The Power of the Hair Bow

It started with my mother. For as long as I can remember, my mum would insist on her four daughters dressing like little dolls with frilly dresses and matching hair bows. We are now aged between 24-35 years and she still insists on this. Fortunately we don’t have to wear the exact same dress and hair bow anymore….we have progressed to wearing the same outfit but in different colours! If my mum was a millennial, we would be those babies on Instagram wearing bows bigger than our heads. Outwardly we complained, but secretly we all loved it.


I wore the hair bows my mum brought me all through my childhood, my teens and even my early twenties. Bows helped me feel confident, expressed my personality and essentially added a finishing touch to my life. I had one particular bow, a simple black velvet bow hair clip that I was convinced was my ‘lucky bow’. I wore this for my exams, my doctoral viva and every job interview since. I also had a lucky bow dress! I stopped wearing my hair bows at the age of 27 years. I was attending an academic conference where I was challenged by a female academic. She had no thoughts/feedback on the work I presented, she was just highly offended by my bow. She thought it was an affront to feminism and I should be ashamed of myself. I certainly didn’t want my hair accessories to offend anyone so all my bows were donated to the sisters and a charity shop. I felt sad to lose my collection that I had built during my life time. Each bow had memories attached to it. I convinced myself it was a positive move. People would now take me seriously, I was no longer going to be seen as a ‘little girl’. I was a proper grown up.



Nothing changed. I was still treated like a little girl. My petite frame did not help matters. It took some time but I finally realised, the problem was not the bow but people. People with pre-conceived ideas about what a female academic should look like. Why should I have to fit that image? Shouldn’t I, as a feminist, smash that image? The bows are officially back!


Although I was upset by the feminist’s comment, I understood why she was offended by the bow.  You just have to consider the history of the bow. The hair bow can be seen being worn as a fashion accessory by women and girls as far back as 1837. During the Victorian period, ribbon was considered a luxury item, therefore a woman wearing a ribbon tied up as a bow in her hair was perceived as a sign of prosperity. Hair bows were particularly popular during this period as they projected the idea of innocence and femininity. Qualities that were considered important for women in the Victorian era. My bow represents those forced gendered values to some feminists.


Today the bow remains no less popular. It can be found everywhere from the high street (TopShop) to high end designer catwalks (Chanel). Its worn by everyone from child pop stars (JoJo Siwa) to members of the royal family. Whilst it remains the symbol of innocence when worn by young girls, I believe it represents something different for women.


A bow on a woman is the ultimate attitude symbol. It tricks the world into thinking you are just a ‘silly little girl’ and then bam you open your mouth and prove them wrong! It goads the world into underestimating you at it’s own peril. It allows you to ride under the radar and make an impact on your own terms. A bow is a symbol of power and confidence. Resistance and rebellion. Why do I wear a bow at the age of 34? I intend to lead all girls and women to world domination with a bow jauntily perched on my hair. My bow is not an affront to feminism. Your questioning of it, is.



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