The Meaningful History of Headbands
They’re not new. They’re not particularly groundbreaking. But the power of headbands cannot be understated. Here’s where to get yours.
I’m not saying headbands are magical. But I’m not not saying that, either. You see, the age-old accessory is so much more than an individual item — it’s a loose concept rich with possibility and shape-shifting powers. It can punctuate a preppy statement, add intentionality to an athleisure outing, and complement a coquettish aesthetic. It’s no wonder that as fashion veers toward minimalism, the ostensibly simple add-on is absolutely thriving.
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These days, every outfit seems to look better with a headband. Look no further than the roster of It girls flocking to the versatile doodad in all its forms. During her viral fashion-filled press tour earlier this summer, Jennifer Lawrence had a penchant for pairing thick, puffy headbands with her revolving door of elegant outfits. Bella Hadid and Laura Harrier have been sporting sporty black bands in their chic street-style outings for a while. Headbands in all their varying forms have even emerged as a red carpet trend — from Precious Lee and Emma Chamberlain at the Met Gala to Shay Mitchell’s doll-like look at the Barbie premiere.
i’m still not over shay mitchell’s look from the barbie premiere pic.twitter.com/3yBOpjgxzy
— tori (@voguepearls) August 14, 2023
Headbands are shaping up to be the must-have accessory of 2023. How does such a simple adornment have so much impact? Just refer to its head-spinning history, where different iterations have functioned as crowns of cultural commentary. In the 1920s, Vogue notes that headbands were used to push back on sartorial restrictions and often complemented defiantly chopped hairstyles. In the Second World War, headbands took on a functional role, with the iconic Rosie the Riveter famously fastening on a polka dot bandana to match her “We Can Do It!” message. Through the decades, varying headbands have starred in presidential campaign trails and ’80s workout posters. Transformation is at the core of the head-adorning style.
So while the headband trend is not new, there’s something fresh about its revived popularity — particularly when compared to the previous decade. The 2010s brought crystal-spun hair accessories with maximalist embellishments and bright colours. But 2023 is the age of quiet luxury and Sofia Richie minimalism. Now, headbands subtly elevate outfits with too-cool-to-care sophistication that is once again sparking cultural discourse. Take the renewed popularity of the simple black workout band, which Dazed called a sleuth status symbol. Not bad for something you can buy at a drugstore.
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Above all, with their crown-like appearance, headbands communicate a certain kind of self-aware confidence. This is probably why, as much as they change, they’ll never go out of style. From polished slip-on designs to sleek stretchy materials, there’s a headband out there for every mood. Below, FASHION has curated the best options on the market right now.
The quiet luxury look
Worn by Jennifer Lawrence during her aforementioned recent press tour, this Jennifer Behr satin headband is generously padded for a luxe finish and guaranteed all-day comfort. Lawrence wore it to appear on Hot Ones, the interview show where celebs answer questions while eating painfully spicy chicken wings. How does one make that look good? The answer is this headband.
The Barbiecore option
The headband trend is Barbie-approved, obvi. Apart from styles worn by stars on the film’s press tour, Margot Robbie’s doll character was an originator of the 2020s headband craze, via the polka dot hair accessory she wore in a promotional poster from last year. This hot pink cushioned style is so comfy you’ll forget you’re wearing it. And since pink is officially the new black, it goes with everything.
The affordable status symbol
Black stretchy headbands are no longer just for going to the gym. They’ve become a subgenre of the headband craze, cemented as a staple of trendy outfits — and not to mention a saving grace for lazy hair days. This fan-favourite Amazon offering comes with ten super soft elastic bands that thankfully won’t give you a headache. Pro tip: place it slightly on your forehead to cover your hairline for an egg-adjacent final look that inexplicably works.
The delicate flower crown
I’ve never given much thought to the uniform for frolicking through a field — until I spotted this Simone Rocha gem. The crystal accessory is adorned with daisy-like beaded flowers for a feminine take on the headband trend. Style it with a frothy babydoll dress and slip on a pair of ballet flats for the perfect ethereal summer day ensemble.
The bow-adorned accessory
ICYMI, bows are kinda big right now. Designers Sandy Liang and Simone Rocha are arbiters of the girlish add-on, which puts a decidedly romantic spin on everything it touches. Take this slip-on design from Nina Ricci, which features a soft oversized bow that adds a dreamy delicate touch to any outfit.
The collegiate accoutrement
A sturdy brown headband reliably communicates a well-dressed ready-to-learn mindset. Case in point: This tonal-brown slip-on piece by Sophie Buhai is handcrafted with acetate and shines with varying rich burl shades. Pair it with a cropped vest and slouchy slacks for a quintessential prepster look.
The autumnal outfit add-on
I’m all for living in the moment, but when I see something that screams fall fashion — regardless of the time of year — I have a duty to click add-to-cart. This was the case for this duo of velvet headbands. Sold together in colours black and rich burgundy, these headbands have an autumnal preppiness that would thrive alongside a plaid skirt and knee-high boots. Cher Horowitz would be proud.
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