Imagine a young woman today cutting her hair two inches long, dying it purple and green, and wearing it spiked straight up. Imagine the looks she would get in most parts of the country. Women in the Twenties who bobbed their hair could expect similar reactions, but the hostility and moral implications made it far more shocking. Long hair had been a woman’s “crowing glory” for centuries, and the idea was tied into virtue and respectability. Before the Twenties, many women lived their entire lives without cutting their hair. Everyone wore their hair loose and long (or in braids) as girls, then pinned up in various styles as women. But short? Never.
So when the first few young women started cutting off their long tresses in during the Great War (1914-1918), it shocked people silly. The “bob,” a blunt cut level with the ear lobes, with or without bangs, became a statement of youth throwing off the moral restrictions of society. It was closely tied to the wearing of short skirts, going around with men unchaperoned, smoking cigarettes, drinking cocktails, dancing lewd dances like the Charleston, and general immorality. Preachers preached against it. Women who worked with the public, such as teachers, department store workers, and office girls, were fired for coming to work bobbed hair. Romances broke up.
When French designer Coco Chanel bobbed her hair in 1916 and several Hollywood stars, like Clara Bow, followed suit in the 1920s, the daring image spread. The furor over bobbed heads didn’t fade until about 1927. The style is still popular today.
What I found most interesting in all this was the introduction of the lowly bobbie pin. Yes, it should have been obvious, with a name like that, but it wasn’t . . . at least, not to me.