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A flower crown is an ephemeral head dress made from flowers. Flower crowns are associated with femininity and childhood in art. For examples, see "Crown of Flowers" by Adolphe-William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1884) and "Ophelia" by John Waterhouse (1910). Naturally, fan artists enjoy drawing or photoshopping flower crowns on male characters.
Flower crowns have always been around, but in 2013, they became a widespread meme on Tumblr. According to Know Your Meme, this meme started in One Direction fandom in March 2013, was inspired by a 2011 tweet by Harry Styles ("I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair."), and spread to other fandoms by May. Know Your Meme appears to be right about One Direction, but wrong about the tweet.
The earliest posts in the tags flower harry, flower child harry, and flower crown harry date to March 21, 2013, but Tumblr user hearteyesharry's post flower child harry is the best harry: a masterpost identifies fanart posted by mainlyapes on or before March 17 as the source of the meme. Tumblr user lourehs claims to have the honor of creating the first Flower Crown Harry manips; her post was dated March 18, only a day after the art was probably posted. Fanfic inspired by the meme was being posted to the AO3 by March 22.
Although Harry Styles' tweet is incorporated into many flower crown Tumblr posts, there is a two-year gap between the tweet and the start of the meme, leaving open the question "why now?" Tumblr user actualhannibal points to Lana Del Rey and general fashion trends in 2013 as the direct inspiration for the meme. Although actualhannibal was in a different fandom and did not appear to be aware of the meme's origin in 1D, a look at the flower crown Tumblr tag circa March 2013 confirms that Tumblr users were already interested in flower crowns at that time. In fact, there were non-fannish examples of flower crowns photoshopped onto women circulating as early as February 22.
The tweet is actually the title of a 2005 song, I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair), though it is not clear that memers recognized the reference. The song is about nostalgia for both the 60s hippie and 70s punk eras. A few months before the flower crown meme started, 1D fandom had experienced a punk edit meme, and edits pairing Flower Crown Harry with Punk Louis appeared very quickly after the new meme started. Combining the two memes may have happened because punk edits were still in circulation, but it is equally likely that the song title itself, quoted frequently with flower crown posts, encouraged the combination. The Punk/Flower Child link does not appear to have carried over to other fandoms.
Flower crowns became especially popular in the nascent Hannibal fandom, so much so that the showrunners noticed. In July Hugh Dancy wore a flower crown during a San Diego Comic Con panel. In September, NBC ran a contest for fans to submit photos of themselves wearing (real or photoshopped) flower crowns. The first Hannibal flower crown manip to be posted is thought to be i hate everything (except for puppies, I love puppies) by ammapreakers (hettiennes) posted on April 28, 2013. Although the start of the show coinciding with the meme may be the proximate cause of flower crowns taking root in Hannibal, cleolinda speculated that the meme "caught on as the fandom's way of balancing the darkness and tragedy and gore by being silly and light-hearted and imagining Will Graham Having Nice Days". (Oddly, flower crowns may have caught on in 1D for the opposite reason--Flower Crown Harry was consistent with existing fanon and quickly became canon, to the surprise of nobody.)
Although most tumblr memes last for a few days (or a day) and then sink into obscurity, the flower crown meme lasted months and may still be generating new works as of 2015. It inspired fans to give flower crowns to the subjects of the manips that had been posted, and in turn the footage of a Harry Styles or Gerard Way wearing their flower crowns led to other fans creating gifs and art of these moments. Almost any fanart posted on tumblr (or deviantart) since 2013 that features someone wearing a flower crown can be attributed to the influence of this meme.
1980s Zine Art
2013 Tumblr Meme
alleged meme starter; art by mainlyapes requested by anonymous (March 2013)
early Tumblr meme example: flower crown photoshopped onto Harry Styles (March 2013)
later meme example: Frank Iero. The colors in the original photo have been subtly altered to blend with the purple flower crown. (May 2013)
Online flower crown art that wasn't inspired by the tumblr meme:
- XMFC: I love you this much by Claparo-Sans. Chibi watercolor of Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier. (2011)
- MCR: Frerard6 by mcr1983 (2011)
- Yuri!!! on Ice: Characters Victor Nikiforov and Christophe Giacometti canonically wear flower crowns in the anime, as an homage to real-life figure skater Johnny Weir. Fanart of multiple characters wearing flower crowns exists, Victor Nikiforov being the most common motive.
- Boku no Hero Academia: flower crown edits by chibigikochin. Anime characters wearing flower crowns that match their superhero costumes. (2017)
- Harry_Styles. "I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair." 3 Jun 2011, 4:44 PM. Tweet.
- Flower Crowns, Know Your Meme, updated 10 July 2013. (Accessed 23 September 2013)
- mainlyapes's original post was deleted, but this reblog is dated March 17, 2013. happpily's post includes a different piece by mainlyapes as the origin, but this March 20 round-up post shows that mainlyapes had made at least three separate posts with similar art.
- In the tags on a 15 June 2013 post, lourehs writes, can we talk about how i was the first one who made a flower crown edit and then people started throwing flower crowns on stage can we pretend he wouldn't wear them if it wasn't for me can we pretend i changed harry styles' life ok good. untitled Tumblr post by lourehs June 15, 2013, Archived version The original Tumblr post contained four manips and has garnered 3,704 notes as of 20 January 2015. untitled Tumblr post by lourehs March 18, 2013, Archived version
- Pure by eatreadwritesleep, posted 2013-03-22, is probably the first and features Punk Louis/Flower Child Harry.
- actualhannibal. Flower Crowning FAQ, posted to Tumblr on 20 July 2013.
- See this untitled collage by m-odernique, dated February 22, 2013.
- fleurlourry suggested pairing them on March 21, 2013.
- Official NBC Hannibal Tumblr. Fannibal Flowers Sweepstakes!, posted 24 September 2013.
- 10,283 notes as of 17 September 2016. archive link. direct link
- cleolinda. I keep thinking a "pannibal" ought to have something to do with bread, posted to LiveJournal 19 July 2013. Also posted to her tumblr.
- For example, coconutwishes posted digital color illustrations of Zayn Malik (March 31, 2015) and Niall Horan (April 10, 2015) wearing flower crowns
- Hours after Gerard Way's 15 May 2015 concert, lehnshrr posted this gifset. archived reblog.
- For example, see Flower Crown Sauron by sycamoreleaf, posted to devianart on 3 October 2013. Artist's note: "Thanks to tumblr I’ve seen every a-hole of a character wear a flower crown, except for the biggest a-hole of them all. So here you go Sauron, have some herbs in your locks!"
- Interview with Johnny Weir, posted December 15, 2016.
- Crunchyroll YouTube interview with Johnny Weir, reference to flower crowns at 1:20. Posted February 6 2017.