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Hair Tie vs. Ponytail Debate

An In-Depth Look at the Great "Hair Tie" vs. "Ponytail Holder" vs. "Hair Band" Debate

What do you call the thing that holds your hair up? Hair ties, ponytail holders, hair bows, elastics, or maybe none of the above? Growing up, my mom called them "wiggle-waggles" — don't ask me why. Imagine my embarrassment when I walked into first grade, searching for anything to tie my hair back, only to find out that no one knew what a "wiggle-waggle" was. The shame still lingers.

We recently asked POPSUGAR Instagram followers what they call that circular piece of elastic, and boy, did they deliver. Prompted by their strong opinions, I decided to ask my coworkers for their thoughts and feelings. Sadly, no one else picked up on the "wiggle-waggle" trend, but I did get a variety of answers I'd never considered before. Who knew the tiny band around your wrist could have so many names? Keep reading to see what labels people tossed around, and in case of emergency, remember: a quick gesture toward your wrist will let anyone know you're in need of a hair accessory — no words necessary.

Hair tie

What people think:

  • "I feel like this is the most commonly used phrasing, and when I need to borrow from a friend, I go for 'hair tie' above all else."
  • "I definitely use this the most, especially since that is what it most accurately means to me if you literally break it down: it's a tie that holds your hair. Duh."
  • "It's the easiest to say! Short, sweet, gets to the point. Honestly the best option."
  • "This probably says a lot about my people-pleasing nature, but I mix it up between hair tie, hair elastic, and ponytail holder depending on the audience. I try to read their beauty IQ and adjust accordingly (ie: hair tie with friends, hair elastic with hairstylists, ponytail holder with my mom)."
  • "I feel like of all the choices, this is the most universally known and accepted default term of them all."

Hair elastic

What people think:

  • "Being in the beauty world, I'm so used to hearing every hairstylist call them 'an elastic' that I've weirdly adopted that into my own vernacular."
  • "As an older millennial, I stand by the fact that this is what we were all calling them in the '80s. I still use this term, despite hair tie being the more popular name now, because, well, you aren't physically tying anything (as you would with a ribbon). I've also been told I'm hyper literal.
  • "As an older millennial, I never used this term."
  • "I call them just 'elastics' but I asked my mom and she said it's a 'New England thing.'"

Ponytail holder

What people think:

  • "I've always called it a 'ponytail holder,' because that's what it does!"
  • "Totally called them ponytail holders growing up, but I think over time I've adopted 'hair tie' since it's what's used most by my friends."
  • "My mom called them ponytail holders growing up, so that's what I called them."
  • "I strongly feel this is all wrong. Hair ties don't just hold ponytails, they hold braids and buns too. Don't put your hair tie in that box!"
  • "This is the most accurate I guess but it takes so long to say."
  • "This is my mom's go-to choice, but she's literally never once put her hair in a ponytail so I've asked why she doesn't call it a 'bun holder' instead. Still waiting for a nonsarcastic response, TBH."
  • "We also just called them 'ponies.'"

Scrunchie

What people think:

  • "For me, scrunchies are a very specific type of hair tie. They're pleated and fabric-covered, so I wouldn't use the word to describe just any hair-holding device."
  • "Agreed, this is a very specific kind of hair tie."
  • "A scrunchie and a hair tie are two different things in my brain. Like, if someone asked to borrow a hair tie and all I had was a scrunchie, I'd say, 'Is a scrunchie okay?' And vice versa."
  • "A scrunchie is its own entity and I will not be convinced otherwise."
  • "Scrunchie should only be used for an elastic covered with fabric and is really about the fashion statement. I'm psyched they're back — but secretly I've never really stopped having a few at home to wear post-shower or to bed."
  • "For me, scrunchie is the go-to in my head, but I get JUDGED because I include non-fabric hair ties under this umbrella as well. It's just a cuter word."
  • "It's all been said, but a Scrunchie™️ is a very specific thing. Please see season six, episode four of Sex and the City for reference."

Liga

What people think:

  • "Like most people from Miami — Spanish-speakers or otherwise, to be honest — I've always referred to it as a 'liga!' It's been years since I moved to New York and I still have to remind myself to say 'hair tie' when asking to borrow one from a friend or coworker."
  • "Ditto to calling it a 'liga.' If I'm back home or with family I'll always call it that over a hair tie, just depends on who I'm with."

Other

What people think:

  • "I now realize it's probably a Southern thing, but a lot of people around me growing up called it a hair bow. I do still use this in addition to hair tie."
  • "I have a friend who calls them 'hair bands,' but to me, that's a little too close to 'headband' and it just feels confusing."
  • "My mom used to call them rubber bands, so I called them that until my teen years. So ridiculous and harsh-sounding, WTF Mom?"
  • "I'll sometimes say 'hair tie' to blend in with society but for me it's straight up 'hair thing,' now and forever."
  • "I am from India and everyone there refers to them as 'hair bands.' To me, calling it anything other than a 'hair band' is insane — it is a rubber band that you use to tie your hair, hence it is a hair band."
  • "I've called them rubber bands my whole life and will continue to do so. It has never been a point of confusion, but I know my audience, so if I'm asking to 'borrow' one I'll refer to it as a 'hair thing' and gesture to my empty wrist."
  • "I sometimes go hair band, sometimes hair thing — it really just depends on who I'm asking and if they'll understand what I'm asking for or not."
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