Hair | Vidal Sassoon Dead At 84

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The Ed.

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There aren't many things that get me out of bed and at my desk at midnight on a Wednesday night but when a true icon of our industry dies...I'm there.

Flicking through my iPad as I lay in bed with every intention of drifting off to sleep, I was enormously saddened to hear of Vidal Sassoon's passing. I've left my sleeping husband to put on my dressing gown and sit in darkness to write this tribute. He was an exceptional stylist and an icon of the fashion world. He was single-handedly responsible for the demise of the over-teased and over-styled bouffant and beehive (that you couldn't touch for fear of destroying it!) of the 50s and instead introduced women to the 'wash and wear hair' that meant they didn't have to spend hours in the salon ever week. And, today he died, aged 84, of natural causes at home in Los Angeles.

Vidal Sassoon built a multi-billion dollar business through nothing other than talent, sheer bloody hard work and a good dose of great timing. Dubbed a pioneer for his so-called 'wash and wear' styles, many women thanked him for releasing them from the weekly salon visit. No longer did they have to make sure that every hair was in place. Thanks to Vidal, women were back in control of their tresses. Amen to that.

Business savvy and uber cool, Vidal Sassoon marketed his name, styles and cutting techniques in a worldwide line of beauty salons, hair-cutting schools and hair products. For almost twenty years there was no other name in hairdressing. If it wasn't Vidal Sassoon, it wasn't worth it.

Despite his success, Sassoon never felt that hairdressing got the respect it deserved. In an interview with Reuters in 2010 he said, "Hairdressing in general hasn't been given the kudos it deserves. It's not recognised by enough people as a worthy craft."

For Sassoon, it was an art. "If you get hold of a head of hair on somebody you've never seen before, cut beautiful shapes, cut beautiful architectural angles and she walks out looking so different - I think that's masterful."

Born in January 1928, Sassoon was the son of a poor Turkish-Jewish carpet salesman. He spent eight of his very early years in an orphanage after his father abandoned his family. At fourteen years old, Sassoon quit school and persuaded his stepfather to fund a hairdressing apprenticeship. In 1948, after the partition of Palestine, Sassoon spent a year on a kibbutz and fought with the Israeli army. He credited this experience to giving him the direction and discipline needed to dedicate himself to full time hair-cutting.

It didn't take long. In 1950 he won his first hairdressing award and four years later at the age of 26 he opened his first salon on London's Bond Street. He gave himself ten years. He was ambitious. He didn't just want ten years to excel in hairdressing, he wanted ten years to change hairdressing. If he couldn't do that, he'd become an architect.

Of course, it wasn't long before his salon was stuffed silly with women wanting his signature styles. He'd defined his haircuts with geometric yet surprisingly natural edges and in 1963 he created the short angular cut on a horizontal plane that was the recreation of the classic 'bob cut'.

It was about at this time that he joined forces with the fashion icon Mary Quant. About a million women a minute tried to emulate the "Carnaby Street" style of Mary Quant's hair but also the white lipstick, the severe eye makeup and the knicker-skimming skirts. His association with Quant catapulted him to the forefront of hot pop culture and fashion and, when The Beatles adopted Sassoon-styled hair cuts, his status as a hair stylist and definer of fashion went stratospheric.

In 1967 Sassoon did Mia Farrow's hair for her role in 'Rosemary's Baby' and having "a Sassoon" became part of the fashion world's lexicon in Europe and America. And yet, in the face of all this success, he remained modest. In his interview with Reuters in 2010 he said, "I just consider being one of the luckiest people in the sense that creativity came to me and it flowed."

Oh boy did it flow. If creating cutting edge hair styles wasn't enough, he found time to write best selling books too. At the ripe old age of 39, in 1967, Sassoon wrote his autobiography entitled "Sorry I Kept You Waiting Madam" and in 1976, together with his second wife, he published "A Year of Health and Beauty". While the book was a best seller, the marriage ended in a very public divorce.

Eventually, Sassoon would marry four times and have four children. The eldest child, Catya, would die of an accidental overdose in 2003 at the age of 33.

In 1983, after building a worldwide empire of salons and products under his own name, Sassoon sold the rights to his name to Richardson-Vicks, a US health and beauty supply company. At this point, the sales of his hair-products alone were netting $113 million dollars a year. It wasn't long before Procter + Gamble gobbled up the company and continued with the Vidal Sassoon name. But in 2003 Sassoon sued Procter + Gamble for breach of contract and fraud on the grounds of neglecting his brand. Eventually, the two sides reached a confidential settlement in 2004.

Despite his travels, Sassoon remained a die-hard Chelsea football fan until the day he died. In 2009 he was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II and received an OBE. He is survived by three children and his wife.

He is also survived by innumerable hair stylists who were influenced by him, women who needed easier hair, descendants of the sixties, everyone still wearing a bob and Twiggy. He was instrumental in flinging the industry forward; he didn't just make it ok for women to wear boy cuts, he made it sexy. He was an icon and today is a sad day.

Rest in peace Vidal Sassoon.

The Ed.

Image courtesy of Getty Images
 

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ballyboo

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Beautifully put - a true inspiration, rip x
 

Easydry

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MisstyB

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Such a sad loss...amazing that he was 84, saw him interviewed a little while ago and he looked incredible
 

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