Are wired headphones cool again?


Of all the things to cause such a ruckus on the internet in 2021, few would have predicted that the list would be topped by wired headphones.

And yet, here we are: entering into the depth of autumn and contemplating whether it’s too early to switch on our heating – and if we need to forgo our AirPods for a more tangled, and apparently outdated, alternative.

Despite only having been around since 2016, AirPods – wireless earbuds created by Apple – have been usurped by their older counterpart. At least, that’s what the Gen-Z TikTok community seems to think.

Last week, a TikTok video of a young woman who goes by @thedigifairy talking about wired headphones went viral.

In the clip, the woman describes wired headphones as a “vintage accessory” and points to celebrities who have been sporting the so-called trend, including Bella Hadid, Lily-Rose Depp and Zoe Kravitz, all of whom appear to have traded slick wireless headphones for bulkier counterparts – or perhaps they just lost their AirPods.

To make her case, the TikToker cites various tweets from people who have made the switch, including one who wrote: “Today I traded out my AirPods for my old wired headphones to give myself a Lily-Rose Depp look while walking around campus.”

Explaining the reasoning behind the switch, @thedigifairy explained that she believes wearing wired headphone “assures the aesthetic of listening to music” pointing to 2010s “Tumblr culture”, when people would upload photos of albums they were listening to alongside a pair of headphones as a stamp of approval.

While photographs of other celebrities wearing wired headphones, including Kristen Stewart, flashed up on the screen, @thedigifairy said: “We also love when celebrities act like humble peasants.”

She added: “Wearing wired headphones says, ‘I prefer the simple things in life. I can’t be bothered to keep up with technology and, like, iPads.”

To date, the video has had more than 250,000 likes and received thousands of comments from people offering their thoughts on the rise of wired headphones – and asking whether a trend can even be considered as such when it relies on its participants to be wealthy enough not just to own AirPods (which cost £159) but to put them to one side in favour of another, arguably less efficient, product.

Many people argued that the concept was inherently offensive, with one person writing: “You guys don’t understand the fascination rich kids have with looking poor. They think it adds some type of character that they lack.”

Another teased: “Being broke is an aesthetic”.

Others pointed to the litany of controversial products launched by designer labels that have been made to look as if they’ve been well-worn, or muddied, such as these £615 trainers by Gucci, and these £390 trainers from Italian shoe brand Golden Goose, which looked as if they’d been taped-up with duct tape.

It’s not the first time that people have discussed the subject of trading AirPods for wired headphones with such contention.

In 2019, an article on Vogue by Liana Satenstein about the subject went viral. Titled “Forget AirPods—Bella Hadid Is Bringing Back the Humble Wired Headphone”, the piece was derided as many people pointed out they hadn’t ever stopped using wired headphones, nor could they afford to do so.

In light of the viral TikTok video, the writer of that article published another piece for the fashion magazine explaining that she personally couldn’t justify spending the money on AirPods given that she “misplaces things so often” and was afraid of losing them.

“I felt vindicated when I saw Hadid strutting around in 2019 with those $19.99 white EarPods dangling freely,” she explained.

“This is a woman who could buy a million AirPods if she chose. Her choice seemed to say, ‘I’m above the tech hype!’ Being unbothered is a true luxury.”

Whether you agree with Satenstein or not, there are certainly many people out there who are trying to make wired headphones a thing.

There’s even an Instagram account for it – @wireditgirls, which was launched in the wake of the original Vogue article.

To date, it has 722 followers and 28 posts showcasing the likes of Hadid, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jake Gyllenhaal sporting various wired headphones.

The account bio reads: “Hot girls with wired headphones”, describing them as “the practical trendsetters”. But are they? When the idea of a trend relies on the fact that many people are subscribing to it, does it really count when we’re talking about a minority of people who can afford to let their AirPods go to waste for the sake of an aesthetic?

And of course, to reiterate the comments made in 2019, for those who have never been able purchase AirPods (and still can’t), wired headphones never fell out of fashion.

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