The Locked Files: Black Bobs



It’s time for another instalment of The Locked Files, where we profile an iconic hairdo throughout the decades. This time around, I want to look at bobs, but not just any old bobs – black bobs (well I will allow brunette). Black bobs to me have always been something in and of themselves, separate from other bobs. A black bob is a statement, an identity and a trademark. Despite Margot Tennenabum, Mary Portas and Anna Wintour adopting the bob and displaying a chic, no nonsense visual, their lighter hues are not as impactful to me as the darker version of the same cut. As such, I felt that black bobs needed their own very unique Locked File.

I have searched in frustration for the best part of decade to find ‘my cut’. I had liked the idea that there was one perfect cut for each person and wanted to find my match. This cut would be a strong visual metaphor; it would make me look put together even when I was in my pyjamas. It would represent the sum total of my influences and loves. It would travel with me to Paris or New York and sit there on my bonce, perfectly in tune with my life and most importantly my wardrobe. In short, it would be my signature haircut. Well now I have given up on the dream that there is one perfect hair cut out there for me. I have tried dear reader, believe me I have tried. I have been set up with hairdressers by friends, I have scoured hair galleries online, and I have walked in to those unknown first salon appointments with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. However, I am just too darn picky and or fickle to find my perfect hair partner. Don’t get me wrong, it’s magical for the first week or so, but I soon get bored and start looking around for a shorter/longer/glossier or fuller option. My hair life is essentially the polar opposite of my love life, which is much more of the albatross variety.

My most lasting and important hair relationship has however been with the black bob. It is probably down to this picture, which I have already discussed here…

I had this picture on my wall as a teenager and it pretty much encompasses everything I was inspired by and sought to find in the world – uniqueness, an original love and midnight wonder. Also a cute shift dress. I think it resonated with me when I was young because despite not being stereotypically glamourous (by that I mean suntanned with long hair) this couple had found and loved each other and there in the moonlight they stood, protecting and shielding one another from the vast weirdness of the world around them and forming their own magic.


Back to black bobs.

I suppose if we want to get right back to it, we should take Cleopatra as an early advocate of the black bob. However and here let me adopt my history hat, contemporary coinage shows Cleopatra with her hair pulled back in loose bun in a more of a Roman fashion. Carving and statuary do show her wearing traditional ceremonial braided wigs and headpieces, sometimes known as Isis braids, for the very reason that she was in the guise of a goddess and these elaborate trappings are representative of this rather than necessarily being an accurate likeness. Then there is the perennial issue of artists creating her image either without meeting her or many years after her death. The beauty, lack thereof or just sheer ‘who-gives-a-figyness’ of Cleopatra has long been debated and every once in a while new evidence will come to light to argue for or against her hook nose or unique charisma. The benefits of these debates seem to me, well debateable (no one is putting quite so much effort into discovering whether Mark Antony was a looker or not). However, beyond any of this it is fairly certain that Cleopatra didn’t look like this:


Arguably, the most famous black bob is that worn by Louise Brooks. Her interpretation of it served to propel the cut into the popular lexicon as a shorthand for all things ‘vamp’. Little Louise may not have been the first black bob in history and she certainly was not the last but she is without a doubt the best. Sleek, sharp and timeless, her cut also came to be the symbol for all things ‘flapper’ related, to the degree that replica synthetic wigs are an expected addition to any 1920s fancy dress outfit on EBay. ‘Lulu’ remembered having her blunt bangs created by Saveli at the insistence of Barbara Bennett after a lunch of chocolate milkshakes. It tied in with, in her words, a desire to ‘create my dream woman’ which also involved expensive and elegant clothes working in harmony with the cut to create her trademark sultry look.


The short sharp bob of the interwar years became less ubiquitous during the 40s and early 50s as softer, longer styles became popular. However, the late 50’s and early sixties saw a sea change in women’s fashion and with it so the bob came back, albeit in a rounder and more voluminous form. 60s style makers Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon popularised short, sleek black bobs as they came to be a symbol of fresh, clean modernism. As always dear reader I generally dislike speaking in such broad terms and I could bore you all senseless about the faux uniformity of trends viewed via hindsight, however please forgive me for trying to be reasonabley succinct at the expense of expansive historical detail.

Over the subsequent years black bobs have remained a visual code for all things vampy, naughty and just a touch Lolitaish, harking back to their Brooksian heritage. Designers and stylists alike often pop a black bobbed wig on an otherwise long, ombre-haired lovely in order to transform her into a textbook sex kitten – chic, mysterious and something just a little different. This is perhaps most notable in the aesthetic of Chantal Thomas who has made the black bob not merely her personal style insignia, but whose cat-eyed models rarely appear sporting anything other than a glossy, brow-skimming cut. Chanel, L’école des Femmes, Agent Provocateur, Ellen von Unwerth to name but a few all regularly harness the power of the black bob and that’s before we even get on to films. As this hilarious article succinctly points out, if you want a loathsome home wrecker who is hell-bent on breaking up a lovely marriage – get a gal with a black bob. Same goes for that journalist woman in High Fidelity who is all edgy and tempting to John Cusack’s character. Poor John Cusack. Baaaad, bob lady, No! I said No! Naughty! Get down from there. Go to your basket. Maybe hers was more of a dark red actually – but the point still stands.


