- No. 1. The damage factor: the need to cut off long hair that’s been weakened by years of extensions
- No. 2. The renegade factor: The bob’s progressive, in-your-face sass is alluring to progressives. It’s got #MeToo credentials.
- No. 3. The Batsheva factor: The bob is the perfect contrasting accompaniment to the boho-prairie look that’s flourishing lately. It offsets the flounces and ruffles with needed current context.
- No. 4. The artlessness factor: This blunt cut speaks eloquently, as no other hairstyle can, to today’s drive for authenticity.
Among the few notable things about this year’s Golden Globes was that so many women dispensed with long curling-ironed hair or chignons or whatever other frippery and just chopped it.
This major bob moment comes exactly 100 years after an avalanche of women — 20,000 per week, according to the Women’s Improvement League — scandalized the world by cutting off their waist-long, painstakingly coiffed Gibson girl dos.
They chose instead an ear-grazing crop cut that until then had been worn only by willful, freethinking renegades — Bolsheviks, the Bloomsbury set, up-and-coming Coco Chanel, Greenwich Village radicals, fashion-forward ballroom dancer Irene Castle, who catapulted the bob into the American mainstream.
As if on cue at the start of 2019, this cheeky haircut has resumed its role as a take-no-prisoners rebuke to those long tresses, cascading below the shoulders, that have dominated the opening decades of the 21st century.
American women want to be beautiful, European woman want to be stylish. In fact, according to Wendy Iles, a stylist in Paris whose clients have included Marion Cotillard and Léa Sedoux, “the bob defines Frenchwomen’s hairstyles.”
It’s quite a statement to have a bob - you’re either drawn to the bob or you’re intimidated by it, but you own it.
For decades, this abbreviated haircut has been essentially owned by two of the most important figures in the fashion world: Anna Wintour and Rei Kawakubo. But they have been joined of late by Rihanna, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift, Sandra Bullock and Taraji P. Henson. When Gabrielle Union cut hers last spring, Allure documented the occasion.
What Makes a Bob?
The style is defined by its blunt edge, often angled longer in front, reaching somewhere between the earlobe and the collarbone. A versatile cut, it runs the gamut from the rigidly geometric Vidal Sassoon-esque structured ‘60s bob to the contemporary textured bob, the asymmetrical bob and what Tran called “the disheveled, undone, unkempt, whimsical French bob.”
There’s a bob for everyone and it suits all ages. If you see an older woman walk into a room wearing a short, chopped, graphic bob — already she’s won your confidence.
There are several compelling reasons for the sudden bob surge:
The bob appeals to those who want to “look like they’re not living by the usual standards, whose message is, ‘I’m not trying too hard,” said Holli Smith, who does hairstyles for the Balenciaga runway shows.
For those attracted to the bob’s bluntness but lacking the nerve to go jaw-length short, as well as for the multitudes who insist on keeping at least a rudimentary ponytail (even a stump), there’s a shoulder-length variant, popular for several seasons now.
Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Mila Kunis, Megan Fox, Kim Kardashian and models Alexa Chung and Emily Ratajkowski have all been seen with lobs.
A lob falls to the collarbone, which is definitely below the shoulders! A bob, any bob, has to hit above the shoulders. It’s the space between the shoulders and the jaw that lets the bob look sharp and cool.
Making a course correction, the latest bob permutation is the mini-bob, so ultra short that Tran called it “the ear bob.” Already it has been spotted on the aptly named Emily Blunt, models Hailey Bieber and Taylor LaShae, and thousands of civilians on Instagram. (Just keep in mind that this bob needs trimming every six to eight weeks, at most.)
What About Colour?
Colour plays a major role in how a bob looks, many stylists welcome bold special effects on this hairdo: graduated colour, for instance, and a technique known as slicing, which involves lightening full slices of hair rather than using the standard weaving technique in highlighting.
The use of colour can make a bob look fabulous and fierce.