Stories Photo essay
Wrapped Up In Ribbons

Jennie Kim of Blackpink

By Tara Young

The whimsiest accessory of the season; bows of all shapes and sizes nestled among the billowing tulle, flowing hair and ballet flats at Shushu Tong, Sandy Liang and Simone Rocha runway shows, red carpets saw frou frou vibes and ribbons flourish among Hollywood’s coolest celebs and of course, they feature heavily in every girly-girls go-to tutorial on TikTok.

A Lovelock placed over the heart. Henri II de Lorraine by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1634

Throughout history, bows have held a multitude of meanings; from golden adornments of the Early Dynastic period to protest of Tignon Laws to being a mandatory part of a school uniform, symbolizing childlike innocence. Once upon a time, men would wear bows in their hair to signify prosperity and extravagance, just picture the cast of Succession in the 1600s, or as a lovelock symbolizing a romantic token of affection until short cropped hairstyles later became the norm.

Tignon decorated with a bow. Portrait of a Young Woman by Jean-Étienne Liotard, late 18th century.

Ribbons and bows once represented resistance towards oppressive regulations known as “tignon laws” in Louisiana, barring African American women from showing their natural hair and forcing them to use tignons (similar to a turban) to conceal it. They rebelled by decorating their tignons with ribbons, bows and jewels and used fine materials to wrap their heads, transforming them into a fashion statement - which continue to be worn, long after laws were abolished.

Guadalupe Estefanía Sumano Benítez of Doña Genoveva’s delegation of Chinas Oaxaqueñas. Photographed by Luvia Lazo for Vogue.

Weaved through culture and religion; La Guelaguetza festival of Oaxacan, Mexico, see the woman braid their waist-length hair with satin ribbons secured with bows in vibrant colours that must contrast their skirts. Outfits differ between regions but collectively it's a ritual that has been repeated for many years as an expression of tradition and native culture in modern Oaxaca.

Brigitte Bardot

From the 19th century, bows were used to distinguish class, gender or relationship status, whereby the position on one’s head would convey a message like a secret love language. After many twists and turns, the must-have hair accessory of 2023, eventually made its way onto TV, runways and magazines during the 1950s and 60s, before securing itself as a mainstay in the mainstream.

Shop hair accessories here, or keep on scrolling for sartorial musings and some cool ways to style your bows and ribbons.

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Calvin Klein Sport 1988 by Bruce Weber

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