Make every day a ‘Happy Headband’ day

— by Nilgin Yusuf


Simone Rocha hairband at Net-A-Porter


One of the best things about getting older is you can wear what you like, how you like, when you like. You can wear things you’ve never worn before, experiment with unexpected combinations, break some rules and invent you own.

A few weeks ago, I started wearing something I never have before, a hairband with a big spotty bow on the side picked up in a thrift store for a few quid. Does it suit me? I think so. I’ve not had anyone point, snigger or laugh out loud. No one’s accused me of looking like Bubbles Rothermere or Bette Davies in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. It was like my personal ‘purple hat’ epiphany. Well, why not?

I’m building up to wearing my Frida Kahlo flowered headband this summer, something I picked up in the V&A gift shop during the Frida Kahlo; Making Herself Up exhibition, in 2018. She used to like wearing flowers in her hair: dahlias, bougainvillea and gardenias to accent her Tehuana hairstyle and dress and, honour her Mexican heritage. For the last five years, that scarlet petalled headband has lain in the drawer waiting for its coming out parade. There was never the right moment or occasion. I was never in the right mood. But that moment may be now.


Frida Kahlo Making Herself Up official exhibition book from the V&A


Decorative hair bands are back on the style agenda. At the most recent Met Gala in New York, lots of celebrities were spotted wearing them notably Serena Williams rocking a multi-strand pearl headband. They’re a popular accessory with the Hollywood set: Juliette Lewis, Kiera Knightly and Kirsten Dunst, to name a few.

When I say headbands, I’m not talking about the dreary, limp varieties so beloved of Sloanes in the 1980s. Today, the decorative hair accessories popular on sites like Etsy offer pizazz and personality. They include ornate knots or Halo Crowns that from the front resemble turbans (à la Joan Collins) to bedazzled and bejewelled ones; headbands made from vintage kimono fabrics and twirls of ribbons or tulle caught mid-ripple.



There’s something specifically about the ageing woman and  ‘head dressing’ that works a treat. Miriam Margolyes, 82 looked beautiful on the cover of this month’s British Vogue wearing a forties-inspired Sinamay headband. An older head has the confidence to carry off some serious statement dressing as demonstrated so elegantly by ‘ our naughtiest national treasure’.

While women of all ages are only too happy to don a fascinator and flirt with a feather for a family wedding, our heads are usually forgotten on everyday duty. Perhaps, with its increasingly wrinkly skin, greying or thinning hair, the head and face are the most visible reminder we are ageing, something many would prefer to forget?

But this is exactly why it works so well. A statement headband (or head dressing of any kind) frames and spotlights the wisdom, life and character that make up an older face. Headbands are an accessory that can bring colour, pattern and ornamentation to the face, enriching the collagen-diminished complexion. Putting one of these on is a refusal to become invisible, like a sign that says ‘I’m still here and going strong’.

I can think of many stylish and legendary women who’ve understood the importance of dressing their heads, in their autumn years: Edith Sitwell, Billy Holiday, Simone de Beauvoir, Coco Chanel, Carmen Miranda. An older woman can stand proud and keep her head held high: she has the experience, authority and confidence to pull off some cool and regal head dressing. Why save this clever style trick for special occasions? It’s a simple way to make every day of good health and gratitude, one of celebration.


Headband by Silk & Lawn



Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer and regular TNMA contributor.


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