Despite this hairdo bigotry rife in popular culture, I still love a black bob. As I said above, I have sported multiple incarnations myself. Most recently last summer I got one with a very short cyber-Bettie Page fringe which when I pinned it up made me look like Judy Garland, I’m still not sure if that was a good or bad thing. I generally prefer my bob fringe-less – controversial I know – is it even really a bob?!!! Who knows! Who cares! I’ve had em’ at all lengths and levels of bluntness (as I said, searching for my perfect match) but I tend to like mine a bit gown out somewhere just below the jaw. Funny story, I used to have quite long hair, sort of bra strap level if not a bit longer. I had talked for ages about cutting my hair short into a bob and T had always responded with that stock non-committal – ‘I like it the way it is’. I have never paid the least bit of mind to what any partners do or don’t like me doing with my style so these comments were hardly going to stop me. Back in 2008 T had been abroad for work for about six months and the day before he came back I got all of my hair hacked off – it wasn’t really planned that way it just sort of happened. Needless to say he loved it – (obvs. I mean bobs are awesome) and now every time I go to the hairdressers he not so subtly asks if I am getting a bob again. I probably will one day but right now, I’m playing around with having long hair (I’ve rediscovered ponytails – who knew!). Nevertheless, here a few shots from my Bob Hall of Fame (read- phone selfies).


Tits, I kinda’ want a bob again now. See! Fickle!


The Locked Files Part 2 – A Bad Case of Hives

I’ve got a bad case of hives. Beehives! In the second instalment of The Locked Files I’m going to explore that most fabulous of do’s – the hive.

For years, when my hair was long, I would wear it in a hive of sorts. It was usually backcombed, messily pinned up with a multitude of Kirby grips and had pieces hanging about the front framing my face. I had totally forgotten that I ever used to do this until recently. Now, after my Christmas hack, my hair is getting longer and I’ve been re-visiting the look. I’m not sure if it’s really and truly to be considered a beehive though, and herein lies the problem.

How to define a hive? Are we purely talking about the narrow cones of the Ronnettes or the wider, poofier and messier Bardot? Is Patsy’s famous and fiercely immovable bouff a hive or just a French twist? Is Audrey’s hair really a hive as so many always describe it? Is there a height limit? Is there a width criteria? Essentially, what’s a beehive and what’s just an updo with volume? Well like the mysteries of the Sphinx, I’m not convinced anyone really knows. As such I’m going to use my own definition, which is; if it’s had a degree of back-combing and is pinned up with an air of ‘yeah I’m a hive, and?’ then it’s a beehive.



kI’m gonna say this is definately a hive, because, well you dont mess with Patsy.

I think at its heart the hive is as much about attitude as it is height or form. I think that’s why I love it. I can’t think of a more kick-ass-I’m-a-woman-with-a-signature-fragrance-and-impressive-collection-of–spendy-underwear do than a hive. It’s so confident, bold and peacocking to backcomb your locks in to a huge matted nest and then stick it on top of your head like a massive sexy sign which screams, ‘GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR SK-II SKINCARE, THAT GREAT JOB OVER THERE IN THE CORNER AND HALF A POUND OF CHARBONNEL AND WALKER, STAT’. A woman with a beehive never gets told to ‘cheer up love’ by some patronising git on the street. She never gets ID’d for cigarettes when she’s left her drivers licence at home and has to get her boyfriend to buy them for her, despite being 27. But most importantly, she never, ever gets asked when she’s going to have a baby because everyone knows that the other stuff she’s’ got going on, like do the cha-cha in Monaco or being a cat burglar, is frankly just a bit more interesting. In short, a beehived woman is a woman to be respected.


The beehive itself was created at the dawn of the 1960s by Margaret Vinci Heldt. She was asked in by Modern Beauty Salon magazine to design a new style that would ‘reflect the coming decade’. It became so popular that the Cosmetologist Chicago trade association created a scholarship in her honour.
The subsequent decades saw the look falling in at out of mainstream fashion, evolving in to other styles and just generally kicking about in our lady arsenals to be pulled out in times of need.

What a do.

So here’s my homage to that entirely unapologetic and fabulous look.

First things first, let’s see how we make a hive. I stumbled across this video a few months back of Gizzie Erskine doing her signature hive on her mate Sally Hughes which I thought was pretty helpful and fun….

Clickity Click!

Also for a more detailed, blow by blow account, here’s the ever lovely Cherry Dollface with her tutorial.

And again with the clicking!

Right, now we all know how to do them, lets start with those gals who began it all, the Ronnettes. They of course weren’t the only 60s girl group to sport the look, but it will forever be synonymous with them.

