China's new flower-child trend: Is bizarre mainland sprout hair fashion fad spreading to Hong Kong?
Plastic hairclips all the rage among mainland youth
Last week, while buying lip liner in a Bonjour Cosmetics store in Hong Kong (yes, I’m one of two women below 35 who actually wears lip liner – so ’80s, I know) imagine my surprise when both girls at the checkout were sporting green plastic sprouts on their heads. When I laughed and asked them where they got the clips from, they threw a couple into my bag for free by way of an answer.
Like tiny green beanstalks, these sprouts have been adorning heads for months on the mainland. Clipped into the hair, usually at the top, they stick out bizarrely. On social media we’ve even seen the grey-haired generation and business types experimenting with the look, but this trend continues to be dominated by groups of young friends going out together.
This mainland fashion phenomenon has been picked up by international media – and is mostly met with puzzlement by readers, writers and even those who wear them.
Until recently, the fad had not hit Hong Kong. Since my encounter at Bonjour, I’ve seen a few young people around Causeway Bay wearing the little green clips, although it’s still far from being a common slight as it is in touristy shopping areas of Beijing or Shanghai.
On my last visit to the Tianzifang markets in Shanghai, a friend and I spotted several groups of young people wearing these clips in their hair. It was not only green sprouts but other cutesy variations, including bees, ladybirds, mushrooms and flowers. Most said they were wearing them because it was a fun or they thought they were cute and adorable.
Vendors and small boutiques were selling them by the bucketload. Store managers are buying batches from Taobao for as little as 10 yuan (HK$12) for 100. That day in Tianzifang we were sold four for 10 yuan.
My Irish friend browsing Tianzifang with me that day has decided to export the little sprouts to Hong Kong and France for her friend’s children.
No one knows the exact origin of the trend. Some have speculated that it comes from cute Japanese animations in which figures have sprouts growing from their heads. Chinese illustrators have been known to use buds emerging from their characters’ heads to signify a fresh idea or an original thought, which seems to make a little more sense. But it doesn’t entirely explain why the sprouts have become such a hit on the mainland.
And a trip down crowded Nanluoguxiang Hutong and its surrounds in Beijing show that the phenomenon is still growing.
It might just be that the silliness and fun factor are the the main drivers behind this curious trend.
So how long before we see sprouts adorning heads outside Mong Kok malls as the fad takes root on the streets of Hong Kong?