Should I get a 1930s bob haircut, and if so, where?
December 18, 2009 12:41 PM   Subscribe

1) Should I get my hair cut into a 20s/30s style bob? 2) Where, in the north-suburbs-of-chicago-ish area should I go to get this done?

More context:
Here are some photos of me for hair texture context. Also, you can then take a look at my face shape for advice context.

I have had long hair for years and years. It's getting to be a pain to take care of, especially in its current dyed state (though I have done a good job keeping it healthy; there's little to no damage). I don't have the patience to blow-dry the amount of hair i have now, and I don't really use hair products now, but that might change with less total, uh, volume of hair. I've been looking at a lot of 20s/30s-ish styles, such as this and this and this. (Yes, my eyes are drawn to the hair in that last photo, though everyone I've sent it to has been a bit more leg-focused.)

I'm open to suggestions of other haircuts, but I'm kind of reluctant to get bangs, due to not wanting to look even younger than I do already.
I'm also not sure whether I'd really be open to shorter than chin-length hair, but again, I'd love your suggestions.

I'd elaborate more about the second question, but it seems fairly self-explanatory. I'm located in Wilmette, IL, but have a car. Suggestions for places known to not freak out at the purple/blue hair are a bonus -- I'm sort of skittish about choosing a salon due to some...unprofessional experiences in the past.
posted by mismatched to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Shoot, the last photo there seems to have passed on. Sorry, all. (It was pretty, but didn't communicate much more than the others, anyhow. Had the bonus of actually being an older thing, though.)
posted by mismatched at 12:43 PM on December 18, 2009

Would you part it on the side like that?

I'd say go for it - it's only hair and it will grow back if you don't like it.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:47 PM on December 18, 2009

I think a bob of that sort would look cute on you, but I also think that the styles you linked to took a lot more work than you might think--I mean, look at the comment on the bottom of the first: "I only had time to leave my pin curls in for two hours, so it didn't turn out quite as awesome as I'd hoped, but it still looked good and held up really well throughout the night :)"

I think a trim and some long, side-swept bangs would look really good on you. I also think ditching the center part would go a long way towards making you look older.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:47 PM on December 18, 2009

I've found that with longer hair, I don't like blowing it dry and having to fuss with it for more than 10-15 minutes. That didn't change with me having short hair (like the girl in the first photo). Short hair can take just as much or as little work as long hair.

My general feeling on haircuts is go for it. It'll grow back.
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2009

"Short hair can take just as much or as little work as long hair."

True. In my experience it takes a lot more attention than long hair. but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it; just be prepared for the reality that you'll probably have to spend some time styling each morning if you want to look put together.
posted by something something at 12:53 PM on December 18, 2009

I had a bob for years (though more on the '60s side of the spectrum), and it definitely took a fair amount of work to maintain. Which is not to say you shouldn't do it -- I think the styles you linked to are adorable -- but just to keep in mind that "shorter" doesn't automatically equal "easier."
posted by scody at 12:55 PM on December 18, 2009

You have nice strong eyebrows and great lips. I think a shorter style that specifically framed your face (similar to the ones you showed) would be great on you. If people talk you out of the amount of work it would probably be on a daily basis, you could always go with something simpler. But feel good about cutting it short. You will look nice with a hair style that better shows off your face.
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:57 PM on December 18, 2009

N'thing the whole bob-haircut = more work thing. I went down that road and it looked adorable or kind of sad depending on whether or not I blow dried it with a round brush.
posted by Kimberly at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2009

Like you, I have sort of wavy, not quite curly hair. When I tried to do the bob thing, it didn't turn out so great. I occasionally like to let my hair just air-dry and go wavy and when it's long it does that pretty well, however, when I cut it short the waves lost the weight that pulled them down and they basically just stuck out all over- like very weird, bad bedhead. It turned out that if I wanted the wavy bob look, I had to blowdry it straight first, then put waves back in, followed by a ton of product to make the style stay. That's a lot of time to spend on your hair and I had to blowdry it every day at the very least just to look not-mentally-ill. The constant heat also made my hair dry and more damaged than it had been before.

Basically, I don't think you'll be happy with it. Vintage styles are great, but remember what you're looking at most of the time- wealthy housewives posed for photos on special occasions or idealized advertising images. Girdles and pincurls look great, but there's a good reason they went out of style after the sexual revolution.

