Ageless, easy to care for and flattering, the bob hairstyle is back

  • By Adrienne Johnson Martin The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
  • Thursday, March 27, 2014 4:39pm
  • Life

It’s a simple look with a lingering hint of rebellion.

The bob — that century-old, typically jawline-length haircut — is surging again.

You can see it in celebrity circles. Golden-tressed Taylor Swift is a recent convert; Katy Perry followed suit, her version adding classic bangs; singer Brandy posted Instagram images debuting her asymmetrical version for an Oscars-related event.

And when the Queen Bey — Beyonce — opened the Grammys recently, her sexy lingerie was paired with a wet-look parted bob that exposed dark roots.

The stars’ different approaches to bob-dom highlight its versatility.

James Akers, owner of Durham, N.C.’s Do or Dye salon, says that’s the reason he’s gotten more requests recently for the cut. “It goes across ages, and it’s pretty easy to take care of,” he said. “And it’s flattering on all face shapes.”

When the bob first appeared in the late 1910s and early 1920s, it challenged the era’s notions of femininity. “To have long hair was to signal your delicacy, your sexuality, and your elegance and refinement, all of the traditional attributes associated with femininity at the time,” said Anya Kurennaya, an adjunct faculty member at Parsons The New School for Design in New York.

“Cutting one’s hair meant rejecting that traditional femininity, because it decreased the visible difference between men’s and women’s hairstyles.”

Today, with men with long hair and women with pixie cuts, that thread has been upended to a great extent. And the changes in women’s lives have changed their reasons for adopting short hair.

Depending on whom you ask, practicality can trump liberation.

“A young woman’s decision to shear her locks and adopt a rebellious choppy bob makes a different statement than a mother’s decision to part with her long hair to cut down on styling and maintenance times,” Kurennaya said.

Akers says the bobs he’s styling aren’t the prototypical one-length cut with bangs and slight elevation in the back. It’s evolved.

Today’s bob includes layering, and angling around the face. If there’s a bang, it’s often sideswept, and there’s often color, he said, a variation that adds depth.

In other words, today’s modified bob reflects today’s more complicated times. And yet, some of those traditional notions the bob fought against linger.

In the early part of the 20th century, women who chose the bob, Kurennaya said, were often considered unfeminine, insubordinate and morally loose.

That sounds silly a century later; in the post-feminist era, there’s arguably been an embrace of the glories of insubordination among many women.

Still, last April, when model Karlie Kloss wore a bob in an ad campaign, commenters proclaimed it “Mall of America” and “librarian” hair.

Kloss, it seems, was not meeting the feminine ideal. And she was wearing Victoria’s Secret lingerie. The incident illustrates, Kurennaya said, “the high standards of beauty women are held to, particularly regarding their hair length.”

It seems more than the bob needs to continue evolving.

More in Life

How did 300 feathers get stuck in that old utility pole?

Artful adornment in Everett is the creation of a retired Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

‘Found’: Author and climber a 20-year veteran of mountain rescue

In her second book, Bree Loewen shares her experiences of volunteering with Seattle Mountain Rescue.

Herb Alpert aims to uplift the world in two recent albums

The Tijuana Brass bandleader releases a Christmas record and an album of covers.

Prioritizing permanence and putting down roots

Adapted from a recent online discussion. Dear Carolyn: I’m at a loss… Continue reading

Foo Fighters bounce back with new album ‘Concrete and Gold’

Foo Fighters, “Concrete and Gold”: Can you hate the Foo Fighters? Not… Continue reading

How to shop in the street markets of France

It’s the best way to connect with the nation’s farmers and artisans.

Stock your winter bookshelf with these animal and nature reads

Four new books cover outdoors topics from butterflies to wolves.

Newfangled cooker isn’t for those with tried and true methods

Columnist Jennifer Bardsley recently succumbed to peer pressure and purchased an Instant Pot.

Now is the time to assess your student’s back-to-school plan

Take a good look at how your kids are managing their new routine, class, teacher(s) and homework.

Most Read