Of all the conversations inspired by Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, a chat about the most ubiquitous hairstyle of 2006 was probably not the one anyone was expecting. But last week, the Los Angeles Times ran an interview with the film’s stars Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, in which Pugh’s hair was styled in a look that many of us hadn’t seen since the first Obama administration. Seeing the bump — or was it the pouf? — thriving in 2019 inspired us to figure out our feelings on the style. Below, five Cut editors discuss.
Anna Silman, Senior Culture Writer: For the purposes of this conversation, I think we should settle on the difference between pouf and bump.
Alexia LaFata, SEO editor: To be honest, speaking as someone from New Jersey, I have never even heard the term “bump.” That picture is and has always been a pouf to me.
Claire Lampen, Writer: I would say that a pouf is more what Marissa Cooper would do with her bangs — a mini-bump at the front — whereas a bump is what Alex, also of The O.C. fame, would do to make her ponytail look more like a mohawk.
Molly Fischer, host, The Cut on Tuesdays: I had, until this morning, no language for this hairstyle. I simply knew it as the way hair was supposed to look, ca. 2005–2007. But as soon as people said “bump” about that pic, I knew, immediately. As if I had always known.
Anna: So, when would you guys say was peak bump era? And who are the quintessential bump icons?
Claire: When did the second season of The O.C. come out?
Amanda Arnold, Staff Writer: I would say around the Great Recession.
Alexia: Early aughts seems right.
Anna: Do you think it had to do somehow with the financial crisis?
Alexia: Why am I picturing Ashley Tisdale?
Amanda: Oh, she absolutely rocked a bump.
Molly: It’s anyone who you’ve ever seen layer tank tops on a red carpet.
Claire: Jessica Simpson’s little sister??
Alexia: Hilary Duff, most certainly. Ashlee [Simpson] as well.
Anna: I don’t think we can have a conversation about poufs without talking about Snooki.
Molly: Snooki was when I knew, definitively, that bumps were a thing of the past. That was like bump reaching the point of caricature. It was over.
Anna: Why did we do the bumps?
Amanda: I, personally, used them because I danced, and doing a bump was the best way to get my side bangs out of my face
Alexia: I used to do a bump during my bartending shifts at this bar I worked at in college, because I thought it looked hot.
Anna: I think I was unconsciously aware that it was aesthetically pleasing to have more volume on top of my head, instead of hair in a conical triangular shape. And I didn’t know how to get that by doing my hair like a grown-up.
Claire: I think, especially in the era of extremely aggressive flat-ironing, you needed some kind of volume.
Alexia: My hair is very straight and the only way I could ever get volume in it was to bump.
Anna: Right. I would flat iron for hours and then bump. And then my hairdresser had to cut all my hair off because I had largely burned it off. What kind of tools did you use?
Molly: I used a nest of bobby pins. Like, at least six at a time.
Anna: I never figured out bobby pins — that was advanced bumping. I used claw clips. I’d scoop it back with the clip, and then inch the clip forward to get some air under there.
Amanda: But you didn’t want so much air that you could see through it.
Molly: God forbid!
Alexia: Then it would all separate unflatteringly at your part.
Claire: I just gave myself a pouf while we were talking. Maybe the muscle memory has eroded with time, but it didn’t work very well.
Anna: My question is, how uniform do you want it to be? You don’t want it to look like it has been teased with a comb. You want a little bit of natural variation in the hair height, as if you just casually threw it back.
Molly: My goal was always “an elaborately controlled illusion of effortlessness.” Bobby pins are great for control freaks.
Anna: Now I wear my hair curly and do a top knot, which is just the lazy girl’s straighten-and-bump.
Molly: Sometimes I’ll try to use a barrette and find myself encouraging slight volume on top, and I’ll think No. I cannot go back.
Anna: Honestly, I think … bumps were flattering
Alexia: Me too, Anna.
Molly: IMHO, the hard truth of the bump is that big hair is flattering, and it’s never going to be totally “cool” to just go for straight-up flattering in a blatant and obvious way, but you can do it when you’re 18 and feel great.
Anna: They looked good! Justice for bumps.