Vidal working his magic.

cbeehive_rexfeatures_1005000aBardot, hair idol, always. I always feel much more myself with messy hair; hastily pinned up,tendrils hanging down and all. I’ve just never been a neat hair kinda gal.

dSo pretty!


376411d0b209a0c66033a2dc24922e45The evolution of a style.

7dd98f70284917607ba5196eb7c1b9c4Suzanne Pleshette

c2d349c872e12e26f81bd186ae4febc6The Shrimp

The 90s saw a second honeymoon for the beehive as it became rebranded the French Twist. Well if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…The likes of Ivana Trump popularised the style and made it the power-do for women in royal blue blazers and statement gold jewlery.

Ivana Trumpc08c0a584657f26981943954f6e06ff2Claudia being the 90s personified.

The beehive seems to be constantly re-invented by each new decade. It currently remains the darling do for fashion editorials the world over, combining vintage nostalgia with luxe glamour.


Then there are of course those modern ladies who have made it their trademark look.




e006fd3b845be85d306d66302dde8a21And of course Amy.

So I suppose the moral of the tale is that the hive can be anything you want it to be. Big, small, neat or messy. So go out there and get teasing. And if you really want, try out one of these varriations…




The Locked Files: Issue 1 – The Pixie

I’m very thankful that I have never suffered from that terrible condition – new-do fear. New-do fear is when you toy with the idea of getting a new haircut or colour and then back out muttering things like, ‘maybe when the days start to get longer…’, or ‘I’m not sure how it would work at the gym’. Well to you poor unfortunate souls, at the risk appearing like a sea witch trying to obtain the voice box of a little mermaid, and simultaneously lightly plagiarising a major sporting brand, I say – JUST DO IT! I’ve never truly understood the fear. Hair is hair, by its very nature it grows back. If you don’t like it dye it again, cut a bit more off, style it differently, tie it up, stick some flowers or clips in it, buy a wig or wear a hat if it’s that bad. Maybe this seems unsympathetic and I really don’t mean to be but people, IT’S HAIR! Most of us came into this world without much and we will probably go out again in much the same state, so let’s have some fun with it while we can.

I’ve pretty much had every style, colour and amount of hair possible to have, it’s been white blonde, pink, purple, blue, streaked, black, various shades of red from cherry to pillbox. It’s been very long, bobbed, fringed, straight, and curly; when I was 17 my ex shaved the whole lot off with his Dad’s beard trimmers at my bequest. Recently I’ve been itching for a change again (I did change to a reddy brown colour a few weeks ago but I mean another change). So I’ve been spending a bit of time in the inspiration realm that is Pinterest under the auspices of research. As such I thought I’d introduce a new feature blog spot and do a series of posts about iconic hairdos.

First up is the pixie cut.

I’m always slightly uncomfortable talking about when a certain fashion or beauty trend came into being because I think these things can be seen as too cut and dry and essentially incredibly narrow in vision. When we say that women first cut their hair short in the 1920s what we really mean is that women in western popular culture did so. There could be countless examples of women with short hair from different cultures throughout history and with differing motivations for said dos. Heck, women in Classical Greece sheared their locks when entering mourning and this is still a practice adopted in some communities today. This chronological approach to trends also of course completely negates the choices of those who buck trends either individually or as a sub-culture. Having said that, it is true that the 1920s did indeed see SOME women cut their hair short and instinctively one would suppose this to be a natural starting point for popular associations with the pixie. However it seems to me that many of these ‘20s’ cuts were short bobs rather than the definition of a pixie cut that I have in mind. My clarification for a pixie is that no hair in the front section should fall below the cheek bone and a lot of the 20s and 30s styles seem to sit thereabouts. Of course there are some, like Josephine Baker who are the exception to this rule but broadly I think the distinction holds true.

The pixie as I define it, I feel really came to prominence in the cultural landscape in the 1950s and 1960s with elfin beauties of the day like Hepburn and Farrow defining the look in an aesthetic age of generally very long and very big hair.
These women and their cuts are simply divine, so chic and effortless with their only accessories being some killer cheekbones and a cigarette, and maybe an apartment in Nice.


Beautiful Jean

bc8dadb8fd9e71f692d7bf22fb598ea6Even Liz got in on the pixie action.

Leslie Caron

Here are some contemporary Hollywood ladyshapes who have made this cut utterly enviable.

Michelle Williams

Audrey Tautou


The Goodwin – longtime pixie Queen


Gosh there are so many and I can’t picture them all but a few others include Halle Berry, Charlieze Theron, Rhiannon, Carey Mulligan, Anne Hathaway and Hermione Granger. Also can we have a special round of appluse for Dame Judy who has been working a pixie for about fifty years now.

Here are a few shots with random origins that I’ve found through eons of entirely too much internetting around…

So elegant.

I love these longer lengths on top.

This is perfection.

I also wanted to give a special pixie shoutout to Kelly Framel of The Glamourai who even though she has grown it out now, for many a year sported one of the most lustyworth crops on the internet.

kelly framel

So remember Just Do It!