Updated: March 24, 2014 at 6:56 pm
It's a simple look with a lingering hint of rebellion.
The bob - that century-old, typically jawline-length haircut - is surging again. You can see it in celebrity circles. Golden-tressed Taylor Swift is a recent convert; Katy Perry followed suit, her version adding classic bangs; singer Brandy posted Instagram images debuting her asymmetrical version for an Oscars-related event. And when "Queen Bey" Beyonce opened the Grammys recently, her sexy lingerie was paired with a wet-look parted bob that exposed dark roots.
The stars' different approaches to bob-dom do an excellent job of highlighting the style's versatility, but you don't need the bone structure of a luminary to effectively rock the look. Much like its name, the bob truly is an everyman cut and therein lies its charm, said Molly McDonald, owner of Molly Sue's Salon in Colorado Springs.
"More people have been asking for it, but it's one of the most popular styles of all time so it never really goes out of fashion," McDonald said. "Every few years somebody reinvents it and gives it a little something that it didn't have before, or maybe it's just the star they pick to put it on. It's just a really great, timeless, versatile cut."
Allegedly inspired by the boyish cut Joan of Arc wore after adopting the dress of a male soldier during the Hundred Years' War, when the bob first appeared in the late 1910s and early 1920s it challenged the era's notions of femininity. To have long hair was to signal your delicacy, your sexuality, and your elegance and refinement, "all of the traditional attributes associated with femininity at the time," said Anya Kurennaya, an adjunct faculty member at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, via email. "Cutting one's hair meant rejecting that traditional femininity because it decreased the visible difference between men's and women's hairstyles."
Today, with men sporting long hair and women with pixie cuts, that thread has been upended to a great extent. And the changes in women's lives have changed their reasons for adopting short hair. Depending on whom you ask, practicality can trump liberation.
"A young woman's decision to shear her locks and adopt a rebellious choppy bob makes a different statement than a mother's decision to part with her long hair to cut down on styling and maintenance times," Kurennaya says.
Today's bobs aren't the prototypical one-length cut with ruler-straight bangs and slight elevation in the back. It's evolved to include layering, dramatic angling around the face or at the back of the neck, and artful coloring with high- or lowlights. If there's a bang, it's often sideswept.
"You can do a steep angle in back and almost shaved at the bottom, or leave it a little longer," McDonald said.
The right bob can give baby fine hair the illusion of volume, make a square face appear longer and a long face more boxy. It can be edgy and dramatic - a la Victoria Beckham - or no-fuss. Like snowflakes, no two bobs are the same.
"I cut two of them today and they were both completely different," McDonald said. "It all depends on what you're trying to achieve with a look."