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July 25, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 1

Why Bernice Bobbed Her Hair

By Goldilocks More Blogs by This Author

It's 1910 and the world is starting to change. Corsets are becoming less and less necessary in proper dress and some people even have the audacity to wear bloomers in public!

Before the onslaught of the Great War in 1914, the fashion trends were already starting to move away from the stuffy, unnatural, and unhealthy styles of the Victorian Age. Edwardian women were looking to the older, loose and flowing, fashions of the early 1800s and to the Far East with exotic silks and tunics. It was a decadent time – the time that birthed the Titanic, Art Nouveau, and Oscar Wilde.

Then war broke out. A single spark in Eastern Europe ignited the powder keg that was European political affairs, plunging everyone into a chaos that was scattered across the globe. The war broke many things in European society; it blurred class lines, removed long-held gender stereotypes, and shocked the foundations of religion and humanity. Life would never be the same after the devastation that was WWI. The “lost generation” (a name coined by the famous Gertrude Stein) returned home after the war to a strange world, one where the old morals and expectations had changed forever.

The Modern Woman

Enter the “liberated” woman! She shortened her skirt, (before this it could be illegal to show your ankles in public) cut off her flowing locks, and went out to parties without an escort.  (Cue gasps of surprise and alarm.)  (Not really.)  Many things we take for granted now were hard-earned actions by our great-grandmothers. Luckily, we do not have to worry about our ankles causing mass hysteria in public anymore. The Liberated woman was a sign of new things to come. She partied just as hard as her male friends. She dated, flirted, wore makeup, and drank. A lot. She was free from the social confines that her mother had grown up knowing.

“Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” a popular short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald chronicles a young girl, Bernice, who is socially clueless until her cousin teaches her how to act like a modern woman. The end results in her jealous cousin tricking her into bobbing her hair to disastrous results – and the revenge of Bernice by cutting her cousin's hair while she sleeps. Much could be said about the metaphorical value of hair and virtue in this story but the fact of the matter is that short hair means a new type of woman. Bolder, scarier, different. Bernice would never have shaved her cousin's locks before getting her own hair cut.

Who started it first?

Before the modern woman, long hair  was a virtue of and pride of girls everywhere. There are biological reasons behind why longer hair is often more appealing than shorter hair, most of it deals with how hair is a sign of health. A foot of healthy hair means several years of a healthy life. Shorter hair doesn't show off that track record. So, when the popular dancer of the early 20th century, Irene Castle, cut off her luscious locks (reportedly because she was sick and needed an easier way to take care of her hair) the social circles of Paris took note. Traveling often from city to city many young girls followed her to the barber shop.  The trend was to cut their painstakingly grown, long hair off with just a few scissor snips. Women were taking over the barbershops, much to the chagrin of their husbands and fathers.

Over the years the bob has swung in and out of fashion, but it is always controversial for a girl to cut her hair. Even today, we fret and worry over our boys being mistaken for girls and our girls being mistaken for boys. Having things clearly defined is comforting – and not being able to tell if someone is a boy or a girl is a distressing scenario. We've all had that doubtful confusion of which pronoun to use so we're careful to avoid saying much of anything to put off insulting the person. It happens, and we laugh about it later with our friends. We understand that hair has little influence in the way of gender. We all have hair so why not cut it short? Especially during the blistering summer months!

Is it right for you?

Bobs are a fun summer time trend. Leaving the neck exposed and cutting shower times drastically, short hair cuts are popular during the summer months when the sun is blazing and the beach is calling. With the constant shifting sands of fashion there are a wide variety of bob styles available (and fashionable) to pick from. It's always a winning hair cut because despite the fact that you can't reattach hair – it does grow back. Meaning the long hair will always come back.  

The hairstyle looks great with every type of hair, any color and any texture. The length depends on what length feels right, longer styles look better with curly hair or shorter styles feature your chin and cheekbones. Having bangs or not is also another effect, a short cut bob with straight bangs frames your cheekbones in a attention-grabbing box, highlighting the bottom portion of your face. Pulling the hair off your face exposes your eyes and more attention is paid to your face as a whole rather than any specific feature.

Looking up different types of bobs is an interesting historical treat, letting you see the different ways women have been declaring their independence from heavy heads and headaches for over a century. This is an easy-breezy, carefree style that takes little time to style and less time to wash. (A wonderful bonus to see that smaller water bill in the mail!)

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