The Guardian February 11, 2022

The Guardian



Short and sharp: Beyoncé launches ‘back to the office’ powerbob

As governments across the world loosen pandemic restrictions, Beyoncé’s new powerbob is being hailed as the definitive “back to the office” look.

Unveiled by the singer as part of a new collection in her Ivy Park fashion line, the haircut comes as Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Kesha, Kourtney Kardashian and Alexa Chung have all adopted a sharp and short look.

“Historically, when you think about the bob’s first real moment as a fashion trend, it’s in the 1920s during changing, unstable times,” said the hair historian Rachael Gibson. “It reappears again in the 1960s and 80s as a powerful, no-nonsense, very strong cut – the perfect antidote to any uncertainty. People often cut their hair during times of economic downturn.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, a wave of buzzcuts signalled a change in economic fortunes, but also the shift towards work-from-home culture and an abandonment of fussy corporate style. Now, Beyoncé’s powerbob has been declared by members of the Beyhive – an ultra-dedicated group of superfans – as giving a “CEO of the company” look.

Beyoncé’s new look also includes the exaggerated shoulder pads of a 1980s power suit. “It definitely reflects the idea of a return to work,” said Gibson. “This is a total boardroom boss look and the bob feels integral to that.”

Gibson draws a comparison to Shiv Roy, the “alpha female” of the HBO drama Succession, who debuts a fresh bob cut in season two. “Shiv’s hair oozes quality and money: it’s really expensive-looking hair, both in terms of the cut and its super-luxe condition,” said Gibson. “The cut also suggests that she’s a strong, businesswoman – or is at least trying to come across as one.”

Beyoncé’s powerbob was also a nod to some of the black female icons who inspired her work, said the fashion historian Darnell-Jamal Lisby.

“Diana Ross and Tina Turner… were known for their bob wigs,” Lisby said. “Therefore the hairstyle has this history of sensuality as a form of strength in femininity that is at the core of Beyoncé’s artistry.

“Having a power suit in the collection subtly celebrates the expanding presence of Black people in professional fields and their continued elevation in corporate America,” Lisby added.

Wonky-bob hairstyles may be predicted to be this year’s “it” haircut (see: the shaggy “boyfriend” cut, the Mob-mullet/bob hybrid), but Amy Abramite, creative director of Maxine Salon, said that her most requested cut was a conservative “shorter bob without an angle or layers”.

Abramite added the ideal length of cut “hugs the chin” and was worn “with the ends turned slightly under”.

So new you, new bob? Gibson sees the powerbob as the ultimate fresh start.

“It’s literally cutting away the dead weight and presenting a new version of yourself to the world,” she said. “It’s the hair equivalent of switching your working-from-home joggers for a really well-fitted piece [of clothing].”