Why Do We Care So Much When a Star Gets a Bob?

·5 min read

If you didn’t know any better, you might think the hit movie title Everything Everywhere All at Once was referring to the bob hair trend. Currently, the hairstyle is everything… and everywhere on social media (#bobhaircut has over 614 million views on TikTok, and on Instagram, you’ll see over 2 million posts with #bobhaircut).

Zendaya, Hailey Bieber, Lizzo, and Ciara have all tried the style in the past several months. And let us not forget Kourtney Kardashian, EmRata, and Jenna Ortega, whose hair now falls above their shoulders. We have seen the micro bob, extreme bob, boxy bob, French bob, Italian bob, lob, job, mob, and names we need not include. There’s little doubt the style is popular — but how does it also manage to seem brand new?

“Every decade, there’s a new take on the bob, and with each incarnation, the bob manages to shock and awe people,” says hairstylist Mark Townsend, who has cut Elizabeth Olsen and Reese Witherspoon’s hair accordingly. Consider the geometric bob that hairstylist Vidal Sassoon made famous in the ’60s and the power bob of the ’80s. “I became a hairdresser when I saw Madonna’s bob in the “Express Yourself” video,” Townsend told Allure. The cut has a way of inspiring.

British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon creates a long bob with a soft fringe for actress Janette Scott. 

Vidal Sassoon

British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon creates a long bob with a soft fringe for actress Janette Scott.
M. McKeown/Getty Images

Antoine de Paris, considered the first celebrity hairdresser, created the bob in the early 1900s, and based it on artists' depictions of Joan of Arc. It was taboo-breaking and instantly became a radical symbol of liberation.

Meet the experts:

  • Mark Townsend is a celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Elizabeth Olsen and Reese Witherspoon.

  • Ursula Stephen is a celebrity hairstylist whose clients include Rihanna and Zendaya.

  • Stephen Thevenot is a hairstylist at David Mallett New York Salon.

<h1 class="title">2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones - Arrivals</h1><cite class="credit">Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images</cite>

2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones - Arrivals

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
<h1 class="title">2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones - Red Carpet</h1><cite class="credit">Cindy Ord/VF23/Getty Images</cite>

2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones - Red Carpet

Cindy Ord/VF23/Getty Images

Now, as a new generation is discovering something that has been around for 100-plus years, it’s just as radical — and you can also share it with the world before even leaving the salon. Earlier this year, when model Hailey Bieber debuted her chin-length “chop,” as she captioned it on Instagram, the reaction was intense. “Everyone’s about to run to the salon,” one comment read. And they weren’t wrong.

“The combination of the haircut and the right person at the right time is what brings the spotlight back on it and makes the bob totally fresh again,” says hairstylist Ursula Stephen, who cut Zendaya’s bob this past December. (Fun fact: Zendaya showed Stephen photos of Drew Barrymore and Christy Turlington circa the 1980s.) She also created Rihanna’s edgy, asymmetrical bob in 2007. “I think it’s more than a haircut. It’s a [powerful] statement,” says Stephen.

Then: Rihanna in 2007.

World Music Awards 2007 - Arrivals

Then: Rihanna in 2007.
Toni Anne Barson Archive/Getty Images
Now: Zendaya in 2023.

29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Arrivals

Now: Zendaya in 2023.
Amy Sussman/ Getty Images

In the 1920s, that statement signified defiant liberation. Flappers danced and drank the night away at speakeasies during the Prohibition era, and when movie star Louise Brooks (an original It girl) flaunted her earlobe-grazing French bob with bangs it was deemed scandalous.

Personally, I love the hairstyle — and have for decades. In the ’90s, I lived in New Orleans and my boyfriend at the time nicknamed me Betty Boop because of my super-short bob with baby bangs. (I had also tweezed my eyebrows off for full-on flapper vibes, but that’s another story.) Years later, still bobbed, with Audrey Hepburn as my inspiration, my style became more punk rock pixie. A fellow beauty editor described me like so: “You look like Amélie, if Amélie got tattoos.” To this day, it is one of my favorite compliments.

<h1 class="title">Actress Louise Brooks</h1><cite class="credit">John Springer Collection/Getty Images</cite>

Actress Louise Brooks

John Springer Collection/Getty Images

Pop culture’s short-term, Etch A Sketch memory is part of what makes the bob perpetually new. Like the amnesiac employees in the Apple+ series Severance, our hairstyle recollections are constantly being wiped clean. What’s more, TikTok trends can seem old before they can even be new. “I don’t think the youth of today realize that the bob is a timeless classic,” says Stephen Thevenot, a hairstylist at David Mallett New York Salon. “Gen Z isn’t aware that generations of women have done this before. They don’t know the history of the bob or who Louise Brooks or Vidal Sassoon were. Their reference is Hailey Bieber. And a new generation will always discover the bob as a radical new cut.”

Though I have moved on from the bob to something that is more me right now — my hair is currently cut in a pixie that grows out into a messy shag (perhaps you might call it a “pixag” or “shixie”) — I do see beauty in the bob of 2023. Today, it’s about wearing it your way.

And everyone everywhere can pull it off. “The bob is so versatile,” says Townsend. “It’s a haircut that can work for every face shape and hair texture.” It can look different on everyone  “just cut bangs, change the part, make it longer or shorter.” Stephen adds, “No two bobs are ever the same, so it always looks new. The bob is about freedom and taking charge.”

You can’t say that about just any hairstyle.

Read more stories about bob haircuts.

Now watch how to master the French bob haircut.

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Originally Appeared on Allure