Hairdressing visionary, international fashion icon and founder of Vidal Sassoon
Vidal Sassoon, the world’s most famous and influential hairdresser, has died at his home in Los Angeles following a long battle with leukaemia. He was 84.
Sassoon’s “wash and wear” haircuts of the 1960s changed the way we think about hair and lead the field into creating the hair industry we know and love today. One of the first “celebrity hairdressers” he famously worked with 60s legend Mary Quant, Twiggy and Mia Farrow.
His family issued a statement which read:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Vidal Sassoon CBE, who died this morning at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones. The 84-year-old hairdresser was born in 1928 and sadly lost his battle with leukaemia today. He became the most celebrated hairdresser in the world having begun his career as an apprentice during the Second World War, going on to revolutionise an industry through his iconic haircuts, salons, schools and product lines. He will be greatly missed by his wife of 20 years Ronnie, his children, grandchildren, family and friends.”
From poverty to stardom
Sassoon’s early years are a tale of poverty and hardship. Born in Hammersmith in 1928, he was separated from his family at the age of 5 and raised in an orphanage until the age of 11. Despite the difficult conditions in his childhood Vidal said it “made me want to be a winner” and he carried this determination with him when he began training as a hairdresser at the age of 14.
After a stint in “The 43 Group” (a group fighting Facism in Britain), and a period fighting in the Arab Israeli war with the Israeli Defense Forces, Vidal opened his first salon in London in 1954. His belief in high standards of customer service coupled with his vision and skill made the business a huge success. He opened his second salon in New York in 1965, this was just the first part of a huge international business with salons all over the world.
Sassoon also became one of the first hair stylists to create a brand of products under his own name. With a huge range covering both the professional and home markets, his products were sold worldwide under a commercial campaign featuring the iconic slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good”.
The Vidal Sassoon brand became synonymous with style and quality, and Vidal enjoyed Hollywood style celebrity status both within the hair industry and outside it. In a time when the internationalisation of a brand was far more difficult than it is today, Sassoon’s achievements are truly remarkable and an indication of the great man that he was.
“If I was going to be in hairdressing, I wanted to change things”
The real key to Vidal Sassoon’s success was his ability to innovate and set trends. In 1963 he created a short, geometric interpretation of the classic “bob cut” that could be maintained without the need for lacquer. This strong, angular style of cutting was a drastic change from the curls and hairspray of the 1950s and was embraced by a new generation of fashionable working women looking for a low maintenance style.
Sassoon’s key works were the Nancy Kwan hairstyles, including the geometric perm, but he also pioneered shorter hair styles such as the “pixie crop” as worn by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s baby. There is no doubt that the shorter styles so commonly seen on women today would not be the same, or as prevalent, without Sassoon’s influence so many years ago.
“My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous”
Vidal Sassoon, born January 17, 1928, died May 9, 2012
Reaction to the death of Vidal Sassoon
“Vidal Sassoon was a truly iconic hairdresser and a great friend. He will be sadly missed and it is a sad day for the industry.” – Nicky Clarke
“Every hairdresser that walks this land has Vidal Sassoon to thank!” – Jamie Stevens
“Unlimited vision beyond his generation changed the world of style to this day. Vidal Sassoon the highest energy source rest In peace Icon” – Errol Douglas
“My heart goes out to the Vidal Sassoon family so sad to hear of his death! An inspiration to all hairdressers and beyond! Taste and class!” – Andrew Barton
“The Legend has gone. But his legacy will live on. Rest in Peace Vidal Sassoon. He will be sorely missed.” – Steven Smart
“An amazing man. Vidal Sassoon I will never forget my time with you. We will miss you dearly #RIP #ThankYou x” – Leo Bancroft