If you're after an easy to style, more grown-up look, try parting your hair on the side and having a stylist cut some long layers in your hair.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 1:10 PM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you get a longish bob (past the jawline) and side-part it, you'll be able to wear it straight/wavy for everyday and then curl it vintage-style for fancier occasions. Make sure you go to someone who knows how to cut hair. Yelp is my best friend for everything; if I were you I'd read the reviews for the higher-rated salons and go with the one that reviewers who sound like people I'd like reviewed well.

In case you've never tried out a side-part: when your hair is wet, pick an eyebrow. Draw a line with your finger from the middle of your eyebrow up through your hair and to the back of your head. That's your new part; adjust if necessary. Your hair will get used to it after a while, and fall where you want it naturally.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:15 PM on December 18, 2009

Best answer: I can recommend a great stylist in Evanston. His name is Chad, and he is at Trio Salon, on Central. He is seriously the best haircutter I have ever been to - great at figuring out what will work with my hair, excellent at reading my mind as to what I really want, and creative too. I'm sure you could go to him and ask his advice and come up with something fantastic. Also, he's smart and funny.
posted by hazleweather at 1:17 PM on December 18, 2009

Nthing that a bob is likely to be more trouble than you think. I think you would look great with a side part and long-ish side-swept bangs.

I recommend Hair Thursday for style ideas.
posted by apricot at 1:18 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think a bob would work, but seriously, getting the waves like that is not easy. There are a ton of youtube tutorials on pin curls to get an idea, although remember most people posting such videos have had a lot of practice. I've tried it a few times, and when it doesn't work it really doesn't work.

On preview I agree with oinopaponton that slightly longer bob would be good.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2009

Best answer: Two questions to ask yourself before you go short:

- How often am I likely to go back for a trim?
- Is it important for me to be able to pull my hair back?

I can't speak to vintage bobs specifically, but I've found that for any hairstyle chin-length or shorter, you have to get regular trims, even if you're in the process of growing it out. If you drag your feet getting to the salon, it shows. It hasn't been an embarrassingly long time since my last trim - ten weeks or so - but I have been looking mulletrocious for the past month.

And if you wear your hair in ponytails a lot, that option will be gone for several months. You can make do with a headband for times when you just need your hair out of your face, but if you ever put your hair up because it looks weird and you don't feel like styling it, you no longer have that escape plan.

Shorter hair also often translates to more volume, which can be either fantastically cute or make you look like a hammerhead shark. I would guess - but can't tell for sure - that you'd fall into the fantastically cute category.

Would you consider a "beachy" or "messy" bob? It's a different look from the sleek and deliberate vintage pin-curled bob, but it requires minimal styling and works well with naturally wavy hair.

I tend to be really specific when I go in for haircuts - not for the style, but for what I'm willing to do with it. I almost always specify "I don't blow-dry or style my hair, and I want something that will look good growing out," no matter what cut I'm getting. So many stylists hear "low-maintenance" and say, "well, all you need to do is blow-dry this with a round brush and use a little bit of volumizing spray." I'd recommend when you go in, tell your stylist not only the specific look you want, but the general goal you're aiming for (e.g. looking more grown up or whatever), and the amount of effort you're willing to put in. A good stylist will be able to give you something that satisfies the last two, if not all three.

If you're willing to drive down to Chicago, I recommend Tigerlilie in Lincoln Square. They specialize in vintage styles, but are good with normal non-high-maintenance haircuts and "well, I just want something new."
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2009

Best answer: I'm going to agree with the comment above that these bob styles take more styling care and products than you would think. You should figure out how "authentic" you want to get with the whole 20s-30s bob thing before you decide on which bob you'd like. If you wanted to go for a sleek Louise Brooks/Anna May Wong style bob, from the look of your picture most of the effort would be going into make sure your hair is smooth.

For any short style, depending on how fast your hair grows, you'll have to be ready to go back often to get a trim (especially for the sleek looks I hightlighted above).

But you want waves! SO...:
(Warning, the following depends on how crazy you want to get with recreating the look. I point out where I can that you can probably find easier solutions to maintain)

As for the pictures you've linked to, while you can find reasonable facsimiles in haircare with modern tools like curlers (for example, instead of actually creating waves with pincurls or painstakingly creating fingerwaves, you could get away with doing a marcel wave with an iron specifically for that).

