My first exposure to Vidal Sassoon was in bottles, the slim, cylindrical burgundy and pearlescent pink shampoos and conditioners my mother kept in the shower (and also in travel size under the sink). This was the 1990s and as a small child everything was new to me. Little did I know that the name on the bottle had already been famous for 50 years.
Now remembered as a legend in the beauty and fashion worlds, Vidal Sassoon began what would become a career of over five decades at the age of 14 in 1943. Of Jewish ancestry, Sassoon’s mother found work for him in London’s East End with a man named Adolph Cohen, a wigmaker for Orthodox Jewish women. It was while watching the 1943 Ingrid Bergman war film For Whom The Bell Tolls that the young boy developed some of his first ideas about what good hair could do: female fighters needed hairstyles that were much lower maintenance so they could be as powerful in the field as possible.
Sassoon would get his chance to realize these ideas when he opened his own salon on Bond Street in London’s chic Mayfair neighborhood in 1954. Weekly trips to the hair salon had been a way of life for women for so long. Their hair was washed, dried, teased, sprayed, and set in elaborate bouffants and beehives and curls whose maintenance was anything but low. But as the 1960s began, Sassoon changed all of that. “Everything around me was modern except the hair–something had to happen,” he said in 1993. “Fashion had changed, music had changed, the entire culture was in flux, but the hair was still rigid.” Women were living lives freer and lighter. Sassoon believed their hair should adapt.
Beginning in 1957, Sassoon developed a series of hairstyles that became “wash-and-wear” cuts, styled into shapes needing no extra primping. It started with a bob for British fashion designer and miniskirt pioneer Mary Quant. In 1963, he added the Five-Point Cut, which was first worn by a young model named Grace Coddington. “Before Sassoon, it was all back-combing and lacquer; the whole thing was to make it high and artificial. Suddenly you could put your fingers through your hair!” she said in 2012. The revolution had begun, and soon Sassoon was the most in-demand hairdresser in the world, among the first of the “name” hairdressers that would later include other legends like Paul Mitchell, Frederic Fekkai, and John Frieda.
Opening up his New York and Beverly Hills salons in the mid-1960s, Sassoon became beloved by celebrities like Jane Fonda, Twiggy and, perhaps most famously Mia Farrow. In 1968, director Roman Polanski hired the hairstylist to cut Farrow’s locks into a pixie cut in front of the press as a publicity stunt for Rosemary’s Baby. In the actual film, Farrow’s title character delightfully quips of her new hairdo, “It’s a Vidal Sassoon! It’s very in.”
Sassoon continued to expand his brand throughout the following decades, with not just more salons internationally but a school and his own line of products, including those even I knew as a child growing up. The brand’s commercials became famous for their conspicuous slogan: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” He became the first hairdresser whose haircare product collection was bought by a massive corporation, Procter & Gamble, changing the possibilities of what it meant to be a stylist in the 20th century. Sassoon retired from styling in 1976, then sold his company in 1983, but continued to be the face of the brand.
By the time he was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2009—three years before his death—Sassoon had already been a legend for decades. Upon meeting the Queen, he remembered her hair looking well. “It truly looked very nice,” he said that year. “She didn’t ask me to stay behind and give her a quick trim!”END
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createdAt:Wed, 15 Jan 2020 21:26:44 +0000