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vidal sassoon


Famous hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, who has died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 84, is credited with revolutionizing hair-styling for women.

Here are five ways in which Vidal Sassoon changed the world of hair.

1. Hair for work

In the 1950s, hair was about height, curls and hairspray. Women often visited the hairdressers two or three times a week to have their hair elaborately teased and “set”. Hats added even more drama on top of dressed styles.

Vidal Sassoon’s “wash and wear” cuts of the 1960s changed all that, allowing women to spend less time on their appearance.

According to fashion commentator Caryn Franklin, Vidal Sassoon created a “visual aesthetic for modern women wanting to distance themselves from the modern housewife”.

As more and more women entered the workforce, they needed cuts that would reflect authority and efficiency in a male-dominated world.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 1993, Vidal Sassoon explained: “Women were going back to work, they were assuming their own power. They didn’t have time to sit under the dryer anymore.”

“Clients came into his salon every day who were at the forefront of the feminist expansion into the workplace,” Caryn Franklin says. Vidal Sassoon cuts were futuristic, illustrating where “women wanted to go” rather than where they currently were.

2. Celebrity hairdressing

Hailed as one of the world’s first celebrity hairdressers, Vidal Sassoon’s client list included Twiggy, Jane Fonda and Mia Farrow. Although he opened his first London salon in 1954, his first New York branch opened its doors in 1965 and became one of a string of international salons.

Not only was he stylist to the stars, he became a celebrity himself, moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s. He paved the way for other “name” hairdressers like Trevor Sorbie, Nicky Clarke and John Frieda.

A regular face on television, he appeared in his Sassoon commercials in the 80s alongside famous supermodels. He recently judged the final of reality TV show Shear Genius and a documentary about his life was made in 2010.

For a hairdresser to become a Hollywood sensation in Vidal Sassoon’s time “was a mega-mega achievement”, says celebrity hairdresser Errol Douglas.

Until then, hairdressers were not typically viewed as stylists, but Vidal Sassoon brought a designer image to the industry. At the same time he appealed to ordinary people.

For Guardian columnist Sali Hughes, Vidal Sassoon’s mass popularity stemmed from the fact that he was a “working class boy who started out as a barber and lived and breathed hair from when he was a child”.

Today Sassoon-esque short hair on women is a standard look

Today Sassoon-esque short hair on women is a standard look

3. Short hair for women

Vidal Sassoon once explained to the Los Angeles Times that he viewed hair like fabric which needed to be shaped.

“My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous.”

Vidal Sassoon didn’t invent the idea of short hair for women, but he brought a range of short styles into the mainstream.

He is perhaps best remembered for his “Mary Quant” cut, a geometric five-point bob worn by the fashion designer which contrasted sharply with the romantic, curly looks of the 1950s. Sassoon cuts “swept away classic femininity and added design into hair”, says Caryn Franklin.

Another look, the “Greek Goddess”, a short tousled perm, was inspired by the women of Harlem in New York.

And his looks got even shorter, such as the “pixie crop” worn by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. This was shocking to some in an era where androgynous style was only beginning to take off.

Today Sassoon-esque short hair on women is a standard look.

“He made short hair sexy,” says hair stylist Lee Stafford.

4. Hair products

As the years passed, the hairdresser devoted more and more time to developing the growing Sassoon brand. Although he steered hair styling away from lacquered beehives, he was one of the first stylists to create a popular line of products under his name.

Vidal Sassoon products catered for both the mass and high-end market, with luxurious product lines stocking salons while affordable hair-care items lined supermarket shelves.

Fashion historian Laura Kitty says that people ended up having “more of a connection” with the Sasoon brand because his products became so widespread, something other hairstylists didn’t have.

“He really managed to tap into the idea of aspiration mass market products for hair. It was like you were buying a haircut in his salon.”

Vidal Sassoon also branched into a range of hairdryers and styling tools for women to attempt to “create a Sassoon look” at home.

His two-in-one combined shampoo and conditioner Wash and Go “was the biggest selling hair product of the 80s”, says Sali Hughes.

5. Hair academies

Vidal Sassoon was the hairdresser’s hairdresser, notes Sali Hughes, pointing out that his geometric cuts needed cutting every six weeks, keeping stylists in business.

His training academies taught would-be hairdressers to create haircuts based on a client’s bone structure, a practice known as “precision cutting”.

And they produced alumni notable in the world of hairdressing, such as Lee Stafford, who says that hairdressers all over the world still come to London to train.

According to Laura Kitty, a large number of up-and-coming stylists in the 80s and 90s had trained at one of his academies.

And although Vidal Sassoon began as an apprentice barber and learned the “old methods”, he devised new techniques to teach to younger stylists as his career progressed.

“His ideas have been disseminated at a much larger scale than any other stylist in modern memory.”

But while his methods may have changed over the years, Lee Stafford says the essence of Vidal Sassoon styling remained the same.

“He never ever changed his philosophy, it was all about beautiful hair cutting.”

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Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon has died at his home in Los Angeles, aged 84.

A police spokesman said officers went to the stylist’s home on Wednesday morning to confirm the death. He said Vidal Sassoon had died of natural causes.

Vidal Sassoon is regarded as one of the best-known hairdressers of his generation.

He is credited with revolutionizing haircuts in the 1960s, and developed a popular line of hair products under his name.

The creator of the “bob” hairstyle, he is best known for his short, geometric cuts, ending the bouffant styles trendy in the 1950s.

One of his best-known clients was Mary Quant, the famous British fashion designer who popularized the mini-skirt. Mary Quant called Vidal Sassoon the “Chanel of hair”.

Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon has died at his home in Los Angeles, aged 84

Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon has died at his home in Los Angeles, aged 84

In a tribute, fellow British coiffeur and friend Nicky Clarke said he was “hugely significant – the most iconic of hairdressers”.

Before Vidal Sassoon’s arrival on the scene, he said: “People were in rollers, backcombing their hair. What he bought was a different kind of hairdressing.

“It was all about modernism – in some ways he defined the 60s. He helped to put Britain on the map.”

Nicky Clarke said Vidal Sassoon was a “humble person” who “loved his craft”, and would be greatly missed.

Vidal Sassoon was born to Jewish parents in West London in 1928.

His father left when he was five, and his mother had to put him and his brother into a Jewish orphanage because she could not afford to keep them.

In 1948, at the age of 20, Vidal Sassoon travelled to Israel to fight in the Arab-Israeli War.

On his return to Britain, Vidal Sassoon began working for the famous hairstylist Teasy Weasy Raymond, in Mayfair, before opening his own salon in 1954.

“My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous,” Vidal Sassoon said in 1993 in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“Women were going back to work, they were assuming their own power. They didn’t have time to sit under the dryer anymore.”

Vidal Sassoon also campaigned against anti-Semitism, establishing the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1980s.

Vidal Sassoon’s private life attracted as much publicity as his business success. He divorced three times and married his fourth wife in 1992.