Crimson Reflections

Because sometimes the world is too complex for black and white
Lolita Fashion History

The Curious Case of the Term “Headbow”

Have you ever noticed that listings on Lolibrary are fairly consistent in what they call things? Head Bows are Head Bows. JSKs are JSKs. OPs are OPs. But some of that comes from a sort of internal style book, and the work of dedicated lolibrarians. (shout out to asternoon who retroactively normalized a lot of stuff!)

The brands themselves however, are less consistent. Headbow is one of those things that has major consistency issues in English. Specifically “Head Bow” vs “Headbow” vs “Alice Band” vs “Alice bow”.

In Japanese? It’s pretty standard: カチューシャ. But “Kachūsha” (KC for short) isn’t an English loan word, or even remotely close to it (it comes from the Russian name ‘Катю́ша’), and the most direct translation of it is “Headband”.

So then how did we get from a headband named after a Russian opera character to “Headbow”? Let’s look at a timeline:

2003

Metamorphose English Site stylizes Head Dress as two words

2004

Metamorphose English Site uses the term “Alice Band

Metamorphose English Site stylizes Headdress as one word

Metamorphose English Site classifies a headbow on a ribbon as a “Ribbon Headdress

2006

EGL Search Terms stylize “Head Dress” as two words

Someone makes a comment joking about large bows eating their head

Lolita Handbook uses the term “Alice Bow

2007

Angelic Pretty English Site Opens

Daily Lolita is Established

EGL-Comm-Sales is Established

Head-Eating Bow is used as if it’s a common term people will know.

2008

Angelic Pretty English site uses “Ribbon Alice Band” for headbows.

Angelic Pretty English Site stylizes “Head Dress” as two words.

First English GLB is published

Sweet Rococo Opens, using the term “Bow Headband

Bodyline starts offering an English Language version of their overseas site (they use the term katyusha)

2009

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright opens in SF, USA

Tokyo Rebel opens in NYC, USA

English GLB 4 uses the term “head bow” in descriptive text, but translates item names into “headband” or “ribbon headband”

2010

Angelic Pretty USA Opens

Innocent World English Site opens stylizes “Head Bow” as two words (but “Headdress” is stylized as one word)

Baby SF primarily uses “Headbow

Lolibrary Opens

Hellolace Opens

2011

Angelic Pretty USA uses “Alice Band” in their release announcements and webshop.

Angelic Pretty USA stylizes “Headdress” as one word.

Hellolace uses “Headbow” and “Headdress” stylized as one word.

2013

Angelic Pretty USA switches to “Headbow

2014

Lolibrary normalizes a mix of items stylized as “Head Bow” and “Headbow” to “Head Bow”

Lace Market Opens using the category “Headbands and bows”

???

Sometime after 2014, Metamorphose switches to using “Head Bow“.

Based on this, one would assume that Head Bow started getting used in 2010, right?

Surprisingly, based on a search of threads on EGL that mention different headwear by year, it looks like Headbow came into use in 2006 while Head Bow as two words first shows up in 2005. It doesn’t surpass Alice Bow in usage until 2007.

In other words, it looks like the western community may have just… invented their own name for カチューシャ, and, based on what I can find? It looks like it could have come out of the joke/meme of Head-Eating Bows.

I can’t find any real influential source from that time period that explains it, in fact, it looks like every influential source specifically doesn’t use the term headbow. If you know of one, please comment, I’d be really interested in learning more.

I thought about repeating the same data collection on egl-comm-sales, but just a tiny bit of spot checking seems to show a similar preference for Headbow over Alice Bow as we see on EGL for 2007, and, since that was the year it was founded, we can’t really go back and get earlier data.

And headbow definitely seems to still be the champ. If we hop over to Lace Market, and do a search on current and past listings, we can see a definite preference for Headbow, though interestingly, KC seems to have a surprising level of popularity.

Lace Market Usage (2014-2020)
Total Listings172122%
Alice Band500.03
Alice Bow2840.16
Headbow59903.48
Head Bow13170.77
Headband10990.64
Headdress23081.34
Head Dress1240.07
katyusha150.01
KC16580.96

Bonus Graph: Total EGL Posts By Year

I had to calculate this to make one of the other graphs, and I figured it would be interesting to some people. Part of why the peak is back farther than I think most people would expect is that earlier EGL seems to have been significantly less formal (think old school chit-chat forum) where as aging EGL got to be significantly more formal, and people tended to put a bit more thought into posting. Sub-groups like Comm-Sales and Daily Lolita also removed some posts from the main group.

What are your theories? Where did Headbow come from? And what is your preference for headbow and headdress? With or without a space?

Full Data (Including an accessible text version of all of the chart/graph graphics)

3 comments on “The Curious Case of the Term “Headbow”

  1. I love your research posts. Whilst I am a little surprised that the community sort of invented a term, I’m not surprised that headbow/head bow is what became the most prevalent now. After all, it’s the most obvious and self explanatory, even someone who’s never seen a lolita coordinate would get a fairly accurate picture of what it describes – a bow on one’s head. Alice Bow or Alice Band might sort of convey that, but it relies on people making the connection to Alice in Wonderland and remembering what she had on her head, whereas headdress functions in other fashions too and denote almost anything.

    As for the comment on prevalence of KC on Lacemarket – I think that’s mostly because Lacemarket is used by users all over the world. There are a fair few sellers in Asia, as well as simply those who don’t speak English as their first language. Together with stricter character limits on listing titles, people can prioritise getting the item series name or maybe KC/katyusha is a more prevalent term in their area/language. Or both. EGL, although also popular worldwide, attracted predominantly people from English-speaking regions, maybe especially in those earlier days, which I think would’ve been quite influential in the creation and use of those terms. It’s possible that by the time lolita grew more popular worldwide and people from communities in non-English speaking countries found EGL, the term ‘headbow/head bow’ was already established as the one to use within the community, furthering its spread in popularity. But that’s just a theory, I haven’t been on EGL from its early days so can’t comment based on lived experience.

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