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Trying The Hair Bow Trend Revealed It's Way More Than Just a Fashion Statement

"The Year of the Hair bow" has prompted profound discussions around femininity... and not just when it comes to Barbie.





What is up with ALL the bows… they are everywhere!


2023 brought the rise of the latest trend we can't get enough of: bows. The same kind of bows you might have found yourself wearing before you could walk are back, and you can’t miss them. everywhere. From red carpets, to celebrities, to home decor, and across all different personal styles, they are back and there isn't an age limit.


Today we’re exploring the real reason bows are trending and it might surprise you.


I, for one, have always loved bows.  My grandmother always stuck one in my hair-- and at the time I fit right in with my age group. I remember one friend of mine growing up had a GINORMOUS bowl of bows sitting in her bathroom growing up and every day she would go in and pick one out… I was very jealous but thats kinda how it was to be a young Southern girl in the early 2000’s.




But this year, it isn't just little girls sticking colorful ribbons in their hair. Women of literally all ages are sticking bows in their updos, to their clothes, in their Christmas trees and even on their toilet paper. Seriously–If you can name it, someone has probably put a bow on it. TikTok is totally bow crazy, but its not like bows are necessarily new on the market.


Bows have been around FOREVER.... as it's really a function of dressing and a glorified knot, the history of bows goes back forever. 


Marie Antoinette of course historically took bows to another level of mainstream by covering all her gowns in bows, flowers and frills and really taking the 18th century trend to another level-- bows at that were embraced by both men and women. These days bows are rarely seen in menswear besides bow ties.



But in August, the trend really caught fire again when two meteoric brands in Gen Z fashion, Sandy Liang and Baggu collaborated to create a bow purse like no other, and in turn broke the internet after selling out so quickly and angering millions of people online wanting one. Garnering over 27 million views on tiktok, the iconic bag turned heads and the bow trend swept the world, adding steam to an already growing trend, and continuing into the zeitgeist from there.


(There is a great breakdown of the history of bows by YouTuber Kathleen Illustrated who has been a great resource for me and outlines both the origin and upcoming bow trends well.)


Sandy Liang x Baggu Collab purse that broke the internet and angered millions of hopefuls in August 2023.


Bows have been a classically feminine symbol, even when Madonna and Boy George wore the classically feminine symbol to reinterpret its meanings to one of transgression and power to rewrite the narrative of feminism in the 1980's. And they aren't the first or last to have tried to redefine bows (I'm looking at you, JoJo Siwa). Despite all that, bows simply have not changed their meaning. Bows are the shorthand for a classic girl-- just look at Mrs. Pacman and Hello Kitty. By adding a bow, we know exactly what gender they are.


And it hasn't stopped, nor is this just a fashion trend. It is the next big thing in home decor, packaging, nail art, decorations, pastries, on their animals, dinnerware  and more.




The latest embellishment trend of course follows the rise of the Old Money trends of 2023 inspiring women to return to understated elegance, subdued colors and quiet luxury thanks to the likes of Sofia Richie. The classic bow has always had a place in Old Money, but now it is louder, bigger, every where, and cannot be unnoticed.



The Old Money, Rich Girl, and Quiet Luxury aesthetic have continued to grow and bring back classic styles from the 60's and 90's, thanks of course to the additional spotlights around Margot Robbie;s Barbie in July after her award winning portrayal of the titular in her classic Chanel ensemble. There is so much that can be said about the movie itself and the topic of feminism, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for another time. One undeniable fact is the hyper-feminine fashion influence that movie has had on culture in the last year. 





Trends like this of course come and go... but here is what I want to explore– is it just a bow? Or is there a deeper significance to us culturally embracing this iconic symbol of femininity?


Because when evaluating any type of fashion, we have to remember there is an innate connection between our pride and our clothing. And I don't mean narcissism or selfishness. I mean that fashion is both an idea, and an ideal.


When studying a culture, fashion tells us everything about the economy, culture, identity and even religion. (Side note: I just finished reading Rosie Harte's new book The Royal Wardrobe. An excellent read and perfect example of this,  I may do a summary just on her work!) We may think wearing the latest platform Uggs or peplum tops is just because that's what someone else did and looked cute in... but wheat is trending is actually way bigger conversation …. It’s much more interesting and exciting than that.



Sociologist Georg Simml wrote nearly a century ago about a paradox of individual fashion that it, "is a form of imitation and so of social equalization, but, paradoxically, in changing incessantly, it differentiates one time from another and one social stratum from another", basically meaning that even though there is an individual component to fashion, it always goes back to a social group reflecting the individuals status, impact, and engagement in society. And that's exactly whats going on here.


Actress Sydney Sweeney Exhibiting Coquette Style

Bows in 2024 are not just something cute and sweet to add to an otherwise boring outfit, but rather point us to a deeper question about why we connect to certain styles and trends and what that says about us both individually and culturally. We are drawn to certain aesthetics because we feel a certain way wearing them.


 The bow trend has been categorized and included in several themes.... "coquette aesthetic".... "princess core".... "ballerina core".... which, by the way, are all just simplifying personal styles by categorizing how people are inspired often by the latest movies and series (Bridgerton and the Regency Style revolution have played a strong hand in 2023). And categorizing this love of bows as one of the "cores" is certainly one explanation for its meteoric rise, and many people are drawn to bows simply because it is in Vogue. 




