The Graduated Bob, and the Pain of Growing it Out – Hair Salon, Austin TX

Ah, the graduated bob. This haircut exploded on the salon scene and seemed to me, the most requested style since 2007. Depending on your age, you may remember the origins of this short cut from the 1970’s when it was referred to as the wedge or more commonly the Dorothy Hamill.  The wedge cut is a classic short hairstyle that became very popular in 1976 when champion figure skater Dorothy Hamill sported it as she won the Olympic Gold Medal at the age of 19. Her signature look became popular with young women across the globe and soon the “Dorothy Hamill do’” could be found nearly everywhere. Oddly enough, although Hamill’s signature hairstyle is the wedge, the hairstyle evolved and has continued to remain popular.

Fast forward to the last couple of years and you have the reverse bob haircut (also known as the inverted bob). It quickly became one of 2008′s most popular hairstyles. The look first showed up on Victoria Beckham, and was immediately a fashion standard in New York and Los Angeles. It then morphed into the Posh spice bob and women of every generation began requesting it.

So, here you have a cute, fun, and trendy short haircut. So what’s the big deal you ask? Well, being a cutting specialist, I have not only had a chance to cut this bob, many times, I have also had the difficult job of trying to help women grow it out. There were so many clients coming to me when the craze was over, wanting to know what their grow-out options were. I was asked how to make the transition from short to long hair in the best way. One of the most challenging things is having to explain to my clients the painstaking task of growing it out. Most of them were in disbelief, and still are today, when I would tell them what was in store for them and their hair. I became obsessed with trying to explain how to grow out this cut. I’ll never forget the one night I came home from the salon and told my boyfriend how I wanted to create some sort of diagram or 3-d chart to let the clients see this haircut the way I did. Meaning, if I could explain it with geometry, an architectural approach to it, then they would see what I was talking about. After all, that’s really what haircuts are. They are shapes, all dependent on proportion. I never made the diagram, but still today find myself, on almost a daily basis, trying to explain and help people move on from this haircut. Now that I have a public forum on the Urban Betty page, I can take this opportunity to help clients understand more about this cut and how to grow it out. I used to and still jokeScreen Shot 2013-09-24 at 4.45.06 PM around that this haircut was so difficult to grow out, the client should sign a waiver form. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great haircut for many reasons. The upside of it would be that it keeps its shape and doesn’t take a lot of styling, with the right hair type. Whether you wore it smooth and polished or even curly, the cut was the shape itself. It’s definitely a 6-week haircut, max, so it would require consistency on the client’s part. But now, here we are, ready to grow it out, hence the name of this blog.

The good news is, it can be done. I have seen it and worked with clients over the last few years to make it happen. The bad new is, out of all the haircuts, in my opinion, it is indeed the most difficult to grow out. And here is why. A graduated bob is all about the proportion and angles, like most cuts, except this one would be considered on the extreme side. The back of the hair, starting at the nape of the neck is cut at a 45 degree angle and builds weight as it goes up the head, mostly all the way to the crown. Meaning each section of hair is dependent upon the section before it, creating a wedge like shape. Then when you get to the top of the head, the hair is left long and most of the time blended into an ‘all one length’ style. An A-Line bob would be when the short back connects to the long front, creating an ‘A-line’ shape. Any way you wore it, you had hair that was super short in back and long in the front. And herein lies the painful task of growing it out.

People have come to me in the beginning stages and sadly I would have to tell them there was nothing I could do until the back was grown out more, the hardest but most important part. Then there is what happens when this hair does start growing out. It turns into the old, 1990’s Jennifer Aniston ‘friends’ cut. Without getting into that, let’s just say most people are not happy about having to sport that do again. But because of the proportions, this is exactly what this haircut turns into. So what do you do? I tell my clients that the first thing is they have to let the back grow out. There is no short cut to this and it can be quite unflattering, for lack of a better term. Then, regular visits to the salon to do what I call ‘reversing the proportions’ comes next, after you have enough hair in the back to work with. You see, it’s all about letting the back grow out, that’s where your length comes from, and shortening up the front and sides. This is a gradual and slow process that takes months, but it can be done and if you are reading this right now, wanting to grow out your graduated bob, just know, you have to commit to the decision to do it. A lot of people get halfway there and give up, because of all the different stages your hair has to go through to get this shape out of you head. However, it can be done. It just requires patience, commitment and regular trips to a stylist who will work with you on this hair plan. Don’t make the mistake of having someone keep cutting on it in the wrong areas. That will just set you back each time. It’s knowing when and where to cut, and when and where NOT to. I hope this blog helps those out there who are looking for answers and support in taking on this task. And like I always say, when you know WHY hair is doing certain things, then you know what you can do about it.

Chelle Neff

Owner of Urban Betty Salon at Urban Betty
Named one of the Top 200 Salons in the country for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, & 2015 by Salon Today magazine.Chelle Morrison has been a leader in the U.S. salon business since founding her own salon in 2005. She has over 18 years creating innovative practices in the salon, product, and beauty world. As a woman entrepreneur she runs one of the most successful salons in Austin, Texas.

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7 thoughts on “The Graduated Bob, and the Pain of Growing it Out – Hair Salon, Austin TX

  1. Sue says:

    Thank you for this article! I was checking out the “graduated bob” after another website recommended it for fine hair. I appreciate knowing up front what the repercussions may be.

  2. lauri says:

    I loved this post… I am growing out my bob and am sporting the rachel hair style as a result… lol

  3. lori says:

    i know this isn’t a new blog post, but thank you for it anyhow! completely agree with you that the key is leaving the back alone. yet, all over the internet is advice to “keep that neck aread trimmed” while growing out a bob. that’s nuts.

    i grew out an inverted bob 2 years ago, starting point, sept ’09, was close to the victoria beckham pic you feature. (my hair is thick and wavy is the natural texture) by late may ’10 i had loose wavy layers just above my shoulders. only 2-3 minor trims during that time period. today i am back to the inverted bob (guess i needed a project for the next 8-9 months!) and looking to grow out again.

    lovely blog you have.

  4. Ronni says:

    Although I love the graduated bob and how easy it is to style, after years of wearing it the same way I am looking for a change. I have tried several times to grow it out, without success. The back of my head was shaved so I have a ways to go. I would be thrilled with the “Rachel” at this point. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Sharon Hitzelberg says:

    My hair is thin and been thinning I understand it’s a good cut for this, true? Hair is about shoulder length now needs a cut bad.

  6. Donna MacKinnon says:

    I, too, am enduring the agonizing process of growing out my inverted bob! I absolutely LOVED this style! It always looked like I just walked out of a salon! But after 2+ years, I knew it was time to ‘let it go’!! I tried several times to grow it out and always fell off the wagon and got it cut again! But this time I am determined to go through the pain for the gain! My question is….do you have any suggestions for a “apres-inverted-bob” style that would still give me height on my crown? I think that’s what I miss most now!!!

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