The ‘Princess’ or the ‘Nirvana’: which bob is right for you?

Princess Charlene of Monaco and Sydney Sweeney
Princess Charlene of Monaco (left) sporting a short, straight, glass-like and glossy 'Princess' bob and Sydney Sweeney (right) with a soft, wavy 'Nirvana' bob - Pls Pool/Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The bob is one of the most popular haircuts of all time. A short, shoulder-skimming cut is modern and flattering on almost everyone. But as much as there are dozens of varieties of red lipstick, there are many subtle nuances in the cut of a bob.

Take the two extremes of the bob currently making headlines, for example: the ‘Princess’ and the ‘Nirvana’.

Princess Charlene of Monaco was the latest royal to unveil her version of the short, straight and glass-like glossy Princess version in Monaco this weekend, joining its other famous proponent, Princess Olympia of Greece.

The Nirvana cut – named of course for the ‘90s band – is slightly longer, softer and more tousled with all the grungy attitude of Kurt Cobain and co.

Kurt Cobain
The Nirvana cut, named after Kurt Cobain's recognisable, grungy bob - Archive Photos

“The Princess bob needs a lot of confidence to pull off, as there is nowhere to hide,” says the hairstylist Andreas Wild, who cuts hair at the Larry King salon in Kensington. “Your hair has to be in extremely good health, and the style is often more high maintenance.” If you are committed to a Princess bob, there are ways to make it lower maintenance, explains Wild.

“You can soften it up and take the sharpness out with a graduation at the end, and even put a soft wave through the front with a hair tong.”

Princess Olympia of Greece
Princess Olympia of Greece with a 'Princess bob' at the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Gala this month - Dave Benett/Getty Images

On the other hand, the Nirvana bob is softer, more forgiving and suits more women. “You can also play with your natural waves and hair texture,” says Wild.

If you’re thinking of having your hair cut into a bob or styled shorter, it’s as important to consider your face shape, features and even your lifestyle. Trends can pass before your hair has had any time to grow, so there’s little point in a drastic, sharp haircut if you don’t have the time to style it in the morning. “Most women suit a bob,” explains Tom Smith, a leading hair stylist and trend forecaster. “It’s just about finding one that really suits you and your personality.”

According to Smith, there are three things to consider before the big chop. The first is the length of where the bob sits – whether that’s between the cheekbone and the corner of the jaw, chin-length, hovering below the chin, grazing the top of the shoulder or down by the collarbone. These are all varieties of bobs.

Secondly, consider how the hair frames the face, whether it’s one length and parted in the middle, or with face framing layers or even a full fringe.

The third element is the silhouette, whether that calls for the bulk of the hair widest at the bottom, or more volume at the top of the haircut with tapered ends.

Here, Smith explains how to find a bob for you.

If you have… a narrow face

Celebrity inspiration: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley 

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's bob is wide at the bottom to balance the face - Mike Marsland/WireImage

Rather than a very short cut, Smith advises a longer bob that falls close to the collarbone. The same rule applies if you are very tall. If your face is very narrow, you’ll want to tuck one side or both sides behind the ear which will open the face at the cheekbone and create the illusion of width.

If you have petite features lower down like a sharp chin and a narrow lower face, Smith suggests a bob that is wide at the bottom to balance the face. For those with more angular features, part the hair just off-centre and style the hair like the ‘Nirvana’ bob, with texture and waves, to add softness to your overall look.

If you have…a round face

Celebrity inspiration: Florence Pugh (Oscars 2024)

Florence Pugh
A bob shorter than the corner of the jaw shows off the jawline - John Shearer/WireImage

For most people, slightly longer than the lowest part of your chin is a good place to start when you want to commit to a bob, advises Smith. If you have a rounded face, using angles from a side parting or face framing layers to give the illusion of angles.

Similarly, if you are conscious of your jawline, opt for a length that is a little longer than your chin, and ask for more volume at the roots and tapered ends to balance the face. It takes a lot of confidence to cut a bob shorter than the corner of the jaw – which incidentally is a good look if you want to show off a toned jawline.

If you have… a heart-shaped face

Celebrity inspiration: Naomi Campbell (February 2024)

Naomi Campbell
A blunt-edged bob, like Naomi Campbell's, can give structure to your face - Joe Maher/BAFTA

If you have a heart shaped face with more width at the top, the proportions can be balanced by having more width on the length of the bob (and not tapered in). If you do feel your face is wide, then a middle parting with lots of face-framing layers will slim it in.

However, if you have soft features, having a side parting and quite blunt edges can give structure to your face. This is especially true if you have finer hair; a deep side-parting, with tucking the smaller side behind the ear is a good way of making the hair appear thicker than it is.

Six products to expertly style your bob

For straight ‘Princess’ bob styles… 

The Headliner Modern Definition Gel (£13, Arkive)

If you are styling your hair poker-straight or want to add a little more structure to your wavy bob, this product is excellent. It is flexible and lightweight, but still keeps your style in place all day.

The Headliner
The Headliner

If you are styling your hair poker-straight or want to add a little more structure to your wavy bob, this product is excellent. It is flexible and lightweight, but still keeps your style in place all day.

Airstrait Straightener (£450 by Dyson)

Cut down your styling time significantly with this two-in-one hair dryer and straightener by Dyson. It only uses airflow, so smooths the follicles (which means no frizz) and doesn’t cause any heat damage to the hair.

Airstrait Straightener
Airstrait Straightener

Flyaway Tamer (£3.50 by Boots)

This product is genius. Put simply, it’s a mascara wand with a hair gel formula, which is game-changing for flyaways and little baby hairs around the hairline. Keep this in your handbag for on-the-go grooming.

Flyaway tamer
Flyaway tamer

For wavy ‘Nirvana’ bob styles… 

My Nanna’s Mousse (£22 by Larry King)

Apply a dollop of this mousse into freshly washed roots and style. It adds volume and a little grit without the usual stiff, crunchy weight of an old-fashioned mousse. It brushes out just as easily, too.

My Nanna's Mousse by Larry King
My Nanna's Mousse by Larry King

9000 Cordless Curling Tong (£50 by Babyliss)

This curling wand is made for women who find it a hassle to tong their hair. Take two or three inch sections of your bob, twist it around the wand (in the direction away from your face) and release. It’s completely fool-proof.

Babyliss curling tongs
Babyliss curling tongs

Full Dry Volume & Texture Spray (£16 by Living Proof)

Texturising sprays such as this bestselling one by Living Proof are brilliant. After styling or tonging your hair, spritz this through mid-lengths and ends to add a little more texture. It’s particularly good for fine hair.

Texturising spray
Texturising spray