By  on September 29, 2008

It was the snip heard round the world.

Moments after the last of Victoria Beckham’s newly shorn locks floated toward the floor, her sharply angled bob inspired a rash of copycats—Katie Holmes, Nicole Richie and Rihanna among them.

But now that much of America has caught on to the naked neck, Hollywood and fashion world elites are going longer. Today’s go-to haircut falls just above the shoulders à la Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway. A length that was once considered no-man’s land has emerged as the chic middle ground for fall.

“This season, hair does not go past the shoulder. It stops at the collarbone,” declares one-name-only hairstylist Garren. He recently trimmed actress Amanda Peet’s hair to the collarbone, accentuating the look with full, heavy bangs. He suggests women look to Madonna and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde for inspiration, but warns: “You can’t tuck it behind the ears or stick barrettes on the side. If you are going to wear it, wear it!”

Sally Hershberger hairstylist Tommy Buckett says longer bobs are best with plenty of texture. “It’s the look of one length, but with long layers with some choppiness along the bottom,” he explains. “If it was one length, it would be too Cleopatra.” Buckett favors giving mid-length hair some height, in a nod to the Studio 54 era, with curls and controlled frizz.

Hairstylist Ted Gibson, meanwhile, prefers stronger, asymmetric cuts, deeming Paltrow’s cut “a little bit uptight.”

“It’s all about the crop. Rihanna is a trendsetter in that respect now,” says Gibson, who cut Hathaway’s long tresses above her shoulders for the Get Smart press tour. “Right now it’s about a stronger shape with lots of texture in it.” What would Gibson do if, say, Demi Moore landed in his chair with her sleek, black mane draped down the back? “Cut it off to her shoulders and part it in the middle,” he says unequivocally. “A shorter cut would emphasize her neck and shoulders.”

For those growing out their razor-sharp bobs, longer layers are replacing defined angles. Last month, for example, Frédéric Fekkai stylist Adir Abergel blended actress Kate Beckinsale’s grown-out bangs with longer layers beginning at her chin. “When you get a look-defining cut, you’re so married to it. It’s very hard to change when you dedicate yourself to one look,” he says.

Fashion might be hanging on to the short bob. Exhibit A: the fall print campaigns for Fendi and Chanel—but there are stylists who’d like to see women go shorter than even Beckham’s bob, as Holmes continues to do. “We should keep going shorter,” says stylist John Kovacs of the Chris Chase Salon. He recalls when his father, also a hairstylist, was buzzing about Sixties movie star Jean Seberg’s shortly cropped cut, a bold departure from the “wash and set” mentality of the time. Modern-day incarnations of Seberg’s iconic crop include model Agyness Deyn’s boyish do. “You can do so much with short hair—dry it naturally, create a little volume at the top or brush it forward for a playful, boyish look,” says Kovacs.

Still, for those too skittish to take it all off, the collarbone chop is the perfect cut. “People always think a change means short hair,” says Antonio Gonzales, hairstylist at Eva Scrivo Salon, noting that length doesn’t define a woman’s beauty, but it does telecast her style. This season, he says, “women can either go really short or right to the collarbone.”

Shane Manieri, hairstylist at Chris Chase Salon, who calls the look “the swing bob,” declares: “It’s what all the most fashionable girls are wearing.”

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