The scrunchie was invented in 1986 by Romy Revson, a nightclub singer and pianist who became fixated on the idea of making something that would keep her hair pulled back. The Guardian has also reported in 2013, that “a Vancouver woman, Jane Reid, is said to have had some on show at a hair accessories fair in the late 1970s.”
In a 2016 interview with Talk Business, Revson said, “I don’t know why, but I became somewhat determined to figure out an invention that used fabric instead of plastic or metal.” As Brit+Co reports, Revson wanted a “gentler alternative to the plastic and metal hair ties that kept damaging her strands.”
Inspired by her own elastic waistband pants, she felt inspired to go out and buy fabric, a needle, and a bobbin, and make something that mimicked the same puckering detail — the first prototype, a black-and-gold doodad, is part of the Smithsonian Museum’s collection today, as is Revson’s first sewing machine, according to Brit+Co. Revson patented the design in 1987, eventually selling the patent to hair accessories brandscünci.
Why was the scrunchie so revolutionary for women in the 1980s? Perhaps it’s because the product solved a legitimate problem for women. In a time when big hair was in, the scrunchie offered women a way to pull it back without damaging it, unlike standard rubber bands, while taking basic hair ties to the next level. On top of that, it was just another way to accessorize their already over-the-top looks.
It also didn’t hurt that celebrities like Madonna, Paula Abdul, and various characters in Heathers (1988) rocked scrunchies of all different varieties, from sparkly metallic ones to bold-hued iterations; they also doubled as wrist accessories. The trend continued into the ’90s — they were worn by everyone from Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless (1995) and Michelle Tanner (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) in Full House (1987–95) to Phoebe Buffay in the early days of Friends (1994–2004).