TIGI Fuse looks at this on-trend haircut and its underlying links to historical, political and economic changes; as well as the ongoing rise of ‘girl-power’.
Nowadays the word ‘empowerment’ has become symbolic with women’s rights, but this evolving movement has been bubbling up since the women first won their political and social freedom during the “roaring twenties”. Then, with an increased number of women in work, it was the first time they had financial freedom, so it’s no surprise that during the 1920s both fashion and hair styles demonstrated women’s emancipation. And, it was during this decade The Bob became widely popular, having first been worn some 10 years earlier by a forward thinking few, mainly sportswomen and dancers.
It has been suggested that perhaps even the name ‘Bob” is a reference to the androgyny of the cut itself and certainly there was a move towards androgynous fashions during the decade. In the early ‘20s The Bob was often ‘Marcel-waved,’ or permed, but in the latter years, the shape became more severe, as famously worn by the Jazz Age icon, actress Louise Brooks. In two renowned silent movies, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, the characters Brooks’ played were rebellious, seductive and showed sexuality, leading to The Bob being linked to freedom and sensuality with heightened appeal to young female movie-goers.
The Bob next ‘reared its head’ in the ‘Swinging 60s’ along with short hemlines and The Pill, both significant in their own way in showing the rebelliousness and freedom of women. From the short cuts worn by fashion designer Mary Quant and model Twiggy, to the legendary Five-Point Cut created by Vidal Sassoon, The Bob showed the power of ‘youthfulness’, a concept not enjoyed by previous generations. The 60s was a decade of change in social norms with the emergence of new music genres, drug-taking, sexual freedom, Mods, political and student uprisings; a time of revolution and evolution, and The Bob became synonymous with youthfulness and fierceness.
In the 70s with the evolution of Hippy culture, The Bob tended to be worn longer in a style originally referred to as a Pageboy, often with a rounded fringe. A shorter version was called The Purdey after a character actress Joanna Lumley played in the New Avengers. This iconic cut was again about androgyny and empowerment, inspired by the preppy cuts often worn by schoolboys. Nowadays these evolutions of the original Bob would be called the Lob and Bowl cut.
The 80s saw Supermodel Linda Evangelista (famous for stating she “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000”) standing out from her fellow supermodels with a short bob that evolved in colour from black to light blonde to bright red. Cut by Julien D’Ys it was the turning point of her career, quadrupling her daily rate!
The next decade saw women begining to gain real power (or so they thought.) And, with the padded shoulders that came with the trend for ‘power dressing’ the sleek, shiny Bob re-emerged as a trend-led hairstyle. From Posh Spice, aka Victoria Beckham, to Courtney Love and Winona Ryder, during the 90s successful women began symbolising a new rebelliousness and a shiny or textured bob was a stamp of their power.
Move on 100 years from the evolution of the Louise Brooks Bob and The Bob is once again on-trend. The question is, is this once again linked to our society? We are living in an ever faster-changing world, threatened by destruction from many quarters, politically changing, surrounded by new technology and ever emerging trends. Women themselves are fighting hard for equal opportunities and equal pay, making their ambitions heard at the highest level.
So, does the return of The Bob symbolise success? Or has this always been the case? Certainly there is one highly fashionable and mega-successful woman whose power has gone undiminished for decades, who survives in a man’s world, whose Bob is part of her very ‘self’ and is always perfect. Who are we talking about? Why Anna Wintour of course.
Looking for Bob inspiration for your clients? We are crushing on the latest hair looks seen on Irina Shayk, Hailey Bieber, Emilia Clarke, Dua Lipa, Ashley Graham, Demi Lovato and Jessica Alba to name just a few!
Perfect your Bob techniques on a Modern Classics Cutting course near you.