Deconstructing Hair: Keira Knightly

So it's been a few months since Keira lopped off her locks and opted for a shorter angled bob, reminding all of us of our favorite college haircut. (Assuming you went to college in the 90's.) What's old is new again and this cut is the perfect example.

The angled short bob elongates the neck and puts the emphasis on your face. It's extremely versatile and offers a longer cut feel without the fuss of having actual length. This cut is fantastic if you have an oval or square shaped face. If your face is triangular, heart shaped or round, you may want to change the shape of this haircut a bit to compliment your face shape. Because the angle accentuates your chin, if your face is too round, you might look like you're wearing an odd hat and if you already have a sharply angled jaw line, this might result in making you pointy.

If you aren't sure of your face shape, an easy way (that has never failed me since 1983 when I first tried it) pull your hair back, look into a mirror and trace your face with soap. Sure, it's messy, but all of the, old school ways worth doing are. Or get all fancy and take a photo of yourself, open CS5 and use the lasso tool to  trace your face. Then Cmd/Cntrl X and see what shape hole you are left with. Either way, after you've traced/lasso'd your face, you'll see what shape you most closely resemble.

The cut itself is another complicated, technical cut. Go to a sub-par stylist and you will walk out with hair that looks like you are trying to hard, instead of effortlessly chic. It's a fine line and you want to make sure you are on the right side of it! I'm sure you think I say that every cut takes an amazing stylist and while I'm pretty picky when it comes to cuts, I assure you I'm not being a snob. I learned the hard way that this is a difficult cut. Once, a billion years ago, I got my hair cut at a Cosmetology School. I went in with shoulder length hair, asked for a chin length, angled bob and ended up with something just below my ears. Why so short? Because it's technically a hard cut to nail and the student I went to couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, haircut-wise.

So let's take a look at this cut. While I can't find a great picture of the back of the cut, I'm going to guess it's bobbed at the hairline, or slightly "stacked"- meaning the cut is graduated seamlessly from the longest to the shortest layer in a matter of an inch or two. (Graduated is the official term, but most non-pros say "stacked".) This means you will not be able to pull this cut back into a pony tail. It seems obvious, but if you like to wear your hair pulled back, headbands will work and pony tails won't.

What makes this cut so striking are the long lines captured in a fairly short cut. This means adding a face framing layer or bangs will change the entire vibe of this cut. Bangs are going to take the visual bang out of this cut, so be sure you're happy without the face fringe before committing to cutting your hair this short. However, the light layers that extend from the back forward give the style a little movement and help take the roundness out of the cut, which avoids an "angled bowl".You are going to want to talk to your stylist before you go for this twist on the classic Vidal Sassoon cut. Make sure it works for you.

Not sure where to start the discussion with your stylist? Bethany Magliacane, owner of Laboratorie, one of Elle's Top 100 Salons, suggests chatting about the following with your stylist before opting for this cut:
  • Hair density (how thick or thin your hair is) and texture will make all the difference in your end result.   Keira appears to have a fairly average amount of hair - not too thick, not too thin. Her shape has a somewhat subtle graduation, just enough to create a bevel through the perimeter and keep the bob from being too boxy and wide through the bottom inch or so.  Someone with very thick hair will have a hard time wearing a bob with this subtle of a graduation without ending up mushroom-y, and will also lack the loose movement that Keira's has.  Someone with very thin hair could end up with a cut that is over layered and a shape that lacks necessary strength at the perimeter.  
  • It is important that your stylist understand the amount of graduation needed for this look and doesn't overdo it.  If the cut is graduated too high or the perimeter is given too much of an a-line, the result will end up more Victoria Beckham inspired and lose the classic, retro appeal of Keira's look.
  • Make sure your stylist takes a look at the growth pattern at your nape.  Strong cowlicks or a low hairline can seriously derail the line of this cut. Both will need to be carefully dealt with to make sure you don't end up with a cut that flips out or appears to be uneven in length.
  • Bobs and graduated bobs alike require maintenance to keep them looking good.  Be sure to schedule a trim with your stylist in six weeks, you'll need it. 
  • For someone with naturally straight hair, this cut can be a breeze.  The graduated layers encourage the ends to fall under rather than flip out, so a simple blow dry with minimal round brush action should be the only required styling.  However, a bob with these long layers can be tricky for curls.  Make sure you are in a committed relationship with your flat iron before deciding on this style. If your hair has some wave, you might opt for the slightly longer version of this cut, shown below.

(Slightly longer and more layered version of this cut)
  • This cut can be customized with as much or as little texture as you would like.  The more texture, the more movement the cut will have and the more deconstructed and tousled it will look.  Less texture will give a more Sassoon-classic, sleek look.  Most stylists texturize (cutting vertically into the hair to create soft lines and remove weight) dry hair, after the precise shape has been cut, styled and blow-dried. This allows you and your stylist to immediately see the result of the texturizing and decide when you have achieved the exact look you are going for.  

    What cut are you considering? Tell me and it could be the next deconstructed cut!

    Bethany Magliacane was a contributor to this post.

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    1. I don't really agree that adding bangs to this cute "takes the oomph out of it". I personally wear an inverted bob style with bangs and I can say that it is a very impactful look when done right. Adding a very precise and blunt bang to this type of haircut gives it a more vintage feel (picture Louise Brooks), but definitely doesn't take away any of the impact of the cut. I do agree though that a master stylist is needed for this type of precise and angled cut to make sure it looks flawless and perfect. I am lucky enough to have a stylist who is wonderful at giving these types of cuts with ease.

    2. I totally agree with you. My statement refers to changing the long lines of the haircut, which is what gives it the very specific symmetry and look. Adding bangs will negate that portion of the cut, changing the look entirely. It definitely makes a statement, especially if you make the overall cut slightly shorter. I wore this same style with bangs for some time and it always reminded me of Julianna Moore in The Big Lebowski. It just depends on the look you are going for. :-) A good stylist makes the cut work for you!

    3. Excellent post. I've been wearing a bob for years, whether it's in or out of style--I don't much care. What changes for me is whether I add fringe and the sharpness of the angle Robert cuts into it or whether he adds long layers for movement. I've tried other cuts over the years, but I always go back to the precision bob,  as my hair's uber fine texture is happiest that way and requires the least amount of processing (e.g., I roll it *dry* in bamboo curlers for added volume and can skip post-shampoo hair products and heat styling). I can't, no WON'T, try a new hair stylist because mine does such an incredible job and always senses when I am ready to change things up a bit. I go to him at 8:00AM, when he's rested, because he almost always comments, as he's cutting, "Not many people truly understand how difficult this haircut is." In the end, he makes it look easy.


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