Catherine Zeta-Jones (left) and Sienna Miller (right) are scrunchie fans. Photos: Rex USA

Last week, Catherine Zeta-Jones wore a scrunchie. In public.

I have to admit, I thought scrunchies were just a distant memory of decades past -- one that most of us would like to forget, for that matter. So I expressed the general consensus -- at least at StyleList HQ -- that scrunchies are over.

But then something happened. A great scrunchie debate ensued, as comments from our readers poured in, declaring things like "Who are you to approve or disapprove of scrunchies," "You are so wrong. The scrunchie was the perfect thing to wear," and "She can put her hair up with anything she wants."

How can so many people think that scrunchies are a fashion sin, and others vehemently come to their defense? Did the infamous "Sex and the City" anti-scrunchie episode not settle that debate for good? I decided we had to delve a little deeper into the world of these colorful, fabric-coated ponytail holders and why they're so controversial.

What the heck are they? Where did they come from? And are they or are they not... uncool?

Behold, the scrunchie. Credit: Microzoa, Taxi / Getty Images

Meet Your Maker
First thing's first: All documented data points to Rommy Revson as the inventor. Many sources say Revson first patented the scrunchie as early as 1986, and she later revised it a few times. Demand for the item kept Revson's lawyer, Robert Cinque, pretty busy defending the patent as companies inevitably attempted to knock off the design.

But Revson still attempted to sell the product on her own. A Women's Wear Daily article from 1989 reported that Revson launched her then-called "Scunci" ponytail holders for sale in 1987, and later joined with a company called Riviera to re-launch them as "Rommi" ponytail holders in Spring of '89.

What's In a Name?

Revson's design was eventually mass-produced by hair accessories giant Scunci, now owned by Conair. "We licensed the product from her," explains Scunci spokesperson Laurence Borrione. And as for that funky name, it came from the last thing you'd ever expect: "It was her dog's name, Scunci," Borrione told us.

Now, you're probably still wondering where the term "scrunchie" came from. After all, we know that these ubiquitous accessories gained massive fame, but not many of us recognize "Rommi" or even "Scunci" as their name. So how'd we get to "scrunchie" anyway? There's an easy explanation for that. The products were marketed as damage-free ponytail holders -- The scrunched fabric that surrounded the elastic protected hair from any snagging on metal or elastic parts. So the public simply adapted the name as "scrunchie," and it stuck.

The Fickle World of Fashion
Not to gloss over its success, but we all know what happened next: scrunchies became the go-to hair accessory of their time. Available in a multitude of colors and fabrics, they were simultaneously the most fashionable and hair-friendly accessories on the market. And after a good run in the '80s and early '90s, the scrunchie (like much of that era's fashions) ultimately became passé. As the '90s progressed, the scrunchie was seen less and less in public. Wearing a scrunchie became akin to wearing shoulder pads or tapered jeans -- it just wasn't current anymore.

But luckily for Scunci, changing times in the fashion world weren't the kiss of death for the scrunchie. "Even with a decrease in popularity after its initial era, the scrunchie remained a good seller," Borrione told us. "Nothing is better for not damaging your hair."

Scrunchies Today
The present-day scrunchie fan is simply a woman who cares more about convenience and her hair's health than making a cutting-edge fashion choice. And that's totally understandable. According to Borrione, plenty of additional women also wear scrunchies -- just not in public: "Very often women who would not wear a scrunchie in the street have a bunch of them at home," she says.

But as for whether the scrunchie will actually make a true fashion comeback, I still lean against it. Sure, scrunchies were big in Japan last year, the '80s made a decent (albeit brief) fashion comeback, and a few scattered celebrity scrunchie spottings (Mary Kate Olsen, Sienna Miller, and the aforementioned Catherine Zeta-Jones) made some fashionistas wonder. To me, the fluffy, floral-like pageantry of the scrunchie just seems too dated to ever be truly chic in the future.

And now, for a scrunchie moment of zen: