Fashion: Hot Thing

The Hair Slide
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The Independent Culture
THE VERY nature of fashion dictates that what may be "in" one week, will be "out" the next. Over the past few years one accessory has defied this rule, and remains in perpetual production through high street stores nationwide. The humble hair clip, once a plain, yet practical schoolgirl essential took off in a big way in the eruption of "girlie" chic that defined 1994. Barrettes, as they are known in their native US, were first popularised by Riot Grrls, and brought to the fore by Courtney Love in 1993. Her kinderwhore look combined cutesy kiddie fashion with aggressive makeup, footwear, and of course, music. The point was that the look suggested one thing, but the reality was totally different.

Sure, the clips were used to adorn bleach-blonde, cigarette-burned hair, but they were designed ultimately to make a point about women as objects. Irony was as much a part of it as the neo-feminist manifestos. Yet whilst the Riot Grrl movement has died a death, the child's hair accessory in all its permutations - tiara, hairband, kirby grip, bobble, and hair-clip - has risen from the ashes.

On the bus, I saw an old-ish lady (by which I mean she hadn't been to school for a long time), wearing some hairslides shaped like arrows. It struck me as odd that she wore something so directly pointing out her greying hairs. Of course, this illustrates the flip side of the hair clip debate - they may be covered in sequins, bows, and diamante, or disguised as butterflies, flowers, or Japanese cartoons characters like Hello Kitty, but at least they're practical. The original reason for their existence is of course to tame our barnets, but why not fix a dodgy do with a simple, no-fuss clip? Why these ridiculous trips back to primary school when they were forced upon us? Those of us who remember the origins of kiddie fashion are beginning to wonder why they are still around. Perhaps it's down to the fashion vs feminism, style vs comfort debate. Because the two exist in parallel, the hair slide will be reborn again and again. Right now the only place to shop for kiddie hair fashion is Claire's Accessories, a Pandora's box of a shop which has branches popping up at the rate of one per week in the UK. Toys 'R' US, Hamley's and Sainsbury's also provide a good hunting ground for adult regressives to indulge their childhood fantasies. Elle fashion assistant Cathy Chan would disagree: she admits to liking Barbie accessories on the pages of her magazine. "It's not about regressing. I don't take it that seriously. I like them because they are cheap, humorous and lighthearted, and it saves spending a fortune on expensive, fashiony things."

The ultra girlie look is now considered passe, but only to a degree. For, while floaty nighties, eeny-weeny cardies and school uniforms are not hip for a woman over 21, and inappropriate for the office, the practicalities of the hairslide cannot be ignored. Indeed, the choice of hair slide is a discreet, yet very telling example of inner personality. The child's hair accessory is arguably the comedy tie or Disney socks of working women everywhere. Most women do not think about the deeper meaning of what they wear in their hair...

How about a revolution in hair accessories? Let's again take the lead from Courtney Love, and swap cute for couture. Chuck out those silly tiaras (so trashy), and the butterfly clips that look as if they have accidently landed on the head (just ridiculous). After all, it's time we grew up. Big girls don't cry, they spend. Indeed, maybe this is one for Calvin Klein and Donna Karan: chic hairclips, for just pounds 30 each? (Just an idea.) Anyway, everyone knows that comedy ties are not the sign of a worker with a sense of humour, but a man with too much time on his hands.

And who can say that about the Nineties woman?

Lottie Storey

Claire's Accessories has 104 branches nationwide. Call 0121-682 8000 for stockists. Prices from 99 pence to pounds 15.99