Although popular conceptions of the Jazz Age suggest that every fashionable woman bobbed her hair during the 1920s, some women did keep their hair long. Long-haired women did not customarily wear their hair loose; rather, they pulled it back to the nape of the neck and wound it into a smooth chignon or knot. (1)

Jobyna Ralston, 1920s
Jobyna Ralston, 1920s
Aileen Pringle hairstyle, 1924
Aileen Pringle hairstyle, 1924

Another fashionable style at the beginning of the decade involved coiling long hair into two buns that rested one behind each ear. This hairstyle, known alternately as “earphones” or “cootie garages”, fell out of favour by the mid-1920s. (1)

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Natacha Rambova, fashion and movie set designer. Cootie Garage hairstyle with headwrap.

However, more enduring was the ubiquitous bob, cut short and straight at about chin-length, which dancing sensation Irene Castle introduced in the United States shortly before World War I. When other celebrities such as French fashion designer Coco Chanel and Hollywood star Louise Brooks also adopted this short, blunt haircut, women across the United States followed suit. (1)

Irene Castle by Edward Thayer Monroe
Irene Castle by Edward Thayer Monroe
Louise Brooks, 1920s
Louise Brooks, 1920s

Many women actually had their hair cut by men’s barbers, since some hairdressers, fearing that short, simple hairstyles would put them out of business, simply refused to shear off women’s long tresses. The bob could be worn with or without bangs, and was often accompanied by side curls plastered to the cheek or by a single curl dramatically set in the middle of the forehead. (1)

 Arlette Marchal, 1920s
Arlette Marchal, 1920s

Around 1923, the standard bob haircut began to evolve into different, even shorter styles. The shingle haircut, or “boyish bob”, tapered to a point at the nape of the wearer’s neck and often featured waves or short curls on the sides. (1)

Mary Astor, 1920's
Mary Astor, 1920’s

The even more radical “Eton crop”, which was trimmed above the wearer’s ears and shaved in the back, appeared in 1926. These streamlined haircuts were perfect for tucking underneath a stylish cloche hat so nothing but perhaps a side curl or two was visible. While young women in their late teens and twenties were the first to engage in the bobbed hair craze, by the end of the decade women of all ages were wearing the convenient and versatile bob. (1)

Eton Crop hairstyle, 1920s
Eton Crop hairstyle, 1920s

“Marcel waves”, as they became known, were a tremendously popular feature of the bobbed haircut. In 1872, Marcel Grateau, a French hairstylist, invented a method by which hair could be curled or waved with the use of curling iron heated on a stove until it was nearly scorching hot. By the 1920s, more convenient electric curling irons and crimpers became available, making it even easier for women to “marcel” their hair into deep horizontal waves that were then fashionable. (1)

This picture shows a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the Marcel Waves, 1920s
This picture shows a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the Marcel Waves, 1920s

SOURCES:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

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