The Roaring 20s, Take Two

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Are we heading into the roaring 20s, version 2.0? The questioning has been circulating since the earliest days of the pandemic, floated by a blogger last April as the most likely conclusion to this miserable pandemic period. The people were going to get back out there, the earliest version of the theory goes – and they were going to commence the roaring of 100 years ago. Follow-up predictions and speculations of the likelihood of the roaring 20s 2.0 have shown up in the pages of The Washington PostBloomberg Businessweek and Marker, among many, many others.

Not all of them serious, of course. As The New Yorker observed: “In the New Roaring Twenties, the U.S. government will pass a sweeping prohibition on company-mandated virtual happy hours. Violators will be arrested and impounded on a Zoom with an improv troupe. The New Roaring Twenties will be a golden age of music — specifically for the genre The Few Bands That Were Somehow Able to Survive on Three Stimulus Checks.”

Are the 20s set to roar again? It seems to have become a favored question in 2021 among consumers who’ve spent the first year of the decade stuck at home on the couch. And it seems worth noting that looking for another edition of the roaring 20s is actually a pretty tall order. Last century’s version may be best known for flappers, the Charleston, bathtub gin and glamorous criminals. Of course, the 2020s might be better known for TikTok dances, maybe a charred chilli and orange aperol spritz, and mysterious figures in hoodies leaking personally identifiable information on the Dark Web.

The 1920s also represented one of the most innovative decades in American history. In fact, it was arguably the most innovative in terms of epoch-making advances being rolled out in the mass market. The washing machine, assembly line refrigerator, garbage disposal, electric razor, instant camera, jukebox and television were all invented or rolled out into mass production in the 1920s. What do we have that measures up? Maybe folding phones, Segways that you can sit in, $16,000 wooden bathtubs and a Keurig that makes ice cream.

That’s not to say that nothing from the roaring 20s will be reincarnated. After all,  the bob is back.

Though first invented in the late 1890s by a Parisian actress to decidedly mixed reviews – one observer noted she had made herself the “ugliest woman alive” with the haircut because the French in 1890 were still French – the style caught on in the 1920s as the new symbol of sexy femininity for the modern women of the 20th century. The bob was accompanied by the advent of women wearing short skirts – and pants. And though short skirts and pants have pretty much stuck around for the remaining 100 years, the bob has come in and out of fashion with various updates since it first broke big 100-ish years ago.

But if reports from The Guardian are to be believed, the bob is back in a big way, and has reclaimed the title of the most popular hairstyle in the world. It’s estimated that the bob is subject to 222,580 monthly Google searches. The hairstyle may in fact have been cheating its way to the top in the last year, as it is one of the easier styles to give oneself while at home on lockdown. Given the number of variations – layered bobs, long bobs (lobs), spiky bobs, asymmetrical bobs, stacked bobs, A-line bobs, avant garde bobs – the odds are good that any amateur can produce some type of bob or other in their bathroom. Maybe not a good bob, but a bob nonetheless.

The haircut, however, isn’t as important as what it symbolizes, which is that people are beginning to care about what they look like again, because they are anticipating seeing other people. Whether the 20s roars like it did a century ago probably matters less than the fact that a growing number of consumers are looking to get back out there after a year of being stuck at home.

Still, we can’t help but hold out hope for the return of flapper dresses.



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