The early 1920’s witnessed major progress in the transition of women’s hairstyles

The May 1, 1920 issue of The Saturday Evening ...
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from the traditional long-hair styles of the nineteenth century – to new short-hair styles like “the bob”, a process that started during the great war (WW1). The original straight, plain, and relatively simple short bobbed hair styles of the early 1920’s were transformed into much more interesting and feminine bobs (with stylish curls and waves) in the middle to late twenties. The stylish bobbed hairstyles of the late nineteen twenties continued their popularity well into the 1930’s.

Many of the popular and attractive shorter womens hairstyles from the 20’s and 30’s are currently experiencing a modern day revival as hair stylists go back in time seeking fresh ideas and inspiration from the beautiful short hairstyles of this trend setting era.

The most popular hairstyles of the nineteen twenties included the bob, marcel wave, finger wave, and shingle, all of which came with numerous variations. Other hairstyles like the Eton Crop were only temporary phenomenons. As women of all ages sacrificed their long tresses on the altar of fashion, hairdressers and even barbers competed for this booming business.

As early adopters of the new shorter hair styles, 1920’s movie stars and other celebrities played a big part in popularizing the new hair fashions through appearances in movies and stage shows, the new hairstyles they sported being eagerly copied by their adoring fans. Despite the high cost involved initially there was a very high uptake of permanent waving when it became available to women everywhere.

The 1920’s was the decade of short hair hairstyles as the previously fashionable long-hair hairstyles became unpopular. Bobbed hairstyles were considered extremely radical and unattractive by many to begin with but young women and middle aged women embraced the style in increasing numbers. Sophisticated cuts including shingling were used to create attractive bobs that featured waves and curls to soften and enhance the styling.

These later stylish bobs continued to be popular well into the 1930’s defying hairdressing critics who had predicted the bob would be a short-term fad that would only last a year or two at most. As it turned out, the huge popularity of bobbed hairstyles for women became a major revolution in womens hairstyling.


[Editor’s note. The 1920s was one of the most controversial times in history for women’s hair fashion. The “Bob” hairstyle was revolutionary and would forever change the way women wore their hair. More than a mere hairstyle, it symbolized a radical departure in the way society viewed women and femininity, particularly with respect to sexuality.

Obviously, the Bob dared to radically depart from the long flowing locks of traditional feminine style. It is no coincidence that this period coincides with the generally recognized birth of feminism in United States, and women’s suffrage. women were breaking from tradition on many different levels, and starting to assert themselves in ways they never had before. It gave women a sense of rebellion.

It began in 1915 with the “Castle Bob”, inspired by Irene Castle, the famous ballroom dancer. The Bob is a simple cut straight along the bottom of the ears all around, either with bangs or brushed to the side. It had an intriguing, boyish look to it that many men found erotic. It ushered in the era of women striving for equality with men, and sometimes even looking like them.

The radical departure in hairstyle gave women the creative courage to launch many new styles involving new curling, coloring and perming techniques. Going up against society’s norms gave women a sense of boldness. Soon other trends followed in clothing. Rolled stockings, short skirts, hair beads and hats were all subject to audacious change. Even the Bob went through many changes, some of them even creating a more feminine shingled or waived style.

The great writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote a short story called “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” The story’s heroine became a popular role model for many young women of that era. Symbolic of the move of women into traditional men’s roles in society, women crowded into men’s barbershops to get the popular cut.