said, that was not the case. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never had a run-in with these soft, brightly-colored, elastic hair bands. While I may have never owned a scrunchie, I have made them. This is my story.
During that aforementioned 20-something time when I was a-ok with ponytails galore, I was living and working in the good ol’ American Deep South. There commenced a period where, since my primary job took place on weekends and evenings, I wanted a part-time day job. I ended up finding said day job at a small clothing store, literally a boutique (which was in its name) where I worked as a seamstress. My regular work, quaint by today’s standards, probably, mostly involved altering clothes for customers. But I quickly learned that this boutique also serviced local cheerleading squads.
Hence my mention of being in the South. Cheerleading is a popular sport in the U.S., but in the South, it’s a near-religion in some schools.
Anyhoo, no, this boutique didn’t make cheerleading outfits, but it did make cheerleading hair decorations — which is an honest-to-god thing — in the form of school color-specific hair bows and…you guessed it…scrunchies. In essence, the boutique’s owner received large orders of these “cheerleading accessories,” and I had to make them. In all cases, the materials were worked out beforehand, so I’d end up with piles of either plain-colored ribbons (for the bows, which were always two colors, i.e. blue and gold for the Fighting Whatevers), or, for the scrunchies, fabric printed with a school’s team logo.
If you didn’t know already, a scrunchie is simply a tube of fabric containing an elastic band. Not to totally brag, but, at the time, since I knew my way around a sewing machine, I could jam out a good several dozen scrunchies in an hour, from fabric cutting to finishing. For reals, though, I needed to jam out lots per hour because there were so many damn orders for them! And I wasn’t the only seamstress on the job – that’s just how popular these damn scrunchies were! Besides the cheerleaders, the owner also sold “fancy” scrunchies, which we also had to make. I’m not sure if the “fancy” variety has made such a comeback, but ones we made, often from metallic and shiny fabric, were all dolled up with spangles and sparkles, lace and netting, dangly bits and pom-poms. They were ridiculous, but by god, did they ever sell. Especially any that were holiday- or America-themed.
And that’s my story about scrunchies. I’ve really no clue why they’re trending again, except that they fall into a basic 20-year fashion cycle and everything 90s is popular/nostalgic. I get why folks like them – unlike regular hair bands, they tend to not pull on one’s scalp or get tangled — but if I’m being honest, the elastic in them is never very good. From the ones I made, while the outside might have been (or looked) expensive, I know for a fact that the elastic in them was cheap. Which could very well explain why the cheerleaders, at least, ordered them so frequently.
Well…ain’t that just good ol’ economics!