Long hair, short hair, not enough hair and too much hair has been the plague of women throughout the ages. Women with curly hair think they want straight hair, while women with straight hair think they want curly. A woman’s satisfaction with the current style of her hair has always been fleeting.
In the Victorian era of the late 1800s, it was considered taboo for a lady to cut her hair. Marcel Grateau—a hairdresser in Paris—created a new style in the 1870s by turning the curling iron upside down. Before the Marcel Wave, hair was parted in the middle and left down or swept up in a loose bun. Young girls of the Victorian era considered it a rite of passage when they were able to go out with their hair up. The Gibson Girl hairstyle became popular in 1902 as the style for liberated women.
The 1920s began the era of short hair for women. The short “Bob” was considered scandalous by older generations, but young women relished the style as a symbol of their new freedom. French women began working outside the home during World War I, driving ambulances and performing other duties that were previously reserved for men. The trend spread across the globe and by the late 1920s, the classic bob had morphed into other versions like the “Shingle Bob,” which is very short and tapers to a V-shape at the back of the neck.
1930s and 1940s
Hairstyles in the 1930s and 1940s were various renditions of the bob. Women did not have the time or the inclination to worry about their hair with the Depression and World War II going on. Working in industry or on the family farm meant women needed short, easy care styles. Wealthy women of the period went for longer soft curls, but for working women, shorter was better.
Longer hair began making a comeback in the 1950s. The war was over and women were returning to the home and had more time to spend on their hair. Styles like the “Poodle Cut,” “New Wave” and the “Bouffant” gained in popularity as hair-care products became available to aid in the maintenance of the elaborate styles.
1960s and 1970s
The “Bouffant” and its counterpart the “Beehive” were popular in the early 1960s. The formality of teased locks was replaced with the simple, carefree “hippie” styles of the 1970s, which featured long straight hair held with hair ties or bandannas. Afros appeared on people of all cultures and ethnicity, regardless of their sex.
References and ResourcesHair Archives: Victorian Hair
Hair Archives: The Bob
1920-30: The Bob Hairstyle