Short hair on women has always made a statement. After receiving drastically shorter haircuts, some people might say, “It’s just hair – it’ll grow back.” But for others, hair is much more than that. The right cut can be a symbol of freedom and liberation, a confidence booster, or a way of expression. Someone can get a haircut simply to flatter his or her face shape or make getting ready in the morning an easier task.
Short haircuts for women comprise all of these ideas. Actresses and models have been cutting their hair short – from messy bobs to sleek pixie cuts – for decades. Lately, shorter haircuts have been coming in torrents, with celebrities and the masses alike creating a trend of cropped ‘dos.
The short haircut began in the 1920s with the bob, but the ideas behind that cut were forming years before that. The suffragettes of the early 1900s seemed to start it all. Upon forming the Women’s Social Political Union, British suffragettes would chain themselves to railings and break windows to draw attention to their cause. Another source of stealing attention came in the form of bright red tubes of lipstick – suffragettes sported bright red lips in an act of defiance, rebelling against beauty and fashion codes in an act of liberation. Lipstick wouldn’t hit the mass market until 1915.
There were early acts of chopped tresses. Antek Cierplikowski, a.k.a. Antoine of Paris, styled actress Eve Lavalliere’s hair into a very short style for her role as the teenage heroine of L’Ane de Buridan in 1909. He later claimed to have started the eternal short hair trend.
Coco Chanel was the next woman to infamously take the leap. The story goes that one night in 1917, before Chanel spent an evening at the opera, an accident with a gas heater singed her hair. She boldly chopped off the length of her hair with nail scissors, creating the short Chanel cut with which we all picture her.
The bob quickly became a success – if a bit of a scandal. But it fit with a new lifestyle. More women were entering the workforce, jazz was becoming popular, and women were earning the right to vote. The bob fit in with the liberation of the era. Actresses like Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, and Louise Brooks become the It-girls of style – and all had bobbed hair.
In the 1930s through the 1950s, some women kept shorter hairstyles, but they tended to be softer in style than the bobs of the 1920s. Women would wave and curl their hair, creating a more “feminine” look that was still easy for working women and busy moms. Jean Harlow was a famous symbol of the 1930s, with her soft, blonde cropped haircut.
The 1960s brought in a new era of short hair – short, angular cuts and pixie cuts. While longer hair was very popular at this time, many models made their mark with very short hairdos. The decade was very polarizing: some women wanted bouffants, while others wore their hair in a Jackie O. jaw-length style. Model Twiggy shocked everyone with her narrow frame and doll-like face. But her pixie-style haircut made an impact, too. Mia Farrow’s pixie cut, styled by Vidal Sassoon in the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby is still referenced today. Andy Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick’s cropped style helped make her an icon.
The 1990s ushered in even more cropped ‘dos. Think Demi Moore, Winona Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chloe Sevigny, all of whom made a statement with their closely cropped looks.
Many actresses and models have experimented with short hairstyles. Kate Moss, Halle Berry, and Keira Knightly stood out from the crowd with their short styles in the early 200os. More recently, when Emma Watson finally cut her hair in 2011 after the Harry Potter movies came to an end, her flattering pixie cut has brought back the short hair trend with a vengeance. A host of actresses and models have been cropping their hair, including Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Miley Cyrus, and Tilda Swinton. This year, models Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha cut their hair, as well as Beyonce and actress Ginnifer Goodwin. All of these women, and many more, demonstrate the strong beauty of the short haircut and continue the liberating tradition that the suffragettes and flappers began.
1. Clara Bow in Kid Boots, 1926 Paramount
2. Jean Harlow, ca. 1930s in Hell’s Angels
3. Twiggy, ca. 1960s
4. Winona Ryder’s pixie, 1990s
5. Emma Watson’s pixie cut, 2011, Teen Vogue
– Tanisha Wallis
Sources: Voguepedia.com, NYMag.com
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