Because I am a woman who has reached the point in my third decade where I am no longer assigning a numeral to the ones place and have no teenage children of whom I am aware, I generally avoid Urban Outfitters. It is a place where youths born sometime around the year I graduated high school encounter bucket hats for the first time in their lives soundtracked to “oldies” by artists like Adina Howard and Destiny’s Child. Simply not the environment to maintain one’s delusions of sprightliness.
I did, however, happen to find myself in an Urban Outfitters on Santa Monica Boulevard recently, as I shopped for a Champion jersey to complete my Tatum costume for a showing of Scream in a cemetery. And as I hobbled my way through the sea of youngsters clutching their retro trappings, also clutching an item with which I would attempt to cosplay my own youth in an actual fucking graveyard later that night, I saw something unexpected risen from the fashion dead: claw clips. Bins and bins of those plastic tools that use some trick of ancient technology to connect two combs on a hinge, allowing them to trap a twisted coil of hair between.
For those unschooled in this ancient history: during the olden days, claw clips, often covered in glitter or smiley face stickers, were worn by young women in high school hallways in order to, not just attractively pull hair into an elegant chignon, elongating the neck, but also to create a dignified little knot blossoming above the apparatus. Additionally, maidens of yore wore loose tendrils around the forehead to better frame brow bones tinted with pale, frosted shadow and lips slicked with peony colored gloss.
As Sex and the City ridiculed hair accessories, like scrunchies or claw clips, as the trappings of unsophisticated rural folk, teenagers and young women, shifted away from the claw—and its more embellished counterpart the butterfly clip. And thus the once-mighty claw clip, rumored to have been first championed by 1980s businesswomen who needed a time-saving route to Working Girl-caliber French twists, became, finally, the province of harried moms in car line, those looking to section hair while flat-ironing, of beachgoers, hoping trap wet hair while avoiding the damage incurred by unforgiving elastics.
But stylish youths have championed a claw clip renaissance, offering helpful tips via TikTok, some sort of short-form video creation engine I’m told. There, scores of helpful tutorials instruct a whole new century’s worth of clippers in the ancient art of the claw, which involves not just gathering hair, but twisting and securing it, a process that can be tricky for newcomers.
Staring down at these pre-millennium relics, I chose one at random and pinched. Like Proust with some little cookie or whatever, the claw clip was both a tangible object of the present and a tool for summoning the past, inviting me to adorn myself in the costume of my youth while pretending that I am merely adorning myself with the checkout bin trappings of the present. For those of us with one foot in the movie theater of 1996 and the other, apparently, in the grave, the time to bridge those two points in history is right now.
In this brief moment during which we may clasp our hair off our necks with no breakage or traction alopecia while appearing to know what is cool, at least until the children see what we’re up to and relegate the tools to the antiquities collection at the bottom of our makeup bags once more.