Forget Coachella making them seek like they’re a new thing, flower crowns have been around for hundreds of years. From Frida Kahlo to Elizabeth Taylor, from the first Olympic winners to Lana Del Rey, wearing flowers in a crown has always been popular. They’ve been adopted differently across history and across cultures, but here’s just a few to give you more street cred at the next music festival you see them at.
Flower crowns were popular in Ancient Greece – they were mainly used at special occasions to honour the gods. Different flowers were attributed to different gods, for example: laurels for Apollo, myrtle to Aphrodite and oak for Zeus. Laurel wreaths were a symbol of victory and honour and were given to people of scholarly excellence. Hence the name ‘laureate’…(a side note: can you imagine Nobel Prize laureates wearing flower crowns as they accepted their awards?). Olive wreaths were also given at Olympic Games to crown the winners and even featured on the 2016 Rio Olympics medal design.
Known as vinok in traditional Ukrainian culture, these were worn by girls and to-be-married women and would symbolise purity and womanhood. As part of their tradition, the girls would float their wreaths in the water with candles. They believed that the direction the wreath would flow would predict who they’d marry. If it didn’t move, she wouldn’t be married, if it capsized, she would die, and if the candle went out, she’d face troubles. They’re usually made of myrtle, and the flowers used symbolise different wishes – roses for love, lillies for innocence – and were adorned with colourful ribbons that also symbolised different wishes for marriage. They’ve even made a comeback since the 2014 revolution, as more people use them as a form of expression and empowerment.
Not exactly a crown in the traditional sense, but they’re so beautiful and creative that they need a mention. Indian women wearing flowers threaded through hair is pretty common in the country. Flowers symbolise luck, happiness, prosperity, beauty and love. Women wear them on a day-to-day basis, and the more extravagant ones are picturesque at weddings.
After they died out for a bit (aside from a brief resurgence in the Renaissance) Queen Victoria brought them back to popularity again. At her wedding to Prince Albert, she wore a crown of orange blossoms in her hair, which was a symbol of chastity. The Victorian era was also famous for the rise in floriography – the language of flowers – where people attributed certain meanings to them in art, literature, letters and the like.
The explosion of hippie culture in the 60s saw flowers everywhere – where people wore flower crowns to symbolise peace, love, and identity. They dotted protests, and society began to refer to hippies as ‘flower children’. John Phillips even wrote the song ‘San Francisco (Be sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair’ as homage to them.
If you can go to a music festival today without seeing a flower crown sitting on someone’s locks, I’ll applaud you. They’re everywhere – in music videos, high fashion magazines, the runway, weddings, birthday parties, etsy. I unashamedly own two. They’re pretty, and mostly harmless (unless the larger ones are obstructing your view at a festival), and if history has any indication, I think they’re here to stay.