The bob hairstyle has epitomized style in the 20th century perhaps more than any other haircut. Long a symbol of a progressive, independent and spirited woman, the bob may be a classic hairstyle, but it has never been outdated. Although it started off as a simple short hairstyle cut straight across at about jaw-level, the bob has gone through a few reincarnations over the decades, but it remains true to its basic character and is a favorite hairstyle of many women today.
Long hair wasn’t just in vogue throughout history; it was a strong social convention that spanned continents. Short hair was shocking and even considered disrespectful on grown women, and when a Parisian stylist first introduced the bob (known in France as the haircut of Joan d’Arc) in 1909, the new haircut was seen as incredibly daring.
At the same time, the Art Nouveau movement was taking the world by storm, influencing both fashion and hair. The period’s headwear was decidedly simple, and women were inspired to pursue less fussy hairstyles to accommodate the change. The bob was the perfect hairstyle to complement the fashions of the day, in particular the cloche hat, and bohemians, actresses, writers and progressive women began to flaunt it in Europe and Britain in the early 20th century.
The bob took off in the United States a few years later, around 1915, when dancer Irene Castle cut her hair short to prepare for an appendectomy surgery. She hid the “shocking” style under a turban in recovery but was persuaded by a friend to venture out in public with her new hairdo. When Castle stepped out with her short, curly hair, a trend was born that swept the country and finally made short hair respectable to American women.
The popularity of the bob grew even more during the Second World War, when women increasingly went to work and took on military duties, and legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon gave it new life in the 1960s. In the following decades, women from all walks of life embraced the short hairstyle, including many celebrities.
Today, the bob remains a popular hairstyle thanks largely to the famous women who sport it. Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth, Dakota Johnson, Michelle Williams, Emma Roberts, Anne Hathaway and scores of other Hollywood beauties have made the cut and inspired millions of women around the world to embrace this classic yet always chic haircut.