The evolution of the bob: The origins and enduring appeal of the timeless hairstyle

Sleek, choppy, asymmetric … here's why the bob remains as fresh as ever after decades in the spotlight

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"Fashion fades, style is eternal," Yves Saint Laurent famously pointed out. And the fashion world would unanimously agree that the bob hairstyle is a look that can be filed under eternal.

Having never gone out of style since its modern incarnation emerged back in the 1920s, each subsequent decade has delivered a new twist on the perennial classic. And its most recent reinvention is as razor sharp as the woman wearing it, British actress Rosamund Pike in her role as the morally bankrupt Marla Grayson in Netflix's I Care a Lot.

I Care A Lot:  Rosamund Pike as “Martha”. Photo Cr. Seacia Pavao / Netflix
Rosamund Pike's cut-glass take on the bob reflects her character in 'I Care a Lot'. Netflix

The origins of the modern bob remain disputed. While some believe it originated in Paris, where it was called the “garconne” – French for “boy” – others claim New York students living in Greenwich Village were responsible for the trend. Although, there is also evidence to suggest it was favoured by the female intelligentsia in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. However, while the bob's provenance is debated, the dates of its origin are firmer – most agree that the style started to catch on in the early 1900s.

One of the earliest originators of the trend was American dancer and actress Irene Castle, with the "Castle bob" named after her. But it wasn't until the roaring '20s, and the explosion of flapper chic, that the haircut became synonymous with the style of the day, with Coco Chanel and cartoon diva Betty Boop both early adopters.

Throughout the decades since, the haircut has never gone out of style, merely evolving across the years and adapting to the fashions of the day, proving itself one of the most timeless looks for locks.

During the Swinging Sixties in London, the haircut was redefined with additional geometric proportions when designer Mary Quant turned to hairdresser Vidal Sassoon to create her signature cut-glass bob which epitomised the decade.

From Jackie Kennedy and The Supremes' highly structured versions, to Debbie Harry's rock'n'roll take; Drew Barrymore's flower child grunge to Victoria Beckham's sleek "pob", and Naomi Campbell's modern flapper to Anna Wintour's signature look, these famous fans of the bob showcase the style in all its versatile glory.

Scroll through the gallery above for the many variations of the classic hairstyle.