This past weekend, in an empty, relentlessly air-conditioned Japanese restaurant in suburban Northern Virginia, I started to love my bob. My boyfriend and I were in town for a high-school friend's wedding, and, famished before the rehearsal dinner, we decided to grab an awkward 4:30 pm snack. I'd been letting my pixie cut inch—well, centimeter—its way into bob territory for a few months, and I worried that outside of Bushwick, Brooklyn my micro-bangs and temple-length side locks read like I was auditioning for a silent remake of Girl, Interrupted (subtitle reads: "You shouldn't have left me with the scissors, I'm a hysterical woman!!!"). So there I was, twisting my bangs at the table, asking my patient boyfriend if he could still see the faded streak of neon-red that I'd put in for the Met Gala, when, across the steakhouse, a fellow late-afternoon diner mouthed to me: "I love your hair." I stared at her quizzically. This time—again, instead of saying it aloud—she just drew a halo in the air around her head and put her hand on her heart.
Her sign-compliment inspired me to try to enjoy the versatility of whatever my in-between-stage 'do might be called..a short bob (aka 'shob')? A long pixie (aka 'lixie')? Before this, I'd regarded styling it like a chore: slick some product in when wet and brush it back; no one will know what length it is! I'd been mourning the ease of my pixie cut, when really what I needed to do was stop acting like the angsty teen my red bangs implied I was, and embrace the bob's legacy.
I didn't have to look far for hairspiration: this year marks the 50th anniversary of iconic bob (as interpreted by the late hair legend Vidal Sassoon). And who can forget (many of us) the disappointing-in-all-categories-but-costumes-and-hair remake of The Great Gatsby? The time for bob is now.
To mark the former milestone, Vidal Sassoon Pro Series is inviting anyone within earshot of the Sassoon Salon New York Uptown to enjoy any type of shearing on June 4th at the majorly throwback-worthy 1963 price ($7!), and also holding a Facebook hair-styling contest, welcoming everyone to "Show Your Genius," which, in this case, involves sharing with the world what your cut can do. (Or, what you can make your cut do with the right products.) The grand prize? $1,000 to complete your look, a year’s supply of Vidal Sassoon Pro Series products, and a piece of vintage Chanel jewelry. I KNOW.
As I attempted to style my way through three wedding events—a rehearsal dinner, a Hindu ceremony, and a black-tie reception—I learned that my bob can do: Mia Farrow (clean, with pomade), Kurt Cobain (dirty, with pomade), John Lennon (blow dried), and, of course, Daisy Buchanan (dry, brush, shape, apply headband etc…girl is high maintenance). In the spirit of "Show Your Genius," I asked one of my oldest friends, Sarah, to photograph the process. You know a friend is true when she is a bridesmaid in the wedding and has a one-year-old son and will let you apply hairspray on her bed while asking you questions about your hair (Sarah, you angel!): "How's writing about the personal devastation of your hair growing one inch?"
Thanks for asking. It's going like this:
For the rehearsal dinner, I let the natural flow of the bob take form, which looked straight out of 1965 when paired with an embroidered silk shift. I used Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Restoring Repair Shampoo and Conditioner, combing the latter through in the shower. In an unprecedented move of wedding-event boldness, I smoothed in a dab of Combing Crème (which made my hair as smooth as the curve of a champagne flute) and let the air do the rest. Instead of pushing back my bangs, I let them just fall in my face, and I happily perfected a chic lady version of the lacrosse 'brah' hair flip. (Take the ring finger of your right hand, bring it to your left temple, and casually let it run through the ends of your bangs before letting it fall to your right temple, and then pausing with a thoughtful nod. Sounds complicated, I know, but I guarantee this is the thinking woman's bro twitch.)
For the daytime Hindu ceremony, I paid a little homage to Prada. The house's spring hair resurrected the chic micro-bang, and for fall, Mrs. Prada's women had sopping fresh-out-of-the-shower locks. Since we're between the two seasons right now, I decided on a marriage of the two, made possible in this case with the Pro Series Boost & Lift Foaming Air Mousse. With two tennis-balls-worth applied on wet hair, the product dried to look just wet enough, giving me watered bangs that echoed the two looks I loved.
By the end of the weekend, I felt like I'd mastered the bob (as well as the art of tying a sari). To celebrate, on Sunday night, I decided to show off my perfect Fitzgerald-era side-curls, which I shaped delicately by spritzing Extra Firm Hold Hairspray on my fingertips before smoothing on my hair. I made my headband out of an Indian necklace, and felt so in-character that anytime my boyfriend asked me a question ("Hey, where are the keys?"), I replied, all breathy and triple blinking, "Gatsby? What Gatsby?"
All of which is to say it took me a compliment at a Japanese steakhouse and a three-day Indian wedding to realize that my hair wasn’t ‘difficult,’ I just needed to reacquaint myself with products. For an entire year, I’d only styled my ultra-short hair two ways: letting it dry in cold air, or warm air, depending on the season. If I let the environment have its way with it, my bob dried in the exact shape and size of a baby Pomeranian. Woof. I re-entered the world of maintenance-required hair kicking and screaming, acting like a silent film heroine, waiting to be rescued while someone else writes in her dialogue. But after my crash-course weekend with creams, foams, and sprays, I'm reinvested in deciding how I want to style my shob/lixie each day. Caption: "Found my genius."
Katherine Bernard photographed by Sarah Hansen. To book an appointment at the Sassoon Salon New York Uptown and/or enter the “Show Your Genius” Facebook contest (open from May 28-June 18), click here. This feature is sponsored by Vidal Sassoon Pro Series.