Hello Kitty’s signature bow has sparked debate among fans for decades. The cute cartoon cat created by Sanrio in 1974 is recognised globally, but uncertainty remains over which ear her bow sits on. Let’s examine the evidence to solve this mystery once and for all.
The History of Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty was created in 1974 by Yuko Shimizu for the Japanese company Sanrio. The fictional character is a young anthropomorphic white Japanese Bobtail cat with a red bow in her hair. Hello Kitty first appeared on a vinyl coin purse in Japan in 1975 and soon after was applied to a range of products from stationery to clothing. Her simple design and warm personality struck a chord with consumers and by the late 1990s she was a global phenomenon worth over $1 billion a year.
But despite Hello Kitty’s worldwide fame, there has always been uncertainty around which ear her trademark bow should sit on. This hotly contested issue has been the source of debate amongst ardent fans and sorrow for Hello Kitty artists who frequently have to redraw the bow on different merchandise.
Evidence that the Bow is on the Left Ear
When examining official images and artwork sanctioned by Sanrio, the evidence strongly suggests Hello Kitty’s bow is intended to be on her left ear from the viewer’s perspective.
- The majority of officially licensed Hello Kitty products, including toys, clothing, and stationery, depict the bow on the left ear.
- Sanrio’s official Hello Kitty website consistently shows images with a left ear bow.
- The Hello Kitty themed attractions at Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo all use a left ear bow design.
- Older Hello Kitty images from the 1970s and 1980s toy and commercial archives also favor the left ear.
This consistency across decades of official merchandise and references points to the left ear being the intended location of Hello Kitty’s bow when the character was originally designed.
Evidence that the Bow is on the Right Ear
However, the right ear theory still has its proponents and examples that potentially back it up.
- Some officially licensed Hello Kitty products have depicted the bow on the right ear over the years.
- The first Hello Kitty animated series in 1983 showed Hello Kitty with a right ear bow.
- Hello Kitty’s friend Dear Daniel has his ribbon on the opposite ear, suggesting Hello Kitty’s should be on the right.
- It would be anatomically consistent for a right-handed cat to have their bow on the right ear.
While the evidence is more sparse, there are credible examples of Hello Kitty with a right ear bow in official media and merchandise that lend some support to this perspective.
Why the Ambiguity?
This ongoing ambiguity around Hello Kitty’s bow stems back to the early design process in the 1970s. While discussing the development of Hello Kitty, Sanrio founder Shintaro Tsuji explained that Yuko Shimizu, Hello Kitty’s main designer, never specifically designated which ear would have the bow.
For expediency, most early illustrators put the bow on the left by default. But without an established rule, both left and right ear versions persisted in different official images and products over the decades.
Sanrio has avoided firmly canonizing one ear or the other to maintain some of Hello Kitty’s mystique. But the company still regards the left ear bow as the primary official design.
Does Hello Kitty Have an Official Stance?
Sanrio does seem to consider Hello Kitty’s bow on the left ear as the official design, despite the mixed references over the years. A few key pieces of evidence support this:
- In 1999, Sanrio solicited fan input to compile an official Hello Kitty character profile. The final profile described a left ear bow.
- A 2002 biography licensed by Sanrio definitively states a left ear bow as part of her official data.
- When the New York Times asked Sanrio directly about which ear in 2006, their PR team confirmed it was the left.
While they have been open to some ambiguity, when pressed for clarity Sanrio has consistently provided the left ear as the official position.
Examining this long-standing pop culture debate shows that while both perspectives have some merit, the evidence clearly favors Hello Kitty’s bow being on the left ear according to the original character design. Though early inconsistencies in merchandise and media occurred because of ambiguity in the initial design process, Sanrio has clarified the left ear is correct when defining the canonical character.
The right ear bow persists among a minority of products and fan art. But when considering the facts, the iconic Hello Kitty look overwhelmingly points to the left side as the location of her signature bow.