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Clawing Their Way Back

Bethany Simko didn’t mean for claw clips to become her TikTok claim to fame. If it weren’t for one forgetful moment earlier this summer, they might never have been.

Not all hair accessories are created equal. Finding a claw clip that works for your particular combination of head shape, hair texture and length can be like searching for the Holy Grail. Less tough on hair than a typical elastic band, claw clips — usually made of plastic— use a spring and teeth to hold hair up and in place. A classic style in the 1990s, the clips had fallen out of vogue until a resurgence in recent years, credited, in part, to an Alexander Wang runway show in 2018.

Ms. Simko had finally found the perfect clip. Just the right size and grip to hold all her hair in place. So when she left it at her date’s place in July, she did everything in her power to retrieve it.

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“He ended up blocking me,” Ms. Simko, 20, who lives in Austin, said. “I was so upset about my claw clip. I was like, ‘I don’t care if you block me, I just want my claw clip back.’”

But it was gone for good. Ms. Simko, an influencer who also runs her own social media management agency, then began documenting her search for an even holier grail of a clip on TikTok at the end of July.

Like an internet Goldilocks, Ms. Simko set out to find a clip that was just right. A day later, she posted the fourth TikTok video in her search series. In this particular TikTok video, Ms. Simko filmed herself visiting several stores, including the discount chain Five Below, trying and failing at each location to replace her beloved clip.

The TikTok video, Ms. Simko said, quickly broke a million views. “I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, OK, we’re going, we’re doing the claw clip thing. This is my thing now.’” That view count is now up to 1.8 million.

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Since then, Ms. Simko has tested dozens of clips, giving each one a shake test, whipping her hair back and forth to determine a clip’s staying power. She tracks each clip in a public spreadsheet, noting how well a particular accessory worked — or didn’t work — for a bun or ponytail.

The worst of the clips snapped into bits as she tried to squeeze it into place, Ms. Simko said.

She’s gained 100,000 followers on TikTok since she began her claw clip journey, more than doubling her following in just over a month. This TikTok feedback only confirmed for Ms. Simko what influencers and trend experts have been saying for months. The Y2K staple is back and, much like one of Ms. Simko’s top-rated clips, it’s not budging.

Julianne Goldmark founded Emi Jay, a hair accessories company, as a teenager in 2009 when she began making her own hair ties out of underwear elastic and selling them to her friends at school. The company that specializes in hair accessories is now popular with the likes of the Swedish influencer Matilda Djerf and Hailey Bieber.

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She has tracked the claw clip renaissance with the precision of someone whose entire business is predicated on knowing exactly which hair accessories are stylish and which make the back of one’s head look ridiculous. “Searches for claw clips and hair accessories are up 927 percent to last year,” Ms. Goldmark said.

However, the uptick in claw clip popularity began several years ago. Just before the pandemic began, Emi Jay released a large, biodegradable acetate claw clip branded as the Big Effing Clip in four colors.

“I hadn’t even seen claw clips on my radar,” Ms. Goldmark said. “It was my friends and I who had been wearing them just as a convenience thing and we couldn’t find any that were cute so we just made our own.” The small initial run of 400 clips sold out “instantly.”

“Then quarantine hit and we were all on Zooms and in sweatpants and tie dyeing and doing all our quarantine things,” Ms. Goldmark said. “I feel like naturally people just wanted a really simple, effortless, cute way to put their hair up.” The Big Effing Clip has since become the company’s “bread and butter,” Ms. Goldmark said. Priced at $34, it now comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including the Instagram-favorite checkerboard. For $86, shoppers can get their clips customized with their name in Swarovski crystals, a model that has been sported multiple times by Bella Hadid.

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For shoppers looking for something even pricier, there are also options. A tortoiseshell piece from Balmain Hair Couture for $125. Celine has a trio of mini claw clips for $450. And a sleek $285 number with a shell-shaped handle from Sophie Buhai is sold out in all but one color.

But plastic, even by a fancier and purportedly eco-friendly name, is still plastic and many brands offer a very similar style at a fraction of the price — and the result is an identical look from the front, where hair pulled up looks the same no matter how fancy the clip might be that you’re wearing in the back.

Kōv Essentials’s Daily Clip in size XL, costs $30. On TikTok, the brand frequently and dramatically demonstrates just how much hair can fit inside the XL, which is its largest model.

This range of options is what drew Jennifer Charan, a hairstylist in Toronto, back to claw clips. Growing up, Ms. Charan, who is West Indian, said she and her older sister coveted the look of Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green on “Friends,” but could never find clips that could sufficiently hold her sister’s thick hair.

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Now, a wider range of options means more people can participate in the trend, Ms. Charan said. “You’re running errands, you just throw a claw clip and you just leave out a few pieces at the front. It just makes you look so put together and it’s, like, so effortless,” she said, invoking the claw clip’s most popular buzzword. (For $4.19, you can get a two-pack of the aptly named Scunci Effortless Beauty Claw Clips at Rite Aid.)

Ms. Charan offers clip styling demonstrations on TikTok and on Instagram to her collective audience of over 150,000 followers. Videos demonstrating how to position a claw clip for maximum comfort while riding in a car are also popular on the app.

These tutorials likely wouldn’t have helped Hannah Torralba, though. The respite provider who lives in Lake Elsinore, Calif., and her boyfriend were driving on a California freeway on the way to celebrate his birthday in August when things took a dramatic turn.

“Next thing I know I hear my boyfriend gasp and we get hit,” Ms. Torralba, 23, said. “I initially hear a shatter. And so, like, in my mind, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! Did the window break?’”

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It wasn’t until she spotted the fragments of pink plastic in the car that she realized what had really happened.

“When the guy rear ended us, my head went forward and then hit the back of the headrest. And it just, like, shattered,” Ms. Torralba said of the clip she had been wearing at the time of the accident, which didn’t result in any major injuries for the couple.

After the adrenaline wore off, Ms. Torralba noticed a bump on the back of her head, which has since healed. She no longer wears claw clips while riding in cars.

She hasn’t given up on the hair trend altogether, though, mostly because it is inescapable. But she admits: “It’s a little traumatic seeing them.”

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