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Historically, women in the west have usually worn their hair long. Although young girls, actresses and a few "advanced" or fashionable women had worn short hair even before World War I—for example in 1910 the French actress Polaire is described as having "a shock of short, dark hair", a cut she adopted in the early 1890s—the style was not considered generally respectable until given impetus by the inconvenience of long hair to girls engaged in war work. English society beauty Lady Diana Cooper, who had had bobbed hair as a child, kept the style through her teenage years and continued in 1914 as an adult. Renowned dancer and fashion trendsetter Irene Castle introduced her "Castle bob" to a receptive American audience in 1915, and by 1920 the style was rapidly becoming fashionable. Popularized by film stars Colleen Moore and Louise Brooks in the early 1920s, it was still seen as a somewhat shocking statement of independence in young women, as older people were used to seeing girls wearing long dresses and heavy Edwardian-style hair. Hairdressers, whose training was mainly in arranging and curling long hair, were slow to realise that short styles for women had arrived to stay, and so barbers in many cities found lines of women outside their shops, waiting to be shorn of hair that had taken many years to grow.
Although as early as 1922 the fashion correspondent of The Times was suggesting that bobbed hair was passé, by the mid-1920s the style (in various versions, often worn with a side-parting, curled or waved, and with the hair at the nape of the neck "shingled" short), was the dominant female hairstyle in the Western world. The style was spreading even beyond the West, as women who rejected traditional roles adopted the bob cut as a sign of modernity. Close-fitting cloche hats had also become very popular, and couldn't be worn with long hair. Well-known bob-wearers were actresses Clara Bow and Joan Crawford, as well as Dutch film star Truus van Aalten.
As the 1930s approached, women started to grow their hair longer, and the sharp lines of the bob were abandoned.
1960s and beyond
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In the 1960s, Vidal Sassoon made it popular again, using the shape of the early bob and making it more stylish in a simpler cut. Its resurgence coincided with the arrival of the "mop top" Beatle cut for men. Those associated with the bob at that time included the fashion designers Mary Quant and Jean Muir, actresses Nancy Kwan, Carolyn Jones, Barbara Feldon and Amanda Barrie, and singers as diverse as Keely Smith, Cilla Black, Billie Davis, Juliette Gréco, Mireille Mathieu and Beverly Bivens of the American group We Five. Many styles and combinations of the "bob" have evolved since. In the late 1980s, Siouxsie Sioux, lead singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Corinne Drewery, singer of Swing Out Sister, had bob cuts for a short time. Singer Linda Ronstadt sported a very "Louise Brooks" inspired bob on the cover of two Grammy award winning albums in the late 1980s. 1987's Trio album with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and her 1989 release Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind. She also wears the cut in the video for her duet with James Ingram, Somewhere Out There. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue since 1988, apparently had hers trimmed every day (Times 2, 10 July 2006). In the early 1990s Cyndi Lauper had a bob haircut with very unusual colors; soon afterwards, the cut became identified with Uma Thurman's character of Mia Wallace in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction. In the mid to late 1990s, T-Boz of TLC also had a bob haircut with very unusual colors that was asymmetrical with bangs. Also, for the first two seasons and the first two episodes of the third season of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the character of Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) had a trademark bob haircut. Also, in Barry Sonnenfeld's 1997 film Men in Black, the character of Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) also sported a bob.
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In November 2005, Canadian ice dancer Kristina Lenko was asked to join ITV1's new series, Dancing on Ice. She went to her stylist in Toronto and told him "Do whatever you like." He cut Lenko's waist length hair into what is referred to as an A-line bob, where the hairs shorter in the back and gradually longer toward the front, with the longest pieces toward the front of the face. Later, ex–Spice Girl Victoria Beckham decided to cut her own hair into such a style, helping to raise its popularity worldwide with girls asking hairdressers for a "Pob"—Ms Beckham's nickname Posh Spice conflated with "bob".
In 2007, R&B singer Rihanna had a bob haircut in the video for "Umbrella". She has stated that she got her inspiration from Charlize Theron in Æon Flux. Keira Knightley had a bob in her short TV ad for Coco Mademoiselle. Actress Christina Ricci also had a bob for live-action movie version for 60s anime series Speed Racer and later onwards. Katie Holmes got a bob cut with bangs in 2007.
At her third show in Brisbane, Australia, Britney Spears wore the bob throughout her concert. Jenny McCarthy is known for a sporting an A-line bob. Kate Bosworth is said to have popularized the bob in 2008. Shoulder-length bobs became popular after being sported by stars such as Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba. A shaggy version of the bob was popularized by Dianna Agron and Rooney Mara.
- Asian bob: Cut at the neckline, bobbed up around the edge.
- A-line bob: A typical bob cut, with slightly longer hair in front, cut in an asymmetrical style.
