The haircut that launched a thousand Instagrams—you may not know Louise Brooks, but you may have encountered stills of the silent-film actress, and certainly you've encountered her Lulu bob 'do. You should also seek out her biography by Barry Paris, which details her in-control sexuality, her hatred of Hollywood, and her inability to be boxed in. Not that Brooks was an attention-seeker. Her icon status came from 1950s France and 1990s America, well after she retired from acting. After losing on a career gamble, she lived in obscurity until she was beckoned to move to Rochester, New York, where celluloid was processed by Kodak, so that she could be close by while her films were being restored and give historians insight into the silent-film era.
So who was Brooks? A Kansas woman with a helmet haircut who head-butted Hollywood and refused to sign their contracts after Paramount withdrew their promise of a raise because they had to put money into upcoming sound pictures. She ended up in Germany, where she starred in two massively influential silent films made by G.W. Pabst: Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. In Pandora's Box she’s Lulu, a freewheelin' flapper mistress of a newspaper publisher. Lulu, like Brooks, has razor sharp, short bobbed hair. She cuts against the norm. When she is charged with his accidental death (where he asks her to kill herself) she has to cut her hair and attempt to fit in with other, normal women with disastrous results.