Culture Column: Bobbing my hair; The ultimate don’t mess with me move

October 24, 2022

Three years ago, after growing my hair out for what felt like ages, taking care and maintaining it as if it were my child, I decided to lop off my midlength hair. It was my junior year of highschool, and I had always trotted around either a short crew cut or a shaggy layered look, so I thought perhaps I would take a bob around for a spin.

Taking inspiration from pictures of the late French singer Edith Piaf, I wanted it sleek and blunt, which I went through with after also tacking on bangs to the list of things I wanted. After an early morning trip to the beauty parlor, I felt amazing; I left with a very blunt, straight across bob with even more extreme and blunt, straight across bangs. 

The next day, I got up horrendously early to remove the wet set curlers I had put in the night before, to brush my curls until they turned into waves and pinning two very large clips on each side of my head. After I felt that my hair was good enough to leave the house, I got dressed in what I can only describe as a very European style outfit, sang my little confidence song and left the house. 

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That school day was a day full of mixed reviews and emotions. You see, I was so caught up in the excitement of getting this hairdo, I kind of neglected to tell everybody, so there was no warning. I went from long layers to Clara Bow in one night. A lot of people asked me if it was a wig, and even more people asked me why I did it. There were sporadic compliments here and there, mostly backhanded, but I give those better than I receive them, so mostly everyone got an ear full that day. I finally had given up all hope when I sat down at lunch with the guy I liked, and he took one glance at me and said, “What did you do to your hair?” while gesturing his finger at his head. Only one day into having this new bob, and I was sick of it.

My distaste for my new bob was less of something that I felt personally, as I felt quite chic with it, but more of a feeling of others being judgemental, and I was not happy about it. I was tired of being compared to Lord Farquad from Shrek, to which I was told I had a likeness. Generally, people are not quite receptive of this hairstyle, as it was for so long perceived as out of style and old-fashioned, but they never really quite went out of style. What is it that people don’t like about the bob hair style?

The 1920s was the time we had seen the bob hairstyle, specifically on women. The “pageboy bob” had been around for centuries before then but exclusively for men, as women were expected to have much more fashionable hairstyles throughout history, always long, even if it was concealed or tied up. When you close your eyes and think of a woman, you generally think of someone with long hair, as that is what is perceived as feminine in western cultures. 

The bob was a big step in women’s hair styles; it let go of the traditions that women’s hair must be long, but many people had a very big problem with that, as it was “masculinizing” women and making them unattractive. Many women shied away from the fashions of it and clung to their long hair, putting it in tight to the head curls and styles, but most women, by the end of the decade, had cut their hair and let go of the weight of the past. 

Time trickled on and hair styles changed, as they always do, but many women still opted to have a bob, as it has something that most hairstyles don’t and that is convenience. With most haircuts, you cannot just tuck it right behind your ears and it will stay in place, but with a bob, you can; you can do anything with it like that. It is also easier to put under a bandana or even wear a hat. Through the decades as styles of hair evolved, got bigger and even shorter, many women still opted to keep their bobs since they were so easy to upkeep. 

It has been 100 years of bobbed hairstyles, and people still have an issue with them. That is quite shocking to think about. You cannot just say, “I don’t like bobs. They just don’t look right,” because that is not enough of an explanation. Why do they not look right to you? Are they too masculine? Maybe they are a bit old lady-ish to you? More than likely the reason you don’t like the style is because you knew someone, likely a woman, who had a bob and was powerful, perhaps even a bit intimidating. Take note of this as you go on in life: the most sensible women in the world usually have their hair bobbed off at some length with or without bangs. 

A few years have passed, and I grew out my hair to my shoulder blades and am living life a bit more grown up now, afraid of the way people made me feel for having the hairstyle that I so wished I had back. While binge watching my new comfort show, Downton Abbey, I became a bit obsessed with the hairstyles of the show, and a particular scene in season five when a particular character cuts her hair and shocks her family by looking like “Pola Negri.” This silly scene brought back that indescribable feeling of joy that I got after getting my hair cut a few years back. I wanted it. It is a new decade since then, and fashion always repeats itself, so perhaps I would give the bob a second chance. 

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Nervous and excited, I made an appointment with my step sister at the salon she works at. After hours of dyeing and trimming and smoothing, my sweet magic-working sister turned me to the mirror and showed me my final results. My heart pounded with excitement as I peered into the glass and saw the most beautifully coiffed angled bob I had ever seen. Full of nothing but praises, I left the beauty parlor feeling strong and invincible. 

I still get looks since I have cut my hair, but instead of feeling embarrassment or shame, I feel mighty and strong, like I could take on the world. I have noticed something about having a bob and how it is the ultimate “don’t mess with me” haircut. I’m not entirely sure why, but I am very sure that it is rooted in judgment on the type to have a bob and how strength and will is usually perceived as snobbish or cold. 

I am sure I will one day change my hair again, but I am not sure; this style seems to suit me for the time being. Until then though, I will sport around my bob and hold myself high, as that is what it takes to even have a bob in this world. 

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