Thursday, 17 May 2012

In memory of Vidal Sassoon

You did not sincerely think I would leave it a whole month!? No, I am not dead, although I do have a sudden (and very dreadful) cold which I fear might threaten to carry me off. Ah-choo! Sitting curled up in one of my Father's large woollen jumpers, writing this.

So, on 9th May 2012, Vidal Sassoon - the great hairdresser - died at his home in Los Angeles aged eighty-four, leaving behind him a long-lasting legacy in the hairstyle industry.
He became the most famous hairdresser of the 1960s, creating new styles which freed women from the constraints of scraping their hair up into a huge beehive or other equally stiff styles, achieved by being backcombed and laquered into a shiny, fashionable nest.

Sassoon's creations were geometric, innovative 'wash-and-wear' cuts, which worked alongside women's boosted feelings of personal freedom.

Vidal Sassoon
  • Born on the 17th January 1928 in the East End of London.
  • His Father, a carpet salesman, left when Vidal was five, and his family were evicted from their home.
  • Due to poverty, he and his younger brother Ivor were placed by their mother in a Jewish Orphanage, where they lived for seven years.
  • He left school aged fourteen and entered the hairdressing trade, chosen as a suitable trade by Sassoon's mother, working at Cohen's Beauty and Barber shop for two years.
  • At seventeen, he joined the Jewish ex-servicemen of the 43 Group movement in street battles against Sir Oswald Mosley's fascist blackshirts in London ('cause Mosley had unfortunately been allowed out of prison after the end of the second world war, which he had spent in internment in a house with his wife, Diana, in the grounds of Holloway Prison)
Sassoon with Grace Coddington
  • In 1948, Sasson went to Israel and joined the army, where he fought in the independence war.
  • He had intended to study to become an architect while in Israel, but was summoned back to London by his impoverished family where he returned to hairdressing.
  • Aged 26, he opened his first small salon on Bond Street.
  • In 1956, he married his first wife, Elaine Wood, who had been his salon receptionist. They divorced in 1963.
  • Due to his first salon prospering and becoming increasingly fashionable, they moved to larger premises in 1958.
  • In 1963, Sassoon created a short, angular hairstyle cut on a horizontal plane = a re-creation of the classical bob cut, which he devised for Mary Quant.

"For me the working of hair is architecture with a human element."

  • His hairstyles became synonymous with the swinging sixties, and a time where Carnaby Street in London grew to become a hub of a new age of fashion.
  • In 1964, he opened his first salon in New York.
  • In 1967, he married his second wife, canadian actress Beverley Adams. They had four children (but divorced in 1980)
  • Five years later, he had established salons in Beverley Hills and Toronto with a hairdressing school open in London.
  • In 1973, he launched his haircare products.

  • By the mid-1970s, he had three schools and fourteen salons in Britain, Canada, the United States of America and Germany.
  • By 1975, he had more or less stopped cutting hair though he still appeared in television adverts for his hair products. In fact, in the last twenty five years of his life, Vidal Sassoon did not cut any hair, except for a few exceptions. For example (amusing anecdote) when he was joined by a friend on a holiday in Italy and decided he could not spend a week with that friend without giving him a haircut.
  • In 1983, he married Jeanette Hartford-Davis, a dressage champion and former model. They divorced soon after.
  • Also in 1983, he sold his $113 million-a-year company to Richardson-Vicks.
  • In 1985, the company was bought by Procter&Gamble, who he sued in 2003 for breach of contract and fraud.
  • In 1992, he married Ronnie Holbrook, a designer. Together, they restored a classic 1960s modernist house in Beverly Hills with glass walls and onyx floor.
  • In 2009, he was appointed CBE.
  • In 2010, Sassoon looked back at his life for a documentary, 'Vidal Sassoon: The Movie'
  • On 9th October 2011, Vidal Sasson appeared on BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs' where his chosen record was 'Mahler's 8th Symphony', his chosen book was 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and his chosen luxury was a dozen bottles of Vidal Sassoon Hair Shampoo.
  • He died on the 9th May 2012.

"Longevity is a fleeting moment that lasts forever."

Mia Farrow

Vidal created the infamous pixie crop for Mia Farrow for the 1968 Polanski film 'Rosemary's Baby' - Polanski had Sassoon flown in to create the cut, for which he was payed $5000. The film made the hairstyle a very fashionable and iconic look, which was copied all over the world.


"If you've got something worthwhile that you can spread internationally, my god, you don't keep it. Then it dies with you."
"I've had so many star quality clients, but when a working girl comes in and she's saved five shillings to have a great haircut once a month, I treat her like a princess."

 "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."

Jean Shrimpton:


Carol Channing:

"With a great haircut they could shake it, brush it, do whatever they wanted and it would fall into place. This changed the craft."



Poster for 2010 Documentary:

Thank you for reading and, as soon as I have access to internet on my laptop, I shall throw my retrospective of Dior Spring Haute Couture Collections at you.

Please comment and DO follow. :)

Because I wrote this yesterday, this is an addition. In honour of Donna Summer, the soulful disco songstress, who died today - Thursday 17th May 2012 - at her home in Florida.

Please follow and DO comment. :)


Anonymous said...

when a cut goes down in history

dimitri said...

C'était un artiste. Les coiffures étaient toutes exceptionnelles.
J'adore la coupe de Twiggy. Cette coiffure est maintenant célèbre.
Un très beau post.

kerrin said...

what a wonderful post! let's follow each other! xx

Nikki said...

Great post! And thank you for your sweet comment!