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Time to ‘bow’ out: How bows are trending and why we should be wary of their presence

Illustration by Akhila Nadimpalli

We are all familiar with bows. They encase the gifts we receive on birthdays, holidays and special occasions.

If you grew up with long hair, it’s likely a parent, sibling or friend tied bows at the end of braids or ponytails before going to school or a special event.

Though many associate bows with gifts and accessories for little girls, these ribbons have made a resurgence in millennials and Gen Z. In an effort to cling onto the last bit of childhood we have left, many have turned to these reminders of girlhood in an attempt to get it back. But have we taken it too far?

Recently, there has been discourse regarding children shopping at Ulta and Sephora, primarily looking to buy products from brands like Drunk Elephant, which sells high-end moisturizers, retinols and other facial serums formulated for mature skin. Many adults observing this phenomenon have been upset by the number of these tweens taking over traditionally more adult spaces and using products that aren’t meant for delicate young faces.

Though I understand where many of these adults are coming from (especially because many of these children are reported to be rude to other customers and employees), I also understand why many of these children are looking to build up their skincare arsenals as well. These kids are looking to seem older, hardly a new phenomenon for kids in late elementary school and middle school.

I remember this feeling all too well. When I was a tween, I couldn’t wait to look older, have adult responsibilities and generally be taken more seriously. It wasn’t until I actually assumed these roles that I realized they weren’t all that I had imagined, and I found myself looking back on my younger self and wishing I had enjoyed being a kid more when I actually was one.

In recent years, it has become clear to me that I was not the only one feeling this way. I’ve noticed increased conversations with peers explaining this exact sentiment, and how reverting to old interests, items and even foods reminds people of the childhood they so wish they had cherished more.

It is largely for this reason and the recent rise in the so-called “coquette” aesthetic that bows have become re-popularized amongst women who, by many societal measures, should have outgrown them years ago.

And although I understand the recent popularity in bow-themed items, I feel as though the bow-craze has gotten out of hand. I’ve noticed bows on earrings, necklaces, pajamas, phone cases and just about every other clothing item or accessory imaginable.

Because of their ubiquity, I believe bows will become the internet’s latest microtrend, eventually meeting the same fate as cow print, mushrooms and other patterns and fads that became outdated as quickly as they became popular.

But how do we fix this? The pressure to fit in and be relatable to our peers often outweighs the critical analyses involved in making smart and sustainable purchases, and many times we feel as though we are too small and helpless to make any meaningful changes.

I think the first step is to identify these trends as we notice them becoming more popular, as well as assess whether or not they have the ability to become timeless and worthy of investment.

But I think the most important thing is to realize we don’t actually need any of these products. Clinging to bow-themed goods or any other materials will not bring back our childhoods, instead they just fill us with buyers’ remorse.

Connecting with those who brought us joy in our youth or make us feel young again is the only way to truly combat feelings of sadness or nostalgia regarding aging. By embracing our loved ones and making memories, we will be able to save money and the planet while also healing our inner child.

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