Friday, September 3, 2010

flappers and "the bob" haircut

Ceramic heads by Gudrun Baudisch (1907-1982), 1920s, at the Wiener Werkstätte

"At first, a bobbed head was seen as a sign of dangerous radicalism. When the manager of the Palm Garden in New York rented his hall to a left-wing group whose meeting ended in a riot in 1918, he defended himself by saying the woman who signed the lease was well dressed and drove a nice car. He added: "Had we noticed then, as we do now, that she had short hair, we would have refused."

-excerpt from America's Women by Gail Collins
-- * --

Louise Brooks (1906-1985) (a.k.a. Pie-Face) on the set of A Social Celebrity. The barber is Adolphe Menjou.

"Barbara (Bennett) finally appeared, wearing Constance's beige gabardine suit. We lunched on chocolate milkshakes at a drugstore, after which she took me to the smart hairdressing shop of Saveli, where Saveli himself attended to my hair. He shortened my bangs to a line above my eyebrows, shaped the sides in points at my cheekbones, and shingled the back of my head. Barbara was pleased. "As a mat-tra-fact, Pie-Face," she said, "you are beginning to look almost human."
-excerpt from Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, © 1983

-- * --

excerpt from the short story, Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1920) by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1948):

"On the following Wednesday evening there was a dinner-dance at the country club. When the guests strolled in Bernice found her place-card with a slight feeling of irritation. Though at her right sat G. Reece Stoddard, a most desirable and distinguished young bachelor, the all-important left held only Charley Paulson. Charley lacked height, beauty, and social shrewdness, and in her new enlightenment Bernice decided that his only qualification to be her partner was that he had never been stuck with her. But this feeling of irritation left with the last of the soup-plates, and Marjorie's specific instruction came to her. Swallowing her pride she turned to Charley Paulson and plunged. "Do you think I ought to bob my hair, Mr. Charley Paulson?"

Charley looked up in surprise.


"Because I'm considering it. It's such a sure and easy way of attracting attention."
Charley smiled pleasantly. He could not know this had been rehearsed. He replied that he didn't know much about bobbed hair. But Bernice was there to tell him.

"I want to be a society vampire, you see," she announced coolly, and went on to inform him that bobbed hair was the necessary prelude.

Louise Brooks in Love 'Em and Leave 'Em, 1926

She added that she wanted to ask his advice, because she had heard he was so critical about girls.

Charley, who knew as much about the psychology of women as he did of the mental states of Buddhist contemplatives, felt vaguely flattered.

"So I've decided," she continued, her voice rising slightly, "that early next week I'm going down to the Sevier Hotel barber-shop, sit in the first chair, and get my hair bobbed." She faltered, noticing that the people near her had paused in their conversation and were listening; but after a confused second Marjorie's coaching told, and she finished her paragraph to the vicinity at large.

"Of course I'm charging admission, but if you'll all come down and encourage me I'll issue passes for the inside seats."

There was a ripple of appreciative laughter, and under cover of it G. Reece Stoddard leaned over quickly and said close to her ear: "I'll take a box right now."

She met his eyes and smiled as if he had said something surpassingly brilliant.

"Do you believe in bobbed hair?" asked G. Reece in the same undertone.

"I think it's unmoral," affirmed Bernice gravely. "But, of course, you've either got to amuse people or feed 'em or shock 'em." Marjorie had culled this from Oscar Wilde.

Kym Hepworth, detail of Oscar Wilde's tomb by Jacob Epstein, Père Lachaise, Paris

It was greeted with a ripple of laughter from the men and a series of quick, intent looks from the girls. And then as though she had said nothing of wit or moment Bernice turned again to Charley and spoke confidentially in his ear.

"I want to ask you your opinion of several people. I imagine you're a wonderful judge of character."

Charley thrilled faintly--paid her a subtle compliment by overturning her water."

-- * --

Siouxsie and The Banshees - Peek-a-Boo

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