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.
In recent months, the look has seen another resurgence on the red carpet. At the 2019 Oscars, Charlize Theron, Emilia Clarke and Irina Shayk all flaunted new brunette bobs. The Met Gala’s Camp: Notes on Fashion theme, meanwhile, inspired bolder iterations of the style, including Lucy Boynton’s grey-blue choppy locks (to match the actress’s feather-strewn Prada dress) and Charli XCX’s precise cut with the ends dip-dyed fuchsia. The ultimate proof that the look is here to stay? Harper Beckham, who sparked a media frenzy after sporting a fringed bob on the front row of her mother’s AW19 show at London Fashion Week. Here, Vogue shortlists the 29 best bobs in history.