- Chin-length bob: Cut straight to the chin, with or without bangs.
- Buzz cut bob: Where it is shoulder-length in the front and close-cropped at the back.
- Shaggy bob: A messy bob layered with a razor.
- Shoulder-length bob: A blunt bob that reaches the shoulders and has very few layers.
The shingle bob was introduced around 1923. It consists of a cut that is tapered very short in the back, exposing the hairline at the neck. The hair on the sides is formed into a single curl or point on each cheek. It is also commonly referred to as a "graduated bob."
- Bobby pin
- "Bernice Bobs Her Hair", a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald on the subject.
- Pageboy, a similar hairstyle, usually a bit longer than a bob.
- English author Molly Hughes refers to having "close-cropped hair" while employed as a teacher at a Kensington girls' school in 1890: M. V. Hughes, A London Home in the Nineties(1946), O.U.P.
- In The Adventure of the Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle(1892), a young governess is asked to have her luxuriant hair cut short as a condition of employment. Although reluctant to comply she does not see the request as unthinkable, commenting "Many people are improved by wearing it short, and perhaps I should be among the number."
- "The Outbreak in St. Petersburg", The Times, Tuesday, January 31, 1905; pg. 3; Issue 37618; col E. A Russian noblewoman describes being caught amidst rioters in the streets after a general is killed: "I got right into the middle of a crowd of hooligans, who shrieked 'Hurrah!' The men were almost on top of me, and I ... shrieked 'Hurrah' myself, with my eyes dropping out of my head with terror. No doubt, owing to my short hair, they took me for a student girl, and some of the roughs smiled on me encouragingly."
- The Times, Friday, Jul 28, 1911; pg. 8; Issue 39649; col A. A writer covering events at The Universal Races Congress, a multiracial event held in London, remarked on the offbeat appearance of the British delegates: "Whether the representatives of other countries are on the whole normal or abnormal I cannot say; but it is plain that the Anglo-Saxons here are not representatives of the man in the street ... There are men with long hair, women with short hair ..."
- The Times, Tuesday, Mar 08, 1910; pg. 12
- See http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_Polaire_from_La_Rire_-_Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec.jpg
- In a 1906 American short story a woman desperate for cash is obliged to cut her hair in order to sell it. She fears her husband's reaction, however, believing he will consider the crop hairstyle makes her look vulgar: "If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl." (O.Henry, The Gift of the Magi,1906)
- The Times, Tuesday, Nov 21, 1916; pg. 15; Issue 41330; col G An Englishwoman driving ambulances in Romania wrote: "We have discarded skirts and live in riding breeches, blouse, tunic, boots, and putties(sic); no hat and short hair is so comfortable."
- The Times, Monday, Aug 05, 1918; pg. 10; Issue 41860; col E Article headed 'The Girl On The Farm':"The "bobbed" hair of many of the land girls and their smocks answer this description.".
- see Portrait of Lady Diana Manners, c. 1900 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portrait_of_Lady_Diana_Manners.jpg
- see portrait, 1906 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Manners_-_Diana_Cooper,_Viscountess_Norwich.jpg
- Portrait of Lady Diana Manners, 1914 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Singer_Sargent_-_Lady_Diana_Manners.jpg
- New York Times, 27 June, 1920: ‘Vogue of bobbed hair’
- http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/bernice/ Original illustration to FITZGERALD, F. S.:'Bernice Bobs Her Hair', Saturday Evening Post 1 May 1920
- In 1921 New York Times reported women hairdressers in Connecticut wishing to bob hair would have to obtain a barber's licence: New York Times, August 23, 1921
- "Bobbed hair has been immensely popular during the last few years; it is now rapidly falling out of favour because it has become common."—The Times, Thursday, May 04, 1922; pg. 11; Issue 43622; col E : The Woman's View. Fashions In Hairdressing.
- In 1928 when an unsuccessful Communist coup in Canton was put down, women with short hair were targeted for reprisals: 'Many women with bobbed hair were shot. The young Communists all bob their hair; and in many cases that was accepted as prima-facie evidence of guilt.' "The Times". 18 January 1928: 13.
- A critic reviewing a collection of society portraits for The Times notes: "Hairdressing is in a state of transition. There is an Eton crop, there are many soft shingles, and there are a few heads where the hair is being let grow." The Times, Wednesday, May 14, 1930; pg. 19; Issue 45512; col F
- New York Times Magazine, 6 September 1964Anthony Carthew: "Shaggy Englishman Story; British long-hairs are proud of setting a new tonsorial style – but the barbers are crying."
- "Kristina Lenko: Posh copied my hairstyle". London: Daily Mirror. 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
- Newberry, Louis (1946). Hair Style Design. p. 70.
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