In American culture, the most controversial hair fashion began in the the 1920s. At the center of this historical great debate in hair fashion is the hairstyle famously known as “the bob”. This haircut was first introduced during the Great War and would go on to define and revolutionise women's haircut forever.
In 1915, there was a castle named “Castle Bob”. It was named after a celebrated famous ballroom dancer called Irene Bob. At the time, she styled her hair with a blunt cut that was level with the bottom of her ears around her head for convenience. Little did she expect that she would forever be associated with a revolution in 20th-century hair fashion with the rise of the famous hairstyle “the bob”. This was the first trigger that eventually led to the short hair trend.
“The bob” was worn either with bangs or with the hair brushed off the forehead. It was a very simple look but a very different one from the traditional long feminine looks created by Gibson and Marcel. It was commonly known that when a woman had her hair cut short, she grew bolder and began to become more rebellious in what she wear and do. The free-spirited youth at that time readily accept the new look as something fresh and bold which coincides with the major change in societal norms and values during the 1920s. On May 1, 1920, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” was published in the Saturday Evening Post. It was about the heroics of a young woman who submit to the barber’s shears and transform into a smooth-talking vamp. Many young women at that time regarded her as a role model and wanted to be like her.
Fashion & media
By 1921, the fashion and media industry began to take notice of this new hairstyle. They began to embrace “the bob” with fashion designer “Coco” Chanel and actresses Clara Bow and Louise Brooks leading the way as example. Soon, young women everywhere took the plunge and began bobbing their hair.
Trends and fears
Women of all ages began to soon find themselves having to face the decision on whether to follow the trend and bob their hair or remain with long hair. Many women were afraid that the long hair would quickly become popular again after they bobbed their hair. Many professional hair publications also predicted an immediate return to long hair.
It is hard to imagine but at that time, cutting-of-hair was still a male-dominated occupation. Long-lines of women were standing patiently outside barbershops waiting for their turn to be bobbed. At first, professional hairdressers refused to accept “the bob”. However, after losing many clients and profits to barbers, many hairdressers were slowly being forced into accepting “the bob”. With the participation of the hairdressers, more sophisticated versions of “the bob” were introduced with waved or shingled styles.
There are many controversies surrounding “the bob”. In New Jersey, a teacher was ordered by her Board of Education to let her hair grow. Preachers warned that “a bobbed woman is a disgraced woman.” There are even men who divorced their wives over bobbed hair. One large department store also fired all employees wearing bobbed hair.
Rise of Beauty Industry
As difficult as it is to imagine, the bobbed hair fashion started or at least boosted the start of the beauty industry. From 5,000 to 21,000 hairdressing shops in 5 years, the beauty industry boomed. Bobbing also has led to the adoption of other aids to personal adornment, resulting in flourishing beauty shops everywhere.