Evolution of the Power Bob Cut

Eunice Lucero | 26 October 2016
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Short and anything but sweet.

If there ever were a walking, talking look that symbolized a revolution, the bob cut would be it. The short bob haircut has long been a figure of feminism, female power and rejection of societal norms, and has become a classic hairstyle since its inception around 1910.

This short cut has evolved from being an act of rebellion to being one of the most popular haircuts in the world. From Flappers to Hollywood stars to cultural icons, and now to presidential candidates (plus a special shout-out to superhero moms everywhere), the bob cut has been the go-to look for independent, outspoken, forward-thinking women who had better things to do than let their hairstyle dictate their sexuality or femininity. No wonder it’s a look that’s withstood the ages!

Scroll down for a quick glimpse into the history of this revolutionary hairstyle:

Evolution of the Bob Cut

evolution of the power bob cut
Finger waves and a side part characterize the Flapper bob. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

1. 1920s: The Flapper Cut

The bob cut, an act of defiance for previously set norms, had already been popularized a few years earlier in 1915. Cut to the glamorous Roaring Twenties, when America enjoyed a sexual (and industrial) revolution, particularly in mores and gender roles. We took quite fondly to the “Flapper” hairstyle, which featured a below-the-ear bob cut styled with waxy finger waves held in place by bobby pins (hence the name, btw) and Rococo accessories. Feathers, fascinators and silk headbands displayed the opulence of the times.

evolution of the power bob cut mod
The mod bob cut had pixie-like details such as a soft fringe and a tapered back.

2. 1960s: The Mod Cut

After taking a dip during the Golden Years of Hollywood (1930s~1950s), the bob cut once again regained the throne as one of the most requested looks in the biz during the go-go years of the Swinging Sixties. Famous hairdressers were styling their actress-muses in voluminous, graphic stacked bobs which had to pop on black-and-white TV as well as technicolor catalogs, runways and magazines alike. The gorgeous look quickly trickled down into the who’s who of celebrity and society. A high-budget film about the Egyptian queen Cleopatra also helped cement the bob aesthetic into pop culture.

evolution of the bob cut shag
Lighters up for gender neutrality! Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

3. 1980s: The Shaggy Bob Cut

Music, which had always played a big role in the female sexual revolution, again proved to be a big impetus for hairstyles in the 1980s. Punk rock frontwomen and powerful musical icons sported a unisex version of the bob cut—a shaggy mop that somewhat toyed with gender fluidity which, once again, flipped what was considered “feminine” on its head. This rough-around-the-edges haircut was surprisingly versatile and easy to maintain, leading to a mainstream following (the vestiges of which can still be seen today, via the mullet).

evolution of the power bob cut blunt
Navy pinstripes and power bobs dominated the financially-frantic clime of the 1990s. Photo credit: Dvora

4. 1990s: The Blunt Bob

What do the success-fueled yuppies of Wall Street and anti-establishment ’90s indie kids have in common? Nearly nothing, save for their affinity for the blunt bob cut, which again strove to redefine how women were viewed, this time in the workplace. “Take me seriously,” the look screamed, which, apart from a few wispy remnants from the crazy 1980s, were all about a short, blocky vibe to match the year’s power shoulders and collective angst. An antithesis to what was considered traditionally feminine (read: soft), it was all about grungy blunt bangs, one-length cuts and all vampy everything.

evolution of the power bob cut stacked
Subtle, feature-flattering layers gave the bob an optimistic, democratic spin. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

5. 2000s: The Stacked Bob

The Noughties saw us taking stock of what worked for the past two decades and mashing them up into a happy, sitcom-friendly medium—in this case, the subtly layered inverted bob. This fun compromise featured a chin-length cut with choppy layers that stacked the hair inwards, resulting in a flattering silhouette that gave the look a fresh, wearable sex appeal. Diffused/zigzag parts and customizable layers of this bob cut all spoke to the decade’s thrust of versatility and cost-per-wear.

evolution of the power bob cut celebrity razored ends
The name of the game: every strand in place.

6. 2010s: The Celebrity Bob

Sleek, razor-sharp and ironed to perfection, the immaculate long bob of 2010 was almost made for the glare of the camera flash. This shiny, paparazzi-friendly iteration featured a bob cut that was tapered longer in front, which, when paired with a certain front-row frigidity (and bug-eyed sunnies), gave an instant VIP feel. The texture was pin-straight and immaculately ironed, and was usually styled with a super precise part—or blunt bangs, if you were fashion royalty—to further showcase expensive details, like precision layers or a seamless color job.

evolution of the power bob cut
The wavy lob is fun, friendly and a cinch to style. Photo credit: Dvora

7. Today: The Wavy Lob

The world peace of bobs! We’ve stretched, straightened, cut and pin-curled it into all directions, and the most recent version of the bob cut (the longer bob, or “lob”), possibly drives the point home: That, like its empowered wearer, it can be highly aspirational and stylish, yet practical and economical all at once. The wavy long bob is an extremely customizable haircut, and speaks to our desire to being valued as individuals, ultimately each with our own hair textures, needs and tastes, society be damned.

Want to check out more trendy short haircuts? Click on our favorite short styles for 2016.

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