ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A scrunchie is just a few inches of fabric around an elastic band that can evoke a lot of emotions. The hair accessory was huge in the '90s. By 2003, it was so uncool that the show "Sex And The City" devoted a whole plotline to it.
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SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) No woman who works at W Magazine and lives on Perry Street would be caught dead at a hip downtown restaurant wearing a scrunchie.
SHAPIRO: Well, lately, scrunchies have staged a comeback, even showing up on holiday wish lists. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Georgie Williamson's first scrunchie moment was the day she was born. In 1989, her mom went into labor wearing a black velvet scrunchie with a bow, and the daughter grew up a believer.
GEORGIE WILLIAMSON: I'm a scrunchie gal. They still look good on my hair. You know, if I'm doing me, I'm going to wear it.
SELYUKH: '80s moms and '90s girls were all about the scrunchie. Big hair and sky-high ponytails lurk in many family albums from the era. As scrunchies fell out of fashion, Williamson learned to laugh it off when friends kept giving her obnoxious scrunchies as a joke.
WILLIAMSON: But jokes on them because I end up using them.
SELYUKH: But lately, she noticed something odd in her spin class - other women sporting scrunchies.
WILLIAMSON: I am not a trendy person. Do people think I'm trying to be trendy? Oh, no. Am I not cool enough to be wearing a scrunchie now?
SELYUKH: To answer this, I turned to the unofficial scrunchie historian, Sara Radin.
SARA RADIN: Right now, we're seeing a lot of 1990s and early 2000s culture coming back.
SELYUKH: Radin recently wrote about scrunchies for Teen Vogue. Story goes, they date back to a lounge singer in the late '80s who wanted something to pull back her big, poofy hair without damaging it while she played piano. But OK, it's now more than 30 years later. Who decided that scrunchies are cool again? People who always know what's cool, teenage girls, specifically the Internet subculture called VSCO girls, named after a photo-editing app.
RADIN: Young girls are kind of celebrating themselves, and they wear, like, a certain outfit, typically, like, an oversized T-shirt. They carry Hydro Flask water bottles, and they were puka shell necklaces, and then they always have a scrunchie on their wrist or in their hair.
SELYUKH: It's '90s nostalgia reimagined by a new generation. The aesthetic spread all over TikTok and Instagram. One of the oldest scrunchie brands, Goody, says in the past year, scrunchies sold eight times faster than hair and styling products overall. Radin says some designers like scrunchies because they're a good way to recycle fabric. For fashionistas, scrunchies represent functionality and comfort. And so the scrunchie has showed up on runways, celebrities and influencers. Singer Lizzo...
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LIZZO: (Singing) I do my hair toss. Check my nails.
SELYUKH: ...Wore a bejeweled $100 scrunchie with 5,000 rhinestones at MTV's Video Music Awards. Even long-haired dudes got in on the trend. "Aquaman" actor Jason Momoa wore a pink scrunchie to the Oscars, inspired by another scrunchie he got from a stylist and showed off in a YouTube video.
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JASON MOMOA: I freaked out 'cause it was beautiful.
SELYUKH: As word of my scrunchie story spread, I also kept getting one simple message about why the bulky scrunchie is superior. It's gentler on hair. Khalon Richard, product manager here at NPR, told me the silk scrunchie has been great for her natural hair.
KHALON RICHARD, BYLINE: Those of us with curlier, coarser, kinkier hair have to think about the textures and materials that interact with our hair 'cause it's more prone to breaking.
RENATA KLEIFGEN: When I pull it out, I don't feel, like, clumps of hair are coming along with it, which does happen if you use, like, a smaller or a thinner elastic band.
SELYUKH: Renata Kleifgen is 26, so she's also on her second cycle of scrunchies being cool. She's learned wear what you want. The fashion will come back around.
Alina Selyukh, NPR News.
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