One of the sweetest hidden details featured throughout all three seasons of Netflix’s Stranger Things is the gift that Jim Hopper (David Harbour) passes down to his adopted daughter, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): a blue hair tie that she wears as a bracelet. The gift, which is given to Eleven off-screen within season 2, has a major sentimental value to Hopper since it once belonged to his biological daughter Sara (Elle Graham), who died from cancer when she was only seven years old.
In the season 1 episode “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down,” Sara’s hairband is first introduced during a flashback from Hopper’s past, which is revisited as Hopper helps Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) search the Upside Down for her son, Will (Noah Schnapp). In the flashback, Hopper plays with Sara in the park sometime before she was diagnosed with cancer, and she’s wearing two blue hair ties in her hair. When Sara can no longer wear the hair tie after her head is shaved to undergo chemotherapy, Hopper wears one of the blue hairbands on his wrist during a later flashback as he reads Anne of Green Gables to his daughter in the hospital. While the blue hairband is never directly addressed within the series, it becomes a keepsake that Hopper wears to remember his deceased daughter by all throughout seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things before passing it on to Eleven.
While Hopper is first shown wearing the bracelet in his first scene when he wakes up in his trailer home, it's also visible in the episode “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” when he calls his ex-wife to talk about Sara. Within season 2, the next time the bracelet is shown onscreen is when Hopper tries to make peace with Eleven after their fight in the episode “Chapter Four: Will the Wise.” While the bracelet brings Hopper comfort, it’s also a reminder of his guilt over how he couldn’t save Sara from her illness. Since the bracelet is present for the scenes in which Hopper attempts to be a father figure to Eleven, the bracelet represents Eleven’s progression into his adopted daughter and Hopper’s fear that he’ll fail her as he believes he failed Sara.
In Stranger Things seasons 2 and 3, the bracelet is visible in many scenes that are milestones in Hopper and Eleven’s relationship as father and daughter. In “Will the Wise,” Hopper touches the bracelet as he’s deciding to handle their first fight with either tough-love or compassion, and eventually opts for the former. In “Chapter Six: The Spy,” the bracelet is seen on Hopper's wrist as he calls Eleven on the radio and apologizes for real. After Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser) forges a birth certificate which makes Eleven Hopper's legal daughter, Hopper gifts Eleven the bracelet, which she then wears to the Snow Ball. Since Eleven wears the bracelet all throughout season 3, the same theme continues since the bracelet is present when Hopper struggles to accept Eleven’s first romantic relationship, when Hopper delivers a lecture that is just shy of being “the talk,” and during their last scene together before Hopper allegedly dies in the season 3 finale.
While the bracelet signifies Eleven and Hopper’s father-daughter relationship, the hair tie also matches Eleven’s character arc throughout Stranger Things, since she was always given hand-me-down clothing by the people who sheltered her after she escaped from Hawkins Lab. The trend first occurred in “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers” when Benny Hammond (Chris Sullivan) lends her a t-shirt to replace her hospital gown. As Eleven hops from living in Mike’s basement in season 1 to Hopper’s cabin in season 2, she borrows clothing, including Nancy’s pink dress, Hopper’s overalls and flannel, and Kali’s (Linnea Berthelsen) '80s punk rock style; she even adopts a bit of their identities along with their clothing. Similarly, Eleven adopts a bit of Sara’s identity as Hopper’s daughter when she’s given Sara’s hair tie. However, it’s also the one item of hand-me-down clothing that Eleven consistently wears even after Max (Sadie Sink) teaches her about finding her own style, which shows that this borrowed identity finally suits her.