Lifelong devotee reveals why the bob is the perfect corona cut

A bob’s just the job: Lifelong devotee reveals why the style – worn by the likes of Natalie Portman and Fearne Cotton – is the perfect corona cut when hairdressers finally reopen

  • Lucy Worsley always wanted long, curly hair after being told angel’s had hair like that
  • Her mother decided that limp brown hair needs all the help it can get from its cut
  • A lifetime of being bobbed began and she never really experimented with anything else 

The year was 1976, figure skater Dorothy Hamill was dominating the Winter Olympics, and in suburban Reading my mother was giving her unwilling daughter an approximation of Hamill’s short pageboy bob.

I always wanted long, curly hair, because the little girl who lived next door told me that angels had hair like that.

But what I had was fine and mousy. My mother had rightly decided that limp, brown hair needs all the help it can get from its cut, and a lifetime of being bobbed began.

I never really experimented with anything else, except for in my early 20s when I challenged myself not to have a haircut until I’d finished my PhD thesis. The end of four years of drudgery was marked by the wonderful sound of snipping scissors.

I was too young to appreciate it, but my bob has a history as the hairstyle of the emancipated woman

I was too young to appreciate it, but my bob has a history as the hairstyle of the emancipated woman.

Popularised by the flappers of the 1920s, it’s the cut of liberation. With their knock-kneed dances and louche lifestyles, the flappers adopted the bob for the freedom it gave them from the tyranny of combing, curling and dressing long locks.

However, I’ve been surprised to hear that the bob is the lockdown haircut of choice. It’s been hailed as the low-maintenance way to get through the period when the salons are closed.

It’s supposed to be the most hygienic hairstyle too. A bob means less time in the hairdresser’s chair and does not require a blow-dry (research suggests Covid-19 could be spread in salons by the blasting of hairdryers).

I’m a bit dubious, because the gentle kink in my own hair always looks best blown sleekly out — though I admit I haven’t bothered with the hairdryer for weeks.

My mother had rightly decided that limp, brown hair needs all the help it can get from its cut, and a lifetime of being bobbed began. Lucy is pictured (right) at university

I’m lucky enough to have had the same dream hairdresser for many years. Ange watches my TV programmes, and often says something like: ‘I saw you on the box last night and I think the back’s not quite working. I’m going to do it different.’ Fortuitously, a few days before lockdown I went to see Ange for what seemed like a drastically short cut. She said it would ‘last longer’. She was right: 13 weeks later it still has some shape.

However, I think I’m going to be the second client through the door of the salon when it reopens, and that’s only because someone else was even quicker off the mark than me when bookings reopened.

Though no one’s ever asked me to change my hair, many people over the years have tried to wean me off my hair-clip, which I wear partly in homage to my spiritual sisters the flappers, partly for practicality.

When I was asked to front a series for BBC Two, I was told I should look more grown up and ‘authoritative’. I was marched to a ‘destination salon’ in London’s Mayfair, and sent home with a new, fluffier, fringier bob. At home, I secretly wept. I hated it.

As my fringe grew out, I convinced the TV bosses that any authority I might have lay in my historical knowledge rather than a hair-clip.

You might say I’m stuck in a hair rut but everything comes back into fashion if you wait long enough. My bob and I are going to make the most of being in vogue.

A wave, a lob or a blunt – the expert’s guide to which style would suit you best 

By Mark Hayes, International Creative Director for Vidal Sassoon 

Any woman taking her long-awaited salon seat in the coming weeks will, doubtless, feel relief that her hair is finally about to get some professional attention again.

Hairdressers have been told to put lengthy blow-dries on hold. With strict hygiene regulations in force when salons re-open, the industry concedes blow-dries are unsafe for stylists and clients alike.

Low-maintenance, shorter hair that flatters the features and grows out attractively if regular appointments prove hard to secure seem the way forward.

In other words, a bob — that iconic cut that Vidal Sassoon made his own. Chic, glamorous, yet easy to look after at home, it’s the perfect Covid-era hairstyle.