Especially in the first photo you linked to, that require pin curls, which can become a pretty involved process depending on how detailed you want to get, and requires ample time to make sure the curls set before you take the pins out as well as setting lotion or some sort of haircare product like a setting lotion (if you have some kind of heating/hair drying hood at home though you can cut that time a bit obviously). I personally have a lot of hair, and it was a bit longer when I attempted this, so when I was trying to do a 40s-50s style whole head pin curl/comb out, it took me about an hour to curl it all up in the the corresponding pincurl patterns, and I had to do it the night before to make sure it would fully dry when I had to take the pins out. Again, this is based more on how complicated the outcome you want it to be. You'll have to experiment a bit to see how much you can simplify the curl pattern you want to get your desired effects. If you just want general waves throughout your hair, you might not have to get so detailed. You could probably experiment with rollers for that.

Looking from your picture, it looks like your hair has some wave to it, but not a whole lot of volume or it's not as thick on top. It's hard to tell just from photos if this is due to current care, which is something that can easily be remedied by just having a good haircut/how you maintain it, or if that's just how your hair grows, which might require a bit more effort in styling. But don't underestimate how much a haircut can effect how you style your hair. A shorter cut can bring out more of the wave/curl in your hair and maybe give it some more volume depending on the actual thickness of your hair.

Why do I say this? Because, fingerwaves are pretty complicated to do too, especially if you're doing them on your own head. BUT, if your hair is a bit curly/wavy, you don't have to work as hard to shape the curls. I have ringlets/Shirley Temple style curly hair when I don't do anything, but to make fingerwaves, I basically just use a liberal dab of a protein gel product like AM Pro, comb it through my hair to saturate it smoothe, then just take the comb and push my hair back in the opposite direction, and voila, fingerwaves. I still have to go back in to push it around a bit and curl up the longer loose ends in a pin curl and let it dry a bit to come out with a Betty Boop style 'do (I recently cut my hair real short in a boy cut). When I do have time to kill or want an intensely more stylized look, I'll break down and do the finger/ridges routine, but it's not that necessary with my hair curl pattern and texture.

Again, there are obvious shortcuts, and you'll be able to figure it out on your own hair. And keep in mind back in the day women didn't wash their hair as much once it was styled. You either wore a snood or some sort of covering or did something to maintain so you wouldn't have to go through the process all over again. I've made fingerwaves, then used freezer hairspray to spray it down, crocodile clips to hold onto the waves, then covered my head in a scarf. Even then, the style barely stood up to day two. Depending on the method you use to achieve your results+how well your hair type keeps a style+how much you toss and turn when you sleep you'll probably have better luck than me having the style last more than a day or two. If you just decided to curl it up for an even wave, and your hair keeps curling/styling well, you probably could get away with a touch up with an iron.

But yea, half the fun is in experimenting and new haircuts are always awesome in my opinion, so I'm always in the "Go for it!" column for haircuts.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:09 PM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think a bob would look great on you, but commenters above are right on about the look you want not being particularly easy to achieve. If you have an as-yet unrealized dream of spending hours doing your hair, go for the blunt-cut 30s bob. However, it sounds like you might be more at ease on a day-to-day basis with a layered bob - a longer one would still leave you enough length to play with pin curls on special occasions, while being much more wash and wear when you don't want to fuss as much.

You probably will need to do a bit of something with it on a daily basis in terms of styling. I've found shorter hair fun to play with in terms of product and blow drying and such, and I once was a 100% wash-and-wear gal. Product helps get a more defined look out of wavy hair if you want it on the curlier side, and short hair does take less time to blow dry than shoulder length hair. If you're interested in achieving a very smooth look, you might want to get a straightening iron.

A key consideration for increasing your chances of being happy with a change like this right out of the gate is spending on a good stylist. Seriously. I have one that I go to once or twice a year and say, effectively, "I want it this long in the back, this long in the front, and I don't want to spend more than 7 minutes doing it on a daily basis. Go!" I pay well for this, and go somewhere cheaper if I need a cut in the meantime (which I actually often don't, since a good cut that isn't too structured holds up well even as my hair grows out). This doesn't mean you need to spend $200 getting your hair done, but unless you've got an inside line on a very talented stylist at a very cheap place, it would be worth your while to plan to stretch your budget as far as you reasonably can.

