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School’s out: how headbands leapt from classroom to catwalk

There aren’t many school-uniform items that graduate into adult wardrobes, but this season the humble headband has made the grade. Long associated with boarding schools and Sloane rangers, the one-piece accessory is in the midst of a renaissance thanks to several influential brands and style icons proving that the headband is more than a device to keep your hair off your face.

Veronika Heilbrunner wears her green Prada headband at Paris fashion week in February. Photograph: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

It was in September at the Prada spring/summer 2019 fashion show when Miuccia Prada (she who can make or break a trend) sent every single one of her 50 models down the catwalk wearing thick studded and satin styles and must-have status was bestowed. Over fashion week last month, stylists and influencers – including Pernille Teisbaek, Veronika Heibrunner and Tamu McPherson – were all spotted wearing theirs, while the Aladdin actor Naomi Scott can be found wearing an orange style from the collection on the April cover of British Vogue this month.

“Once you’ve seen something on the Prada catwalk, you just know it’s confirmation,” says Miss Vogue editor and long-term fan Naomi Pike, who used to buy hers from “Pak’s in Dalston, or seek them out from fabulous little shops on holiday in Italy,” before they were so readily available as they are this season. Pike predicts that it’s a trend that “young people won’t entirely engage with as its so closely linked to childhood … when nostalgia hasn’t hit yet because you’ve only just stopped wearing them”. By the same token, she says, it’s a trend women in their late 20s, 30s and 40s “can own is because enough time has passed”.

Danai Gurira in a thin gold crown-like style. Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Making a case for the headband’s new ageless credentials at the Oscars last month was best supporting actress nominee Rachel Weisz, 48, who topped off her Givenchy haute couture red gown with a thin beaded style made from two vintage (circa 1903) Cartier diamond and platinum brooches.

On the same red carpet, Black Panther star Danai Gurira, 41, wore a double gold band style, both proving that the width of chosen headband this season is up to its wearer. For me, thick – a la Prada – conjure images of halos upping the ante everyday, whereas thin – a la the Oscars – makes for a crownlike option to channel your inner party queen.

Laura Jackson in Simone Rocha at the Brits last month. Photograph: SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

That its appeal can be found in the “minimal effort, maximum impact” fashion camp, is also not lost on its famous fans. The TV presenter Laura Jackson loves “how wearing headbands can instantly transform a look” and attended the Brits in February and the Stylist Women of the Year awards this month wearing a beaded style by Simone Rocha, which she says “always adds a touch of elegance to any outfit”. Rocha has been a long-time advocator of the embellished alice band, stepping the situation up at her most recent autumn/winter 2019 show with beaded crown-like sculptures seen in all manner of sizes on models all manner of ages.

Elizabeth von der Goltz, the global buying director at Net-a-porter which stocks her headbands and has had to reorder the Prada style since it sold out across a number of colours, says that headbands have proven to be such a popular item that it has increased its buy by 90% compared to last year. The revival, she says, is “in part fuelled by the 90s trend – think Cher Horowitz vibes”.

Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in 1994’s Clueless rocking an alice band. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

She cites styles from designers Jennifer Behr, Simone Rocha and Lelet NY as bestsellers which retail from £135 for a shell-embellished band to £595 for a Swarovski crystal-encrusted gold-plated style. It has other options for £45 by the Los Angeles-based Instagram favourite Cult Gaia, but also a whopping £795 for a gold-plated and faux-pearl piece by Gucci. On the high-street, there are more palatable prices at Anthropology (£28), Asos (£10) and Urban Outfitters (£6).

When it comes to choosing the right one for you, aficionado Pike says to pull one off with aplomb “is as much to do with the hair beneath it, so always prep with a gentle spritz of hairspray just as you place in situ” and advises to try before you buy. “There’s nothing worse than a style that pinches behind the ears.”

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