The haircut that we now refer to as a “bob,” in which the hair is cut evenly at about the ears, got its name during the Roarin’ Twenties, as the flappers popularized it. Possibly because flappers were more androgynous than Victorian women, the haircuts became known as bobs.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was the iconic writer of the 1920s, penning such classics as The Great Gatsby and “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” Much of his inspiration for the glitzy party girls of his stories came from his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, who was a flapper. Through her husband’s writings, Zelda helped to bring the flapper culture into the mainstream.
Miley Cyrus wasn’t the first to change her looks to look more vampirish. Flappers were referred to as vamps, short for vampire, but not because they looked like Miley Cyrus. The reason was that they could suck the life out of someone with just one look. They had an electric kind of energy that they were not ashamed of.
Before World War I, women were expected to grow up, get married, and spend the rest of their lives taking care of their families. During the war, however, many women tasted independence as they had to work outside of the home, and they were not keen to return to the domestic sphere. Flappers wanted to make a bold statement that women could have a life outside of the home. After all, YOLO.
The prosperity of the Roarin’ Twenties, built on the post-war economic boom and the widespread availability of credit, came to a crashing halt when the stock market crashed on October 30, 1929. With the crash came the end of the flapper lifestyle, though there were quite a few elite families who were spared the worst effects of the Great Depression and even profited from it.
The founder of the Chanel beauty empire ‘Coco Chanel‘ was one of the most popular flappers who helped to liberate women from tight corsets and societal images of a “virtuous” woman with long hair and long skirts. Time Magazine listed her as one of the most 100 influential individuals of the twentieth century.
6. The Greatest 1920s Writer May Have Been a Flapper
Remember Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of Scott Fitzgerald? About The Beautiful and the Damned, she wrote: “It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald—I believe that is how he spells his name—seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”
In 1923, Coco Chanel went on a cruise to Cannes and stayed out in the sun a bit too long. When she emerged with a golden-brown luster to her skin, tans became fashionable. Previously, women strove to keep their skin as close to an ivory white as possible, fair and delicate.
Being a flapper wasn’t just adhering to a particular fashion trend. It was about rebelling against societal norms and taking advantage of the freedom that women found during World War I. Countries like England and France also saw a rise in flapper culture, much to the chagrin of the established aristocracy and traditional values of the countries.
Seeing as flappers did away with girdles and corsets and gained the attraction of boys, what may come as a surprise is that they often tied strips of cloth around their chests in order to flatten them, thereby creating a more androgynous appearance. They were feminists, although not very feminine.
Taking on a more androgynous appearance and rebelling against societal norms were acts of scandal during the 1920s, but consider that this era was before women could wear pants. Flappers helped pave the way for women to free themselves of long dresses and corsets so that they could live productive lives outside, not just stay at home and care for their families.
In the 1920s, the struggle was between Victorian values and post-war prosperity and feminism. Today, it is between baby boomers and millennials. Flappers showed that traditional values may have their place, but society is always in flux and people need to be willing to adapt.
Where Did We Get This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources: