They’re hair accessories. Nothing but cheap pieces of plastic clipped in the hair of pre pubescent girls to tame their tresses. So I thought at the age of the tender age of ten. Little did I know these flimsy ornaments of 90’s fashion would only bring me trouble. And at the cost of my fragile fifth grade ego.
I should have kept my mouth shut that day after school.
“Jamie, come on” my mother drawled “you don’t need hair claws or clips, whatever they’re called.”
I rolled my eyes. She was clueless.
“Of course when you say it like that, Ma,” I thought, gnashing my teeth in defiance.
“Your hair looks so nice like it is,” she continued “why would you want to clip it up?”
You’re right Ma, why would I want to actually look stylish? What an absurdity!
In the good ole’ days of 1997, when girls were dreaming of Zak Morris and the Hanson brothers, “claws” were one of the things that made you cool on the campus of an elementary school. A gem of 90’s trends, as much as neon pink scrunchies and spandex. I had to have one, or seven – one for each day of the week, if I was to be a real preteen fashionista.
They could be brightly colored, dazzling with glitter or gaudily designed with smiley faces and hearts. The brighter they were, the cooler and the more glitter, the better. There were no rules with these hair accessories. The super savvy ones could only be found at the mall, which is why they were so chic. Wearing anything purchased from the mall was a bonafide way to bolster your status as a fifth grader.
I wasn’t a popular kid. Therefore, I was suckered into such passing trends to help me along the way. To give me a nudge up the social ladder.
The “girl with the uni – brow that could,”, I was determined.
So I asked my mother to buy me some hair claws, like all the other dainty daisies of my class were wearing.
“My dear clueless mother, have mercy on my social soul and take me to Claire’s to buy me one of these contraptions!” the little voice in my head screeched.
I pleaded at her feet, begged at her bedside and groveled to her goodness, til alas, it came upon one sunny day after school, I had a surprise waiting for me on my bed.
This would happen occasionally where I would come home to find that my mother had picked me up “a little something,” while she was out running errands or shopping that day. Sometimes it was as unexciting as a tube of Looney Toons toothpaste or a Trapper Keeper, but there were those spectacular moments when she actually did it right. She actually proved she loved me and cared about my girlish pride by buying me something cool like a Caboodle or jelly shoes.
And on this day, she bought me a pack of hair claws. Just like I’d wanted.
It was a 12 – pack, in a plastic bag. They were pink, too. I picked up the package off my bed and eyed them suspiciously. They weren’t exactly what I saw the popular girls wearing.
I clipped up a few fluffs of hair, just to see how I looked. Not exactly what I imagined, they weren’t as glitzy as I’d seen on the other girls. But they worked for me.
And so I strutted with a swagger of confidence in front of my vanity, with my hair swinging from the mouths of the plastic claws. Maybe I’d done it right this time.
That next morning, I tucked my best pink top into my denim skort, tied the laces of my Keds and clipped up every lock of my hair with my beloved pink claws. I gazed at myself proudly in the mirror before marching down for breakfast. A little extra spunk in my stride.
“You look nice today, Jamie” my mother cooed. I poured a bowl of Cap n Crunch and anticipated what all the kids would say when they saw that I too, could look cool. I was going to be the razzle dazzle of recess.
It was time to line up for P.E. in alphabetical order, I was always at the front, (right behind the “A’s”). And that’s when it happened.
I’ll never forget the names of those three big mouthed Barbies, the queen B’s of Ward Highlands Elementary School, who stood behind me that apocalyptic day, snickering and sneering as if I couldn’t hear. I knew they were laughing at me. But whatever could have been so funny?
“Hey Jamie,” the feistiest feline of them all, purred from behind. I turned my head in oblivion, “yes?”
Surely she just wants to tell me how much she loves my new up do, I thought.
“Did you just get a haircut or something?” a chorus of laughter erupted.
“Um…no. Why?” I furrowed my bushy brow in brown eyed confusion.
“Because you’re hair is all clipped up with barber shop clips, the kind they put in my hair when I get my hair cut,” she cackled. My pride, once valiantly flowing, curdled and spoiled into a puddle at my feet.
That’s when I realized, my mom bought me the wrong “hair claws.” She bought me barber shop clips, used by hair dressers all over American to pinup customer’s hair when getting a cut. And I used them to make a fashion statement, thinking they were all the rage.
Here I was sure I’d reached fashion nirvana, in my acid wash skort and clipped up frizzies, when in actuality, I’d broken a commandment of fifth grade fashion politics: never wear anything your mother buys you, thinking its cool. And more cardinally, never wear anything that you’d see being used at a barber shop. Period.
Needless to say, I “unclawed,” my hair and threw away the counterfeits. A lesson learned in fashion: a barber shop’s tool, shouldn’t be worn to school.
The “girl with the uni brow that could,” would have to try again next time, with the next trend.