It is one of the most definitive archetypes of the 1920s - flapper hair, cut in a daringly short, sassy bob hair style. The flapper period as we know it did not last long, but it did make a lasting impact on the American female psyche…and hair.
The Growth of Flapper Hair
When visualizing the average young woman of the 1920s, most people immediately think of a short bob, knee-length skirts, dark red lipstick and heavy eye makeup. But this look really only took hold in 1926, although it had been evolving since 1923. Women had been bobbing their hair since the 1910s, especially when dancer Irene Castle made the cut famous. The bobs worn then were more like a pageboy hairstyle in that they were longer, although the trend was still for curls. While initially the cut was embraced by actresses and women who moved amongst artists and the intelligentsia, the 1920s saw more and more women of all ages, cutting their hair. By the end of the decade, it is estimated that over 95 percent of American women had short hair.
As hemlines rose, so did hair become shorter. Women who had finally been granted the right to vote were now determined to express themselves in all walks of life. Flappers were challenging social and sexual mores and far from waiting for a door to open, simply pushed it down and walked on in.
The Popular Flapper Cuts
While initial short hair styles still emphasized thick hair and curls, flapper hair cuts were shaped more closely to the head. A flapper's bob was often straight and sleek, with or without bangs. Unless a woman had naturally curly hair, the only curls seen were the Marcel waves that sat against the head. The style could also be achieved via finger-waving, which saved on long trips to the beauty parlor every week.
Besides the familiar bob, there was also the shingle bob, sometimes called a graduated bob. This bob was distinguished by the hair at the back of the neck being razor cut into a V-shape.
One of the most radical cuts, made famous by cabaret star Josephine Baker, was the Eton cut. This was a very boyish cut, named for the famous boys' school in England. Not only was the hair shockingly short, it was also slicked down on the head. Since it worked best on petite women, there were those who found it difficult to distinguish girls from boys, especially if the girl was wearing trousers, as these daring women often did. The Eton's popularity was short-lived, but still made its mark.
Hair as a Fashion Statement
Women cut their hair as part of a liberating statement, but it also worked well for the fashions of the time. Cloches, the close-fitting hats so indicative of the period, had become popular in the early twentieth century, and it was discovered that shorter hair better showed off one's hats. Since most women wore hats during most of the day, it was an important part of an ensemble and needed to be seen to its best advantage. A cloche looked exquisite on flapper hair, and the hair looked great when the cloche came off, needing only the slightest touch of a hand or comb. Very few women in the 1920s ever suffered from "hat head."
Head wear for the evenings also looked best on short hair. Jewels, sequins, and feathers were the order of the day, whether simple or extravagant. It was all about showing oneself to perfection.
Getting a Good Flapper Cut
Although all hairdressers know what a bob is, very few understand exactly how to achieve the 1920s look. When you want such a cut, the best way to guarantee you'll get it is to bring in pictures of flappers and ask the look to be copied and adjusted for your face shape if needed. Cloches have come back into fashion as well, so you can emulate the whole look!