Another note on getting a more vintage look - your brows have a great natural arch. If you're willing to thin them down (not necessarily pencil thin, as that might be too much of a change straight away), that will help you get a more retro look, even with a more modern bob.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:27 PM on December 18, 2009


Those styles are adorable and it looks like the texture and natural curliness of your hair will work well with them. Having said that, I have to nth everyone else who said that chin length bobs are more work than you think. I have hair similar to yours and if I don't blow my chin length bob dry, I look like an escaped mental patient. You should get your hair cut anyway because even if it turns into a debacle, you won't care 6 months from now when it grows out.

Good luck and make sure to post pictures!
posted by Maisie at 2:34 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! I appreciate the input, especially from people who have done the long-hair-to-short-hair transition before. I didn't think that much about the amount of work it would be. I'm leaning towards the suggestion of doing a side-part bob with some layers so I don't *have* to put the work in, but it can end up pin-curl-fabulous on special occasions. Today's experiment has been to add in a side-part with my current (long) hair, which I am liking a lot.

Also, suuuuper-thanks to Hazelweather, because that is conveniently located and sounds awesome. I'll be giving them a call.
posted by mismatched at 3:08 PM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: Ooh, hmm. Maybe I will checkout Tigerlilie...decisions, decisions!
Also, I do tend to rely on the ponytail/braid on bad hair days, but I'm not too worried about alternatives in the future -- I like hats. :)
posted by mismatched at 3:13 PM on December 18, 2009

If you get a short do and don't want to wash/style on a particular day, hats are awesome, but scarves or some kind of bandana is great too. You don't have to babushka it up, you could get one of those longer colorful silk (or whatever) scarves or fold up a bandana and tie it on like a headband, and it can be pretty freakin' adorable. Or like a triangular folded kerchief tied to the back (not under the chin like a babushka) with two short little mini pigtails (if there's enough to tie and it's not severely chin-length), even more adorable!
posted by kkokkodalk at 4:02 PM on December 18, 2009

I got my hair cut from waist length to a bob last week. It's a big longer at the chin, and shorter at the back, and all layered; side-part, and no fringe. My hair is pretty fine, and very very straight. I look reasonably similar to you.

I am freaking amazed at how much easier it is to deal with. It's a lot quicker to wash, and I seriously have to blow dry it for about 2 minutes before it's dry enough that the air will do the rest over breakfast. Plus, no more tangles! At all! Granted, my style is more on the 'messy' bob side of the fence, but I really appreciate that, because it means that when I can't be bothered (i.e., every morning before work), it still looks good. On the other hand, I think though I could make it look pretty sleek if I felt like it.

I agree with everyone else saying that the pin-curling and finger-waving will take forever, and is probably not an every day kind of thing, but I see no reason you couldn't do it for special occasions. I also agree that frequent haircuts are key, and a good hairdresser is probably a bit more important in this case too.

In any case - it's just hair - it'll grow back. Do it!
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:30 AM on December 19, 2009

Oh - also. I would recommend against a fringe/bangs. If you have a side-part, you'll get the sideswept look anyway, and in my experience, fringes require a lot of effort to get them and keep them looking good, and they take ages to grow out. YMMV. Plus, you can always get one later once you decide you like the style.
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:33 AM on December 19, 2009

The second set in particular would look good on you - go for it!
posted by Bergamot at 10:48 PM on December 19, 2009

If it's not too late, let me recommend Twisted Scissors. All the derby girls go there, and I guarantee you they've seen and done every possible retro look that has ever existed. I knew Bethany from derby and loved my cut, but the entire salon is into the punk/rockabilly/flapper look, so I suspect you'd be in good hands with any of the stylists there.
posted by eamondaly at 12:33 PM on December 28, 2009

Also, you'll have to show it off at the next meetup!
posted by eamondaly at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2009

Curly hair doesn't have to be a lot of work. Going 'CG' transformed my hair from frizzy curly to 30s bob style curly, and your hair looks like a great candidate for it because it wants to be curly! Here's a good overview:
And here is a thread with before and after pictures:
posted by astrid at 12:55 PM on December 31, 2009

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