I got so drunk on White Russians and Bloody Marys that I went to the barbers and had my long hair cut into a short back and sides. I awoke the next morning with no recollection but with an almighty shock! I was in New York and had partied the night before with Paolo Nutini, Kiefer Sutherland and Brian Cox amongst others. I had travelled to the city that never sleeps with my dad to support my sister Hayley at ‘Dressed to Kilt’, a fashion show celebrating Scottish design at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC.
At the time I hadn’t realised it but I was going through a shift, a life change and being a hairdresser for a short five years has taught me that if a women decides to shear her hair, she has decided to shear a whole lot more.
Bobbed hair was first noted in and around 15th century France, when heroine Joan of Arc chopped her hair for practical reasons when preparing for battle between England and France. Although there have been many women thereafter who mimicked the cropped hairstyle, it was ‘The Maid of Orleans’ that heavily influenced French coiffure Antoine de Paris around the early 1900s and the Bob made a legendary comeback that will never disappear from history again.
Antoine de Paris was the world’s first celebrity hairdresser with his salon in the French Capital the choice of the elite, including high society, film stars and royalty. His reincarnation of the Bob was aptly named ‘coupe e la Jeanne D’Arc’ in memory of the honourable Saint. The style was rapidly taken up by fashionable Parisians and inevitably found its way, swimmingly across the English Channel.
Hairdressing post World War One had seen stylists heavily trained, typically in setting and dressing long hair. This new, modern technique saw women adorn the streets, queueing outside barber shops awaiting their long locks to be shorn off instead. The style was favourable amongst the fashion conscious younger generation and in the early 1920s was still seen as risqué and shocking.
The bobbed style was was taken and famed by Louise ‘Lulu’ Brooks, a silent movie actress renowned for her film noir titles as well as her equally noir personal life. Louise fashioned and made increasingly popular the bobbed haircut, a style she had worn since a child through to later life, where she infamously shifted from Hollywood starlet to drug addicted call girl.
During this time discoveries in archaeological terms saw many treasures being shipped to the West from far lands including Egypt. Riches of golds and diamonds, paintings, carvings and statues were found, including those with depictions of Egyptian Queen Cleopatra who brought the hairstyle and heir of wealth and feminine power.
This era found a shift in empowerment surrounding women, fashions included short skirts and bobbed hair and young ladies pursued quick thrills through smoking, drinking and casual sex. The origin and idealism of these provocative girls were seen as being rooted in liberalism and were fondly known as ‘flappers’.
Flappers embodied the triumphs and the dangers of the modern age and their fresh moral conduct played a huge part on our lives today. Seen as impetuous young women of easy virtue, cutting their hair short symbolised an independence and strength equal
to men. ‘Bernice Bobs her Hair’ is a playful short story and inspiration to my blog name, written by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald, a tale of a dull, drab young lady who cuts her hair and is instantly transformed into a seductive vamp. Fitzgerald quotes ‘I was the spark that hit up that flaming youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble’. His wife Zelda was know as the first American flapper.
Colleen Moore, Madame Butterfly
With the start of WWII, many women entered the workforce. The Bob, still prominent, changed shape, growing in length with a softer feel. Women still yearned stylish hair, which stayed off of their face and allowed them to be practical yet fashionable at work. Waistlines and hemlines lowered for a more conservative appeal and women pursued a more ladylike appearance, in contrast to the laborious jobs they undertook daily through manual work in factory production lines.
The post war era that followed found a more glamorous and structured style with progressive volume and height. Bouffant and lacquered, the 1950s Bob symbolised youth and represented the typical teenage look. With the growth of Rock & Roll, and subculture pushing to the forefront, once more the Bob was representative of a distinctive significance in progressive youth rebellion. Varied styles including the page boy and gamine arose and cropped fringes were fashioned, influenced by pin up girls and film stars including Bettie Paige.
The Beat scene and progressional hippie revolution saw youths reject materialism and human conditioning, they explored the use of illegal drugs and experimented in alternative sexual fantasies or desires. Personal grooming was seen as adverse so hair would be outgrown and left in its natural state. Contrary to this, 1963 saw the most radical reincarnation of the Bob since the 20’s when legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon created the five-point Bob and radically changed the technique and fundamentals within the creative hairdressing industry today. Inspired by the art movement Bauhaus, Sassoon based all his revolutionary haircuts on basic geometric shapes, giving women the freedom of an easy to manipulate, fuss free style that few have looked back, even today! Fashion designer Mary Quant and model Twiggy had their tresses groomed by the prolific stylist and the Sassoon Bob was iconic through the swinging sixties.
Since Sassoon the Bob has always been seen as en vogue and many memorable and fabulous bobs have been created and worn. My favourites being:
Velma (Scooby Doo)
and of course my own!
For me, the meaning of having a Bob gives the impression of stature, feminine freedom, notability, strength, seriousness and sexiness.
Long live the VEF and to avoid looking like the Queen, cut a Bob Jean.