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Mar 27, 2012 12:38 PM | 0 comments

Brooklyn ladies have always taken pride in their hair. Whether they wear it

            long and wavy


          short and curly

Brooklyn women take full advantage of all the hair options available. And now since the weather has turned relatively warm, we can look forward to not dealing with  the dreaded "hat hair" and can release our locks from their prisons of winter hats. Each new season of course brings with it a fresh opportunity for new and inventive hair styles, as these models can attest at The National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association show in 1950. 

The fashion magazines are filled with the latest trends in color and cuts. This is an annual rite of Spring, not usually reserved for starting revolutions, but in the early 1920's one hairstyle did just that. It was...

             The Bob!     


Started by Irene Castle during World War I , The Bob soon caught on the world over. The hair was cut short around the head at  jaw level and could be worn straight, or curly, with bangs or parted on the side. With its ease of styling, the Bob epitomized independence, youthfulness, modernity and a boldness that women were eager to embrace.  And Brooklyn women were right in the middle of it.  There were opponents and proponents of this controversial style, and their debate was chronicled in the pages of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle throughout the 1920's.   

From this article dated August 7 1921, the manager from an employment agency is quoted as saying "...[S]omehow, there is a general feeling that the bobbed haired girl is a bit too radical and likely to be aggressive and self-assertive.  Those are not the qualifications that render her most desirable as a subordinate.  Of course, where her own personality overcomes this impression, she is just as welcome on the job as her long haired sister, but taken on the whole, I know that if a bobbed haired girl and a long haired girl were in the running for a job, and both could supply the same record of efficiency, the long haired girl would get the job every time."   Other detractors opined that it would cause baldness in women, and was not dignified enough.   

But of course there were many more in favor of this exciting turn in coiffures.  Using every argument from mental health to practicality to beauty, it seemed the Bob was here to stay. 

Quoted in the same article, Dr. Eliza M Mosher gave her thoughts on the benefits of the fad: "It is far better for the nerves, to have the hair bobbed.  Many a woman complains of nervous headaches because of the heavy coil of hair weighing down on her head and it is a decided strain on the nervous system to have combs and hair pins sticking into one's scalp all day. It is really a wonder that women have any hair left, what with the process of curling and dyeing it is popularly subjected to nowaways.  And finally bobbed hair is a great deal more sensible.  I can't for the life of me understand the attitude of an employer who would discriminate against a girl with short hair.  Doesn't he know that it takes far less time to arrange the hair when it is short than when it is long and that when a girl cuts her hair it is usually because she is sensible and not because she is vain?"  

An Abraham & Strauss barber also chimed in: "Moreover, the bob is more dignified than the old fashioned way women did their hair, because it follows the line of the head. Properly marceled, close to the head, it is the most dignified way a woman can dress her hair."   

This trend-setting style also provided a decided economic boon to the borough. By 1924 women were bobbing there hair at a rate of 2,000 a day. The 474 beauty parlors in Brooklyn were filled with women waiting to be shorn, as well as the countless barbers who were having difficulty keeping up with the demand.  "We are bobbing 400 heads daily," said Benny, head barber at Frederick Loeser & Co.  "Everybody is having it done and age is no handicap.  Among our patrons are many women of 50 and 60 years of age, for the younger women did it a year ago.  We have never been so busy," 


Not every young woman was happy with the current trend.  Unable to find an Easter hat to fit her locks, she wrote the Daily Eagle: "Is there a single milliner or department store proprietor who desires to cater to the normal woman of today?  I have spent three days in a harassing search of Manhattan and Brooklyn for a hat.  I have found no store which has hats save for the bobbed-haired women.  These peanut contraptions are offered with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.  Sales women announce airily that they have "calls for no other kind."  I still have the hair which Nature have to me and which I hope to retain.  I have not found a single hat I could squeeze on my head.  I shall not bob.  What am I to do? - Flatbush" 


 In addition to the close-fitting cloche hat, the new style also inspired bobby pins, innovations in permanent wave technology, as well as encouraging beauticians to adapt hair-cutting skills formerly the domain of male barbers.

By the 1930's the bob had run its course and women began to grow their hair longer again. But because of this revolutionary hair do, women were freer than ever to adopt the styles of their choice, for their hair and their life.