However, bows have always symbolized innocence, femininity, dainty-ness, and softness with their innate elegance integrally connected to womanhood. These qualities are so countercultural to the modern narrative of womanhood being tough as nails, unemotional, assertive and bossy. So what are these bows saying about the return to embracing elegant femininity?


I believe bows are a nail in the coffin for the death of feminism 4.0. and a poignant benchmark in our cultural return to embracing elegance.


Feminism 4.0 continues to fail, more women are realizing the independent-resiliant-one-woman-show life isn't all it's cracked up to be, and that maybe, just maybe, softness can be a super power.


 In the last year, studies like this Gallup Poll came out sharing that, “Americans desire for Large Families has hit a 50 year high” “While the preference for larger families has seen a slow and steady increase over the last several years, new Gallup poll numbers show the highest percentage point in 50 years. Today, 45% of Americans see three or more children as ideal, a steep increase from 38% in 2013, and an even wider gap from 33% in 2003. Conversely, the percentage of Americans who favor smaller families of two children or one child has trended downward over the last two decades. Today, 47% of American adults prefer a smaller family, down from 53% a decade ago, and 55% in 2003.”


More women are wanting to have kids than ever… and influencer families are even setting the example. 



Women are externalizing a cultural shift away from Boss Babe, work wife mentality and replacing it with frilly accessories all over their candles, purses, shoes and more, officially declaring that it's okay to be feminine, and it's ok to be ironically counter cultural by embracing this trend.


Movies like The Marvels with a diverse all-star female empowerment cast, characters like Rey Skywalker and the live action Mulan are failing at the box office while women are experiencing and documenting a cultural revolution where their independent woman worldview is backfiring and they actually LIKE being taken care of… Women are realizing the power of embracing their classic strengths.





One of the best ways I've heard someone define what women's "classic traits" are is simply put that "Women are Beautifiers". That is our superpower. One of my favorite books by my friend Bekah Merkle in her book Eve in Exile outlines this well-


"“Because we women are the glory, it makes sense that we tend to be preoccupied with glorifying. We do this innately and without even having to think about it, in the same way that our bodies can create another human inside of us without us having to stop and read a manual about how to do it. God created us for this purpose, and we beautify and we glorify constantly. Sometimes we do this in obedient ways, sometimes in rebellious ways; sometimes we revolt against our innate desire to do this at all, but this is a deeply ingrained trait that God has built into womankind, and it just can’t be completely smothered.”


We women are tasked with beautifying. We are fulfilling our purpose by being faithful to our calling of celebrating our femininity. Women are the ones that build culture and civilize men, we are the ones that take ugly things and make them more beautiful, be it domestic things like cooking something exquisite and memorable, or in the workforce, by taking a mess and organizing it, or making content or writing novels…. Women civilize, organize and beautify society…. And then put a bow on it. Literally and figuratively.  And doing this is not a luxury, it is necessary for a strong culture. 




Now most women will look at the recent trend of bows, or of pink, or Stanley cups for that matter and think that it is just another fad like the over the knee boots of 2016 or the pinapples and owls of the early twents tens, believing that in time the bow trendwill be replaced. And likely it will move on from the public obsession as trends tend to do (although bows are just so classic I doubt we will ever really get away from them).


But we must separate the aesthetics of the trend, from the values of the trend-- a distinction few keen eyes can do. We can't just like traditional things because we like how it looks. There is meaning to everything we wear, do, and say... and that understanding has been thoroughly lost by our modern culture. No action is void.



The rise of the trad movement overall in recent years has seen a departure of those who came for the trend and moved on.


They liked the styling that the homemade sourdough bread and aprons had on their instagrams and have now moved on to something new. But once we can learn to analyze fashion in light of the deeper rooted meanings, and extract the values from them, based on history, culture and language, we can begin to move away from trends and adopt our very own brand that will evolve on our terms.


This principle of Symmetry, the 1st elegance principle, is exactly how we make our signature mark on the world -- devoid of Big fashion houses mandating what to do, or tiktik trends declaring whats In and Out. Partake in the trends if you'd like, but never feel enslaved to them.


So thats why I think bows are much more than an aesthetic– I think the timing of it all is a result of some much bigger cultural trends we are seeing here with femininity and women embracing their real superpowers.


I will continue to wear my bows, embrace my feminine side, and wear pink-- not because a trend told me I should, but because I am honestly really proud to be a woman, and proud to celebrate the things that make  me uniquely different from a man. I am proud to celebrate the history of beautifying that bows have tied together for centuries. I am unwavering in my belief that tradition matters and despite what mainstream culture tells me about being a woman, its ok to have a softer side and be dependent on my family and community-- and hey, mainstream feminism is falling down anyways, so why listen to them.




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Hannah Brusven founded The Swish in 2018 to combat trashy & politically biased women's media and create a  place for young women looking for a little more than more society feeds them.

 

Here we believe elegance is powerful, and the key to unlocking confidence, persuasion, and impact. Explore trends, traditions, lifestyle, and more with The Swish-- for an inspired elegant life. 

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