Of all the DMs I receive on Instagram, the query I get most frequently — “Where did you get your hair bow?” — is also the one with the most anticlimactic answer: “A pile of trash.”
The hair bow in question is a black velvet ribbon I often tie around my last-day-before-shampooing ponytail. Doing so makes me feel like a chic toddler, or Sienna Miller at the Golden Globes, either of which I am eager to embody. The ribbon is a treasured possession, which is why I keep it coiled safely in my nightstand for easy (and memorable) access. It is the perfect hair bow. It is also, as aforementioned, essentially garbage. I rescued it from a pile of wrapping paper and other holiday trimmings after opening gifts with my family a few Christmases ago, all of which were headed straight for the recycling bin.
So whenever someone asks where I got my hair bow, I usually point them to Amazon — or really, anywhere that you can purchase a wheel of black ribbon. This velvet one looks exactly like the ribbon I use on a regular basis. Alternatively, this thick satin option is the precise ribbon I ordered in advance of a Man Repeller shoot so I could give my model the juiciest hair bow-cum-headband hybrid ever to grace this planet. It looked pretty spectacular if I do say so myself, and making it involved nothing more than snipping off my desired length with a pair of scissors. So the secret to procuring the perfect hair bow is that there is no secret; you simply tie any thick-ish ribbon around your ponytail and call yourself a human present.
The secret to why hair bows so effectively take every outfit up a notch is another matter altogether, though. There is a bonafide hair bow moment (or as journalist Elizabeth Holmes calls it, a #bowment) happening culturally right now (a much larger version of what occurred in my seventh grade classroom when the most popular girl in my class came in one day with a pink and green grosgrain ribbon tied around her ponytail) that only a combined force as powerful as Kate Middleton and the Instagram algorithm could bring into effect.
Hair bows have been noticeably making their way into adult outfits since at least 2016, by my count, but they seem to be doing so at an explosive pace ever since Middleton wore a tiny black velvet one in her hair on two separate occasions this fall, and ever since the mysterious puppeteers behind Instagram started throwing likes at photos of hair bows with a vigor on par with all my weird relatives on Facebook. (As proof, I submit this Instagram and this Instagram, both of which feature bows and both of which received what I would consider a copious amount of likes for me at the time they were published).
I totally get it. There is something particularly and strangely satisfying about looking at an artfully tied ribbon. It’s like biting into the perfect apple, or slipping bare legs inside freshly-washed sheets. It’s so simple, yet so euphoric — to the extent that a hair ribbon seems too good, too easy, too accessible to deliver so much delight in return — but it’s actually not. And that, I suppose, is the real secret.
Feature image by Edith Young of Havana Rose Liu.