A symbol of the ’80s, the scrunchie has made a comeback for women. Could Jason Momoa make it cool for men?
Like many other relics of the ’80s and ’90s, the scrunchie has returned to relevance in recent years at the hands of fashion designers. Chanel, Balenciaga and Mansur Gavriel have incorporated them into collections. A Danish company called Comfort Objects repurposes vintage Hermès scarves as $190 “hair clouds.” Maison Cléo, a French online retailer, sends its customers a free scrunchie with every order. Model-influencers like Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber have been known to sport the occasional scrunch.
The accessory has also retained its mass-market appeal, and can be found larding the checkout line of many fast-fashion stores, in a wide variety of prints, fabrics and volumes.
Scrunchies have a largely feminine history. Britney Spears’s fuzzy pigtails in the “Baby One More Time” music video and the “Full House”-era Olsen twins’ ponytails come easily to mind. Decades of women and girls crowned by these soft, colorful accessories are cataloged on the account @scrunchiesofinstagram.
Tougher to conjure: images of longhaired men whose tresses are loosely bound by a loop of fabric.
But that could stand to change. Jason Momoa recently made a very public scrunchie appearance, walking the Oscars red carpet with a pink one wrapped around his wrist. The accessory, which added a touch of characteristic goofiness and whimsy to the actor’s dusty pink velvet suit, was an instant hit with the preshow’s viewers.
The pink hair tie was Fendi’s take on a nonluxury version that Momoa had received from a hairstylist and worn frequently. Before the Oscars, Momoa donned the scrunchie in a promotional video for “Saturday Night Live,” on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” and on an Australian talk show, where he took a second matching scrunchie from a red-carpet reporter. He has called the original scrunchie “beautiful.”
So when the time came to design his suit for the Oscars, where the “Aquaman” star was a presenter, Momoa pointed to his scrunchie for inspiration.
“I told Jeanne it would be pretty rad if we could make a suit like that,” Momoa said in a video posted to his YouTube channel. Jeanne Yang is a stylist Momoa works with. (She has helped a stable of superhero actors, including four Supermen and four Batmen, dress themselves.) Yang reached out to Fendi, and Fendi obliged. Yang barred Momoa from wearing the old scrunchie to the Oscars, according to Vogue, so Silvia Venturini Fendi designed a new scrunchie to go with the look, as well as an additional hair tie to pair with his after-party outfit.
Momoa’s choice of accessory made an obvious splash on the red carpet, but it also may have practical value. If you have long hair, wearing a scrunchie rather than a regular hair tie can protect your locks from damage. “If your hair is being pulled back in a tight knot, traction alopecia would be a risk, especially if the hair is long and particularly wavy,” said Evan Rieder, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.
Traction alopecia manifests as a receding hairline around the forehead and near the ears. It is caused by microtears in hair follicles that lead to scars and prevent more hair from growing in the affected area.
“A scrunchie is definitely easier on the hair,” said Chris Adigun, director of the Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill in North Carolina. “It’s much softer and creates lower friction on the hair. It flies off the hair without causing the hair to break.”
Momoa may have been well aware of these benefits before the Oscars. Maybe he hoped that his widely shared image would encourage men to embrace style signposts that have traditionally been associated with women, in service of a future free of stringent, gender-based rules.
Or maybe he just likes pink velvet.