You’d think by now, cynical as we are, that we might have grown out of unicorns. That we’d be clued-up enough on wild ass to plonk the notion of a horned horse into a box marked ‘Old Stuff’ and forget about it along with our theories of Minotaurs and dragons. Well, if you really want to know how that’s going take a quick look in your local stationers or a supermarket: you’ll see shed-loads of the things.
You’ll also find a floaty tonne of unicorn groups on Facebook (one with 60k members) and over 7 million Uni-posts on Instagram. On eBay, you’ll find unicorn hair, unicorn horns, unicorn-themed nails, body gel and unicorn clothing, and at Starbucks, you may still be able to order a Unicorn Frappuccino. Oh, and Lalie Swan Khun Chai does a great impression of one on his Facebook page.
Unicorns are trending… still. More so than a year ago and way more than a century ago…good lord, we’re probably talking about them more now than we did in the Middle Ages. You’ll see pictures of unicorns on children’s TV, at Gay Pride marches, and on Birthday cakes. In a country where half of us don’t believe in God (The Guardian, 2017) that sort of amity is borderline devotional.
Do they exist? The ancient Greeks swore their countryside was full of them, but they never caught one. In medieval times in order to snag one you needed the help of a special kind of virtuous girl – a Joe with a bow and arrow would not do. And there was once sold unicorn’s horn juice (said to have had the power to purify water and cure ails), but it was actually made from the tusks of narwhals.
The fact that they probably aren’t real hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm though. And, perhaps, if there was a stuffed unicorn in the Natural History Museum we wouldn’t be half as into them as we are now. Their elusiveness and mystery seem to give them maximum 21st Century appeal.
Starbucks wasn’t the only place to make the most of the trend. According to an article in The Guardian in 2017, ‘Topshop has unicorn headbands, pyjamas, and nail polish. Asos’s top sellers are slippers. At H&M you can buy a T-shirt for the Unicorn Fan Club.’ There are also some terrific Unicorn Slippers on sale right now at I Want One of Those.
Maybe unicorns are still a hot topic because they’re sacred, unreachable and good-looking. Let’s face it, to be a thing of unobtainable beauty is one almighty knack. Then again maybe to love unicorns the way we do feels right at the moment with everything going on in the world. After all, they have always been a symbol of hope. Victorians had vampires, post-war kids had aliens and we have unicorns.
It’s a bit of a shame that most unicorns these days are covered in pink and sky-blue stripes and glitter. That look makes it hard for everyone to love them, especially boys (wasn’t there a recent schlep towards making everything gender un-specific?). But for those of us who love the essence of the unicorn that sort of thing doesn’t matter too much.
Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll find one and discover for ourselves what all the fuss was about; then we can stuff it and put it in the Natural History Museum.