Bows have gone from kitsch to coquette to feral all in a matter of months. The motif has practically become inescapable since it met the mainstream, and as much as we love seeing French fries wrapped in pink ribbons all over our TikTok For You Page, it begs the question: doesn’t it feel like the bow trend’s gotten a little out of hand? Whether the viral aesthetic has you wrapped around its finger or scrolling past every time another bow appears, there’s no denying it all feels kind of familiar… I just can’t put my finger on why.
At the start of 2022 we saw a newfound popularity of bows on the runway, with the accessory appearing in the Fall/Winter 2022 collections of Carolina Herrera, Christian Cowan, and more. After this it wasn’t long before the bow crept from fashion into beauty, appearing in the hair of Sandy Liang’s models, and on the faces of Simone Rocha’s models for Fall/Winter 2023. However, despite feeling as though bows have been constantly on our radar for the duration of the past year, they actually didn’t achieve viral status until two months ago.
November 2023 was when the rapid rise in popularity of bows first hit its pique, verified by Google Trends, which shows how searches for the term “bow” grew exponentially in the past couple of months. So why does it feel as though we’ve been surrounded by bows for so long? Perhaps it’s because of the sheer quantity of bow-related content we’ve consumed in just December of this year. Not only have searches for the “bows” on TikTok racked up 4.3 billion views, but the bow trend has escaped the confines of social media and is now appearing in everyday life as part of our inescapable obsession.
Whilst comparing the feminine, “girlhood” aesthetic of bows to the “ironic moustache fever” of the earlier part of this century might feel like a stretch, the trend’s overnight explosion into popularity is what links them. Bows might seem as though they’ve been popular for quite a while, but in reality our obsession with the motif only skyrocketed in November of this year. And back in the 2010s, moustaches underwent the same sudden sensationalism out of nowhere.
Nowadays, the once viral moustache trend of the ‘10s is a fossil in the back of most people’s wardrobes (or on the inside of their fingers), but it was once a frenzied obsession that dominated the internet for a number of years. Moustache t-shirts, mugs, journals, bowls, sofas, jewellery, and even tattoos were inescapable at the start of this century; even Justin Bieber apparently once had a moustache tat on his finger. But what happened to this iconic motif? Can a trend really go from being so popular it’s all-consuming to cheugy overnight?
In an article from 2020 where VICE Media discussed the lasting impact of the “fingerstache” tattoo on those who still have one today, a tattoo artist who helped make the trend popular at the time recalled that it got “dumb quickly.” Another victim of the fingerstache told VICE, “Every year I get older, it gets harder to explain to new people… That’s for sure.” Could this be the route bows are headed down too?
From toilet rolls to hot dogs to biceps, the bow as an icon has been wrapped around anything imaginable since it blew up, and there’s no denying that they’ve now reached such a level of popularity that people are having them permanently tattooed. Considering that the bow trend has only been massive in the mainstream for a few months, it can easily be compared to our hard and fast obsession with moustaches back in the ‘10s that a lot of people came to regret.
The only thing we can hope for is that the bow as a motif is more timeless, more ingrained in wider culture than the moustache, and therefore can’t be tied to any one time period. Perhaps its roots in the aesthetic of “girlhood” will protect it from being branded “cheugy” in a couple of years, or maybe it’ll make a more rapid comeback in the coming decade. Most of us can’t see moustache motifs making it big again for a long time (if ever), so here’s hoping that the bow escapes that fate. That’s always the way with trends though, isn’t it? They’re everything… until they’re not.
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