Claw clips done the Copenhagen way. Photo / Getty Images

When I was six-years-old, I owned a collection of little butterfly-shaped, glitter-coloured claw clips that landed in my blonde ponytail-styled hair until I was nine.  

My mum owned elegant claw clips, coloured glossy black and tortoiseshell print. They swept up her brown curly strands. She wore the clip in the 1990s when it was in vogue; when it was a staple accessory in Rachel Green’s hair.

This universal woman’s hair accessory, however, was actually born in the mind of a man; Frenchman Christian Potut. It had humble beginnings in Potut’s workshop in the village of Oyonnax in the French Alps. 

Potut had left school at 14 with no qualifications. But he loved making things and so by the late 1980s – the years of big hair – he had a factory making combs and clips. A lightbulb moment later, Potut created a combination of the two, resulting in – the claw clip. 

The claw clip took flight around the globe, alighting in New Zealand. 

The writer wearing a mint green claw clip, looking out over Bilbao, Spain. Photo / Supplied

And so, when I was 15-years-old, puking into a toilet bowl at my first highschool party, with Lorde’s Royals booming in the background, a friend clipped back my hair. Just like that, the claw clip was back in my life as a symbol of friendship. 

One day a few summers ago, when I was 23-years-old, I was feeling self-conscious about my soggy strands of sea-soaked hair, exfoliated dry with salt and sand. My friend lent me her aqua-blue glitter clip to hold the beach waves back. Keep it, she said.

Paying it forward, at age 24, I gave a white claw clip to a French traveller I met on a small island at the end of Japan. She used it to hold her silky smooth milk chocolate hair away from homesick tears. 

The love of the claw clip spans countries, hair types and hair lengths. I’ll never leave the house without one: clipped to either hair or handbag. 

In both Japan and New Zealand, you’ll find cutesy stores with rainbow piles of claw clips ranging in size from miniature butterfly clips that hold back single strands to extra large claws that hold up messy buns. There are clips shaped like flowers, and dogs and hot dogs. Bright, bold and vibrant. Leopard print. Simple, elegant, minimal. This accessory is cheap and cheerful. 

A mint green, a pastel pink. Two clips that travelled with me through Europe. An essential hair-saver after dancing for hours under the sun in Albania, hair swinging sweaty to drum and bass beats, now thankfully clipped back. Days spent under the sun, wandering around cobblestone streets, hair sticking to the back of my neck. With one twist and a clip and I’d still feel cute. 

Samantha in one of her many beloved claw clips, on a train from Niigata to Joetsu and Disneyland, Tokyo. Photos / Supplied

How you style your claw clip means you can exude a different shade of you; the bohemian girl who’s just tumbled out of the sea and onto the beach, who twirls around the streets of Greece (or Auckland) like Donna from Mamma Mia. Or holding slicked back hair, ready to boost at spin class. It creates the illusion of an accidentally perfect look. 

Over the last few years, the clip has clawed its way back into our hair reminding us it’s the essential all-season accessory. During Covid years, when we all hadn’t visited a saloon in months, the claw clip came to the rescue; too-long fringes falling out to frame our face effortlessly.

When I was 25-years-old, my boyfriend stood on my pastel pink claw clip. On a shopping list, in his sweet handwritten font, he’d noted to buy me a new one. This new one was shaped like a blooming blue butterfly. I accidentally broke it six months later, while watching a historical novella of Napoleon’s life. Relaxing back into the cinema chair, I felt it crack into the cushion. 

Walking down Wellington’s Courtenay Place last month, I popped into the Welly Collective. Near the back of the shop, there were five baskets rainbow-full of claw clips. I found my next claw clip. This one was emerald green and it’s shaped like a daisy. 

I’m too clumsy though and so my latest claw clip purchase has taken me full circle. Writing this, hair swept back with a tortoiseshell claw clip, just like my Mum’s.

SHOP:

Chunks butterfly claw clip, $40

Ruby flower claw clip, $25

Brooklyn Opetaia x Buttermilk metal claw clip, $35

Sophie tortoiseshell claw clip, $42

Chunks blue and brown claw clip, $30

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