the Silk Road

In China, grassy fashion trend sprouts on people’s heads

Story highlights

New trend in China: wearing plastic sprout hair clips

It's unclear who started the fashion

Sociologist says trend "enriches mundane life" and meaning doesn't matter

Beijing CNN  — 

Sprouts, grass, and flowers are blossoming from Chinese people’s heads – and nobody quite knows why.

We’re referring, of course, to sprout hair clips – a brand new Chinese fashion fad that seems to have grown organically out of the country’s tourist spots, where men and women of all ages can be seen rocking the fake plastic plants.

In Nanluoguxiang, an ancient stone lane in Beijing, vendors selling the clips are swarmed by excited tourists, who can’t wait to take selfies with their new accessories.

Yet nobody seems to know where the trend is originated from, according to an informal CNN street survey.

Zhou Delai, a vendor holding a tray full of clips, told CNN the trend started in Beijing about two weeks ago. He says he sells 200 clips every three to four hours.

“I have no idea who initiated the trend,” he said. “I stocked clips because so many people had wore them.”

Zhang sells two clips for less than $1. He said it was a cheap price to pay for joy.

“You only need to spend 5 yuan ($0.79) for fun!”

Zhang Ao, a young man visiting Beijing from central China’s Hubei province, told CNN he just thought it was funny to wear the sprout clip, and didn’t care to know the meaning behind it.

The phenomenon has attracted international participants as well – four Japanese college students happily posed with their newly purchased hair clips, telling CNN they had learned about the fashion trend in Japanese media.

Excited tourists try on hair clips in Nanluoguxiang, a popular tourist spot in Beijing.

“They are so cute,” exclaimed Ayane Maki.

Asked whether she would buy some for her friends back home, she said, “No,” laughing.

“It will be silly to wear them in Japan, because nobody does it there.”

But the trend may actually have origins from that country: Some Chinese Internet users have speculated the idea for the sprouts came from a Japanese emoticon of a sprout coming out of a cute creature’s head.

Another piece of trivia: In Chinese folklore, putting grass into someone’s hair could signify a wish to sell oneself or one’s children due to poverty.

But those who wear the clips don’t seem to be aware of these things.

Meanwhile, millions of the clips are being sold online at even cheaper bulk prices. One bestselling store on Taobao, China’s most popular online shopping platform, has sold more than 1 million clips.

Fast fashion

Gao Xuanyang, a sociologist with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told CNN it’s not surprising that sprout clips and their alternatives have become fast fashion in China.

“People need something fresh to enrich their mundane life,” he said. “Be it a hairclip, a purse or a T-shirt.”

The sprout clips have clearly struck a chord – they are quirky and fun, and might help ease the pressures of modern life, according to Gao.

“The ones who follow the trend don’t really want to know the meaning behind it,” he said. “They only want to show off their hipness by wearing the sprout clips.”

CNN’s Wilfred Chan contributed to this report.