Is there a hairstyle more iconic than the bob? From film to fashion to politics, the chin-length crop has always been a hit: just think of Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction; actress Nancy Kwan’s geometric bob courtesy of Vidal Sassoon in 1963; and Jacqueline Kennedy’s timeless cut, tucked neatly under candy-coloured pillbox hats.
Popularised by Hollywood’s silent movie stars in the early 1920s, the blunt bob quickly became a byword for flapper-era rebellion. Josephine Baker had her slick Eton crop, Clara Bow had her halo of curls and Louise Brooks’s shingle bob has inspired countless imitations (Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie, Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, Audrey Tautou in Amélie). Fast-forward to the 1960s, and neat bobbed styles were de rigueur for designers like Mary Quant and Jean Muir, while the tousled nonchalance of Debbie Harry defined the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, everyone from Rihanna to Beyoncé has experimented with the dramatic style, but few cuts have been as divisive as Victoria Beckham’s. When she debuted an angular, graduated bob in 2006, dubbed the “Posh Spice bob” or “Pob”, it became a pop culture sensation.
Vidal Sassoon tends to the designer’s trademark bob in 1964
The British model wore her hair in a gently waved bob in the 1972 Ken Russell film The Boy Friend
Model Beverly Johnson shows off a sleek bob
Debbie Harry’s rock chick bob, seen in 1979, was a key part of her look, which remains a style touchstone to this day
Her sharp early aughts bob was one of Portman’s most memorable looks
The supermodel pulled off an ultra short bob and choppy fringe with ease in 2007
Chanel muse Keira enjoyed a brief flirtation with the bob at the house’s SS11 show in Paris
J-Law is famous for her flowing blonde mane, but her short wavy chop, seen in 2014, is just as striking
It was a blunt, chunky bob for Beyoncé at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar party
Naturally style chameleon RiRi has experimented with the bob to great effect – as seen at her 2016 Fenty X Puma show
At Cannes in 2016 the actress teamed her signature smoky eye make-up with an artfully undone bleach blonde bob
The Met Gala red carpet is always an opportunity for the stars to experiment. In 2018, J-Lo swapped big hair for a slicked back bob
The long-time blonde bombshell dramatically switched up her look for 2019, unveiling a brunette bob on Oscar night