I’m not a big fan of Downton Abbey, but I watch it anyway. In the last episode I saw, in season 5, Lady Mary got a new haircut, which is certainly something lots of women do when they feel the need for a change. But there was something about her bob that bothered me, so I poked around in my files, trying to figure out what it was.
Instead, I found a lengthy article about bobbed hair, “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker,” from January 1925, plus many hair-related images. The article is long, so I’ll break the text up into readable sections (over two posts) and include period images of the styles it refers to. The author, Celia Caroline Cole, was a regular beauty columnist for Delineator magazine, and most of my images are from mid-twenties issues of Delineator.
Here is the illustration and caption that accompanied “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker”:
“ONE-FOURTH of the women of Paris are bobbed. And there is about that same proportion in London and New York.” — Celia Caroline Cole, Delineator, January 1925.
Women Whose Hair Was Not Yet Bobbed
What about the other seventy-five percent of women, the ones who had not yet succumbed to the fashion for very short, “slick” hair?
Bobbed hair had first been popularized during World War I; dancer and fashion icon Irene (Mrs. Vernon) Castle was influential in setting the style.
However, after the war ended, long hair became fashionable again. The Marcel Wave — and later, a permanent curl — made it possible for women born with straight hair to have very wavy locks. You could even get a home permanent “outfit” (using one roller, which screwed into your lamp, like a lightbulb, since there was usually no other electrical supply in the room.) “A whole head can be waved comfortably in just a few hours.”
My mother, like many other women, was still wearing her “marcelled” hair in the late 1920s:
Three models from one page of Delineator magazine, November 1924: the woman on the left has a marcel wave and long hair gathered into a chignon low on her neck. The woman on the right has a sleek bob with a “shingle” cut in back. Either style would fit under a cloche hat.
Return of the Bob
The fashion for bobbed hair returned in the early 1920’s. Daring young women went to the local (male) barber shop to have their “crowning glory” chopped off — sometimes to the horror of their parents.
However, in January of 1925, most women had not yet bobbed their hair. Those who had, usually wore it very full (one might say, “bushy”); the author of “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker” refers to their “large, gnomelike heads.” Ads for shampoos and other hair products emphasized a thick, wavy head of hair:
Even these styles, from the Barber Shop display card shown above, are full, rather than sleek.
That is why the beauty editor of Delineator had to tell women, in January of 1925, that “the old straight bob is very demodee.” [Démodée means “out of style, unfashionable.”] “To be modee and exciting and to look like an illustration in a novel, the hair should be either shingled or dressed so close to the head that it looks like paint.” — C. C. Cole
The Shingle Explained
“If a woman has a well-shaped head . . . , the hair is cut close to the head in the back and about a third of the way up from the nape of the neck and from there on it is longer. The whole aim is to have a beautiful line for the back of the head — that loveliness one finds in the head of a young boy.
“If the hair is thin . . . , the smart hairdresser does not cut the hair close at the nape of the neck, but cuts it in one length from the crown to the nape, thinning the ends with a razor so that it will not stand out.” — Celia Cole in her article “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker.”
More Exerpts from “Slicker ‘n’ Slicker,” Published in January 1925
However, if a woman’s hair is thick, she should “go to a good barber — and by “barber” we mean a woman’s barber, a hairdresser — and have him thin it out evenly, so that it can be dressed smartly close.”
To be continued . . . .