Obituary: Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon
Published: 10th May 2012 13:08:42
Vidal Sassoon's "wash and wear" styles contributed to a social revolution. Just as the feminist movement was looking for something new, he came up with sleek, easy styles that liberated women from the fussy, high-maintenance beehives of the '50s.
The iconic bob he gave Mary Quant ushered in an era of boyish, geometric styles that became synonymous with the swinging sixties, and spawned a collection of hair products that established Vidal Sassoon as a household name.
Sassoon said he considered hairdressing to be an art form. He described "dancing around" his clients as he looked for inspiration.
"It's sculpting at it's best, I mean, we're looking at faces and we're carving shapes to go into that bone structure. This is incredibly exciting, nobody else has that privilege - only hairdressers," he said.
Vidal Sassoon also dedicated much of his life to fighting anti-Semitism, establishing a research centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1980s.
But it was his mother, and a certain amount of luck, that dictated his career choice.
He grew up in poverty in the East End of London. His Jewish mother, having been left by her husband, was evicted from the family home. She moved in with her sister, but they struggled with money and a lack of space. At the age of five, Vidal Sassoon was sent to live in an orphanage, and saw his family only once a month.
His younger brother later joined him, but, Vidal said, never got over the feelings of rejection that this caused. Vidal himself said it fostered in him a determination to make good. "It made me want to be a winner", he said.
In 1942 he was 14, and his mother said he should learn a trade. She chose hairdressing.
He worked as a shampooer for a disciplinarian who insisted on pressed trousers, clean fingernails and clean shoes at all times. It was an approach to customers that Vidal later carried through to his own salons.
"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," he said.
When the war ended, Vidal was 17, and he became involved in a group fighting the continuing threat of British fascism. He described gangs of uniformed fascists marching through the streets and chanting anti-Semitic slogans "as if the war had never happened".
When he was 20, he travelled through Europe to fight in the Arab-Israeli war. "You don't see the danger, just the cause", he said.
On his return to Britain, he continued the hairdressing. But he was aware of a "British revolution", and said he had to "find something different" in his work. He came up with the Mary Quant haircut.
Financial success began in earnest when he opened his own Bond Street salon in 1954. His cuts continued to gain notoriety and his clients became more numerous. He soon moved to a larger salon, opened a hairdressing school, and came up with a line of hair products.
Looking back in his 80s, Vidal Sassoon described what made it worthwhile.
"The joy of looking at a bone structure, working on somebody's head and seeing the difference, and seeing the joy in her eyes is quite fascinating. It's not respected in any quarters but it's a marvellous craft."
In the last 25 years of his life, Vidal Sassoon did not cut any hair, except for a few instances. He was joined by a friend on holiday in Italy, but decided that he couldn't spend a week with him unless he gave him a haircut. And he gave his chihuahua a trim.
He spent much of his fortune on art works for his house in Los Angeles. "Imagine opening the paper every morning and seeing what your stock is worth, well, I'd rather walk around the house and look at the art," he said.
At 10:59:07 in SportNorthamptonshire will attempt to bring in Pakistan all-rounder Sohail Tanvir as their first overseas signing of the County Championship season.
At 10:57:48 in ScotlandA council leader has said extending the soon to be reopened Borders railway to Carlisle would be "wonderful news".
At 10:55:23 in Northern IrelandUlster Bank has faced further problems with its computer systems.
At 10:53:16 in EnglandA man has been arrested over the murder of a teenage girl who went missing more than 20 years ago.
At 10:52:36 in EntertainmentFormer Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of indecent assault against a woman, aged over 16, in January 1995.
At 10:52:34 in SportVeteran defender Jamie McAllister says he has no intention of retiring and wants a new deal with League One-bound Yeovil Town.
At 10:48:35 in ScotlandPlans to improve the notorious Haudagain roundabout in Aberdeen with a new dual carriageway link are going on show.
At 10:47:22 in HealthHospital admissions for dog bites are three times as high in the most deprived areas of England as in the least, official figures show.
At 10:46:01 in SportThe home ground of Championship club Bolton Wanderers will be renamed in July as part of a new agreement with sportswear manufacturer Macron.
At 10:43:39 in BusinessShares in French engineering company Alstom have jumped after a report that US multinational General Electric is in talks to buy Alstom for $13bn.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Obituary: Celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon [Online] (Updated 10th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1427758/Obituary-Celebrity-hairdresser-Vidal-Sassoon [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Shares in Qualcomm, one of the world's biggest chipmakers, fell 5% in after hours trading as it issued a weaker than expected growth outlook.
A council leader has said extending the soon to be reopened Borders railway to Carlisle would be "wonderful news".
Hospital admissions for dog bites are three times as high in the most deprived areas of England as in the least, official figures show.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
Shares in French engineering company Alstom have jumped after a report that US multinational General Electric is in talks to buy Alstom for $13bn.
Overall crime in England and Wales fell by 15% in 2013, according to official figures.