Eleven-year-old me is in a state of disbelief, because Claire’s Accessories, that mecca of hair bobbles, earrings and unnecessary feather boas, is reported to be considering closing some of its UK stores due to mounting debt. My tweenage heart is broken.
For a generation of girls, Claire’s was the place we made our first tentative foray into womanhood. We were so done with Beanie Babies, we wanted jewellery and make-up, and Claire’s had our back. And crucially, our parents also knew the shop would help us explore this alien new world, without pushing us head first down the rabbit hole.
Having an older sister, I was well-versed in the magical land of Claire’s before I was allowed to venture to our local store alone with friends in year 7. Under strict instructions from my mum not to get my ears pierced in a shop window, I confidently led the pack from our hometown of Cheshunt on the 310 bus to Waltham Cross. The journey was exciting, but the end destination was everything.
Claire’s had something for everyone: from the black and white chequered sweatbands guaranteed to make you look like Avril Lavigne to butterfly clips and bright hair scrunchies in every colour you could possibly imagine.
And let’s not forget the 10 pairs of earrings for £2.50.
The beauty of Claire’s was its innocence; styles were modelled by teenage girls only a couple of years older than us, smiling down from posters and wearing mismatched Etam-esque outfits not so dissimilar from ours. The stores did stock some hen party sashes and a few halloween accessories on the saucier side, but these were never front and centre. Claire’s knew its key market was eager-eyed girls feeling flush with their £5 pocket money, and we loved the shop for it.
Some on Twitter have pointed out the potential demise of the store may be down to girls “skipping the Claire’s stage and jumping straight to adult makeup” and it saddens me to think this probably is the case.
Today’s tweens do not need to rely on a shop assistant, their big sister or (God forbid), their mum to offer them hair and beauty tips. They have instant access to thousands of tutorials at the touch of a button – and you can bet 28-year-old Zoella isn’t demonstrating how to apply a £1.75 lemonade-flavoured sparkly lip gloss.
But for me and my gang, Claire’s was more than a shop; the rows and rows of affordable accessories enabled tweens and teens to explore who they wanted to be in a safe space, in a time we didn’t have to worry about what we looked like on Instagram or Snapchat. Only time will tell whether this latest announcement means the death of Claire’s Accessories, but whatever happens, I hope today’s teens find the same way to express themselves.