A Drastic Pre-Appendectomy Haircut

The Bob: A women’s style of short haircut

History credits French libertines with inventing the scandalous hairstyle, cut sharp and short at the jawline. A lithe American dancer, Irene Castle (1887–1918), popularized the racy hairstyle in the United States. Castle and her dashing husband, Vernon, known for their smooth tango and mincing maxixe, were ballroom idols when she gave herself a drastic pre-appendectomy haircut, making headlines in 1914. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of having strange nurses and attendants fussing over my head,” she said. “The next week, 250 women had their hair cut. The week after it was 2500—and then it was impossible to keep count.” A ribbon decorated with pearls—soon called the Castle band—held flyaway locks in place, as did the newly invented “bob pin.”

As popular as it was, the look was still controversial. Conservative matrons played it both ways, wearing bobbed wigs. Others suffered. One foreign correspondent explained that the bob offered her “comfort for the first time in my life,” free from the burden of styling her long, unruly hair. Still, she grew it out before returning home from covering the war in France. “My husband is numbered among the group opposed to bobbed hair.”


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