To Be Blunt
After seasons of laid-back hair, there’s a new order for spring: straight-edge bobs chiselled with a razor and graphic sculpted updos.
Ihad only one directive for my hairstylist as I slipped into her chair and sized up my piece-y, shoulder-length mane. “Cut it really blunt,” I told her. She paused, surprised, with her scissors in mid-air above my head. “Like a blunt bob?” she asked. I took it she hadn’t heard that request in a while—probably not since the ’90s, when the single-layer, sharpedged cut had its heyday among the era’s defining beauties like Claire Danes in My So-Called Life, Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and Gwyneth Paltrow back when she smoked and dated Brad Pitt. But the retro look had something of a revival on the spring runways, where blunt ends appeared in varying lengths at Acne Studios, Céline and Prada. At the latter show, editorial hairstylist Guido Palau cut chin-grazing bobs on eight models just moments before the presentation. “It was a palate cleanser,” he says of the beautifully contoured, squared-off style, which stood out in chic contrast to the undone waves and shaggy layers that have dominated the runways in recent seasons. “It’s fun to see that kind of classic, simple cut again.” The crop was also spotted in the front row, with It girl Lily-Rose Depp and French model and Chanel muse Ines de la Fressange embracing its tomboyish charm. The return to clean lines comes as a relief to New York City hairstylist Garren—the mastermind behind Karlie Kloss’s career-catapulting bob. “I love this because we get to cut hair again,” he says. With its graphic shape and tailored finish, a blunt cut is »
a more polished and put-together alternative to the tousled lobs and languid manes of late. “I think women are really looking for something that has a definite defined style that matches their personality,” he says. A decisive chop is an act of self-expression that sets you apart from the pack—IRL and on your social feeds, where, as Garren notes, “you need more of a ‘look’ rather than no hairstyle at all.”
Still, the minimalist cut can be complex to pull off. “The shorter you go, the thicker your hair gets,” says Dre Donoghue, a Manhattan stylist whose clients include downtown cool girls Makenzie Leigh and Cleo Wade. Her technique is to subtly remove bulk from the underlayers with a razor to prevent the bob from turning triangle shaped for those with curly or wavy hair. “I can still get a really great line, but it takes the weight out of the cut.” For Wes Sharpton, creative director and lead haircutter at Hairstory Studio in New York, the bob works on all hair lengths but is most flattering when “it hits the jawline” and is sculpted but not too stiff or helmet-like. The trick, he says, is to gently and intentionally shred the tips a tiny bit. “A tighter and smaller up-and-down motion of the razor gives a stronger line but also a softer line,” he explains. “It allows the ends to move and melt into the rest of the hair.” How you style it also matters: Don’t blow it perfectly smooth or curl the ends under or you’ll head into mom-bob territory. Instead, let the individual pieces turn a little this way and that to contrast the structure of the cut. “It’s hair that looks interesting but also neat and kept,” says Sharpton, adding that he likes to tousle strands with a texture spray for a rough blow-dry. And for a playful Margot Tenenbaum aesthetic, pull one side back with a bobby pin. “It’s classic and fresh,” says Sharpton. (Eyeliner and brooding attitude optional).
Not that chopping off your hair is the only way to carve out a cool look. The right updo makes a powerful statement, too. This season at Christian Dior, Palau wound strands into a tight topknot, accentuating it with French braids that snaked up from the nape of the neck. A messy bun this was not—instead, the sculpted-but-sensual vibe captured the pro-feminist sentiment expressed in the collection by the fashion house’s new artistic director. “Maria [Grazia Chiuri] is very particular and always has a very strong idea about her girl,” says Palau. “I find the finished look a bit tomboyish in a way, with a feminine twist.” Or, consider the moulded-to-the-head chignons at Givenchy, which came off as both steely and sexy. “I’m using lots of gel directly on the hair to make an almost catlike, mannish shape,” he explains. The result is striking for what it lacks—namely pillowy volume. “I find that, in general, hair is getting flatter,” says Donoghue, pointing to the popularity of buzz cuts among women and a more gender-fluid definition of beauty. “This look is along the same lines, but it’s a little more forgiving.”
So is this the end of I-just-woke-up-like-this beachy waves and free-flowing layers? Not likely. But perhaps the beauty of a controlled look is that it’s not super-conventional at the moment; it’s still a bit countercultural, and that explains the appeal. Palau, for his part, plans on keeping blunt cuts in his repertoire. “I think we will continue to see a structured feel,” he says, hinting at what might be coming down the pike for fall as well as what’s being pinned on designer’s mood boards. “It gives an interesting dimension to the hair and allows the clothes to become more of a focus overall.” Donoghue agrees—so much so that she’s currently growing her shaggy “mullet” into a blunt bob. “I tend to think hairdressers adopt a look first, and then it starts to enter the mainstream,” she says. One thing’s for certain: The chiselled look cuts a sharp profile, as I learned after posting my own freshly cropped bob on Instagram. To date, the photo has racked up more likes than any other shot of me. Blunt, in my eyes at least, is definitely back.