Vidal, my mentor, revived the look from the 1920s and made it an emblem for the Sixties when he gave Mary Quant the cut. Since then, it has become the world’s most imitated haircut.

It takes up to an hour to perform this haircut — but a lifetime to master it. A steady hand is an absolute must.

The great thing about the bob is that it can be of varied length and severity, meaning there’s a version of it to suit a variety of face shapes and features.

This guide might help you decide which one would work best for you.

THE CLASSIC VIDAL SASSOON

You need a highly skilled stylist for this unforgiving cut — too high at the back and you’ll look like someone hit you from behind with a shovel. Pictured: Mary Quant

The original, short geometric bob, synonymous with Sassoon and Mary Quant, above, is short in the back and longer in the front.

You need a highly skilled stylist for this unforgiving cut — too high at the back and you’ll look like someone hit you from behind with a shovel; too low and it will make your head look overly round.

Similarly, taken too high at the front it will destroy your facial proportions. And, of course, there is no room for mistakes in the sharp line, which must be perfectly straight.

WAVY

 Clients often bemoan a natural wave in their hair — but sometimes it can work as a blessing. Pictured: Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s model daughter

Cindy Crawford’s model daughter, Kaia Gerber’s wavy bob is just gorgeous.

Clients often bemoan a natural wave in their hair — but sometimes it can work as a blessing, with a straight line and no fringe adding movement and creating a beautifully romantic look.

It will also encourage the hair to thatch out, giving a lovely triangular shape, which I particularly like.

BLUNT

Actress Naomie Harris’s strong jaw means she can wear it at chin length but it looks good, too, just clearing her shoulders

If you have grown out a style during lockdown, you are likely to have the length a strong, blunt bob needs to look really good.

Actress Naomie Harris, above, carries this bob beautifully. Her strong jaw means she can wear it at chin length but it looks good, too, just clearing her shoulders.

Cut short into the neck, it can take on a boyish quality, which works well with refined features. If you have a square face, it will look great on you.

LAYERED

This can be swept to one side or the other, cut high on the cheekbones or left longer like curtains that sit evenly on either side of the face. Pictured: Natalie Portman 

You want them in the length, not on top, so you look more like actress Natalie Portman and presenter Jenni Falconer (pictured) and less like Rod Stewart

This seems to be the go-to bob for every celebrity at some point in their career.

It’s no wonder when it’s so easy to wear and somehow manages to flatter every facial shape, balancing all feature types.

There’s a softness to it that allows versatility with the fringe. This can be swept to one side or the other, cut high on the cheekbones or left longer like curtains that sit evenly on either side of the face. It is also the easiest style to maintain. The layering means you can wash, comb through and leave to dry naturally; any wave in your hair will make the cut appear more personal to you.

It’s important that your stylist gets those layers right. You want them in the length, not on top, so you look more like actress Natalie Portman, above, and presenter Jenni Falconer, right, and less like Rod Stewart. 

WITH A FRINGE

This is the most difficult bob to wear because of the way it forms a square and symmetrical frame around the face. Pictured: Noomi Rapace

This is the most difficult bob to wear because of the way it forms a square and symmetrical frame around the face. This will make even the softest features appear stronger — great if you want to stand out; not so much if you’re wary of magnifying any ‘imperfections’ such as a big nose or heavy jaw.

It looks stunning on Noomi Rapace, above, the Swedish actress in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Before going for the fringed bob, ask yourself, ‘Do I want to camouflage my features or have them stand out?’ If it’s the latter, go for it.

LOB (long bob)

This is the easiest cut to perform and an entry-level style for someone not ready to commit to a more dramatic look. Pictured: Fearne Cotton

A bob needs to clear the shoulders to be able to own the name, and the long bob just about does that. Presenter Fearne Cotton, above, is a good example.

This is the easiest cut to perform and an entry-level style for someone not ready to commit to a more dramatic look.

The only problem is that this bob grows out super-fast and, once it hits your shoulders, it will start to flick up and stick out and become something else. With salon appointments so hard to get, a shorter, sharper cut will hold its shape as it grows.  

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