The Chanel of hair, Vidal Sassoon, dies aged 84
The hair and fashion world bid farewell to an icon, with the news that British-born celebrity hair stylist Vidal Sassoon died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 84.
Sassoon was born in London to Jewish parents in 1928, brought up by his single-parent mother, and sent to an orphanage in Maida Vale where he spent six years of his childhood before being evacuated due to the war. On his return, aged 17, he then began his hairdressing career as an apprentice at Adolph Cohen’s salon in Whitechapel during the Second World War.
Being of Jewish descent he took an interest in anti-Semitism, and joined the Israeli army in 1948 to fight in the Israeli War of Independence. Following Israel’s success he began looking for a job in London’s fashionable West End, and made efforts to rid himself of his cockney accent by frequently visiting the theatre and taking elocution lessons to acquire ‘proper’ English. He then went on open his own West-End salon on New Bond Street in 1958, where he invented the famous ‘bob’ hairstyle that epitomised the swinging sixties and continues to be popular today.
His famous five-point cut revolutionised hair-dressing and soon became popular with high-society figures, as Sassoon went on to style the tresses of royalty and celebrity over the years including Twiggy, Mia Farrow for Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 and Glenda Jackson for her Oscar-winning role in 1969′s Women in Love.
He opened the doors to his first hair academy in the 1960s with trainee hair-dressers coming from across the globe to be taught the art of cutting and styling in the way that he did. Sassoon was the father of modernist style and was also a key force in the commercial direction of hair-styling, turning his craft into a multi-million-pound industry. Mary Quant called him the “Chanel of hair”. He was in demand in the US as well as in Britain, and was well respected as a master of his art.
In 2011 it was reported that Vidal had been diagnosed with leukemia two years prior and was undergoing treatment. At the time of his passing, he was said to have been surrounded by his family in his home in Los Angeles. Reacting to the news of his death, Lee Stafford said that: “Sassoon revolutionised the way everybody wears their hair today; he also made British hairdressing the best in the world. He was my hero.”
Sassoon’s former model and creative director of American Vogue said: “He changed the way everyone looked at hair. 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! He didn’t create [Sassoon’s five-point cut] for me; he created it on me. It was an extraordinary cut; no one has bettered it since. And it liberated everyone. You could just sort of drip-dry it and shake it.”
John Barrett of the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman said that Sassoon “was the creator of sensual hair. This was somebody who changed our industry entirely, not just from the point of view of cutting hair but actually turning it into a business. He was one of the first who had a product line bought out by a major corporation”.
Nicky Clarke, a British celebrity hairdresser also paid tribute to Sassoon, calling him “truly one of the greatest icons of hairdressing.”
“Certainly he was part of the original Cool Britannia, he is synonymous with that time. He would be one of the top five Swinging Sixties icons along with the Beatles, Carnaby Street, Mary Quant and the Union Jack,” he said. The flamboyant hairstylist, who launched a successful hair-care product range with the slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good,” had lived in the United States since the 1980s.
In lieu of flowers his family has requested asked that memorial donations be sent to American Friends of The Hebrew University in support of The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism.