The eye-catching cut was invented in 1909 by Parisian hairdresser Antoine de Paris, whose inspiration was Joan of Arc. It was picked up in upper-crust Bloomsbury circles in the early 20th century and then by flappers.
But its arrival in America in the 1920s sparked controversy, which reached fever pitch when preachers declared: ‘A bobbed woman is a disgraced woman.’
I found this story via Harpymarx, who writes about her own experience with the bob:
I first had a bob when I was 14, can’t remember why except had my shoulder length hair hacked off into a Louise Brooks style bob. I liked it as I had seen many silent movies where the women had that specific hair cut (from Joan Crawford to Clara Bow). I also had the urge to smoke Gauloises, for some unknown reason, especially as I didn’t smoke! I felt cool and sophisticated sitting in my ‘O’ level art class painting still life, talking politics and thinking about my burgeoning feminism.
Unfortunately, my hairstyle stuck out as it wasn’t trendy at the time to have a bob and the other girls in my class (and in the whole school) used to back comb their hair to accomplish a Siouxsie Banshees look or spiky bleached. My bobbed hairstyle stood out, like a sore thumb. Well, I was always kind of odd in an anti-social way but even I capitulated. My bob grew out and I went back to an unremarkable shoulder length hairstyle pulled back into a ponytail. I wish I had stuck with the bob a bit more cos, hey, I may have started a trend in my school…