In the ’50s, visiting the beauty parlour was weekly procedure. Women only trusted their hair with a beautician who’d set it into a generally damaging style, and brush it out a week later. We owe a lot of gratitude to Vidal Sassoon because he singlehandedly revolutionized and liberated women with easy-to-manage styles that are still considered modern today.
In 1928, Sassoon was born to a Jewish family in the East End of London. When he was 14, Sassoon’s mother had a dream of him in a barber shop, and immediately apprenticed him to Cohen’s Beauty & Barber Shop.
Sassoon accepted his fate as a hairdresser, and quickly decided to become the best. So he started going to the theatre to sophisticate his accent, eventually finding work in the West End. After years of hard work (and a short intermission in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War), Sassoon set up his first salon on Bond Street.
Sassoon spent nine years experimenting with new techniques for cuts, searching for elegance in simplistic styles. Along the way, he revolutionized hairdressers into haircutters.
Sassoon did away with the rollers to introduce the method of blow-drying after blunt-cutting hair. Although his hair styles often appeared severely geometric, they were all based on organic designs that allowed the hair to fall easily into its cut shape, making them both modern and low-maintenance, relying on straight and natural shine over lacquer for the finishing effect.
His unconventional experiments paid off, and soon enough, models and actresses started flocking to Sassoon’s salon.
In 1963, Sassoon created the bob; a short, angular hairstyle cut on a horizontal plane that topped off the ’60s look propelled by Mary Quant. Similar to the effect of the mini skirt, women felt liberated by a hairstyle that was plain, low-maintenance, and androgynous.
He soon began creating variations of his geometric bob on different celebrities that often resulted looks that became iconic.
Grace Coddington (The Five-Point Cut)
When The Beatles started sporting his hairstyles, Sassoon became internationally famous.
But what Sassoon saw as a craft quickly became a multi-million dollar industry. Because all his hairstyles were designed to essentially be both modern and low-maintenance, they became the driving force behind the home hair care revolution. By the early 1980s, Sassoon sold his name to Procter & Gamble, who released shampoos and conditioners worldwide.
He also went on to give his name to a chain of hair salons in the UK and US. He is no longer associated to the brands that bear his name.
John Santilli at Vidal Sassoon’s salon
All of his namesake brands however, continue to pay homage and continually update Sassoon’s geometric bob to this day.
(on the left: The Nancy Kwan)
Regardless, I’ve always been amazed at how modern Sassoon’s hairstyles were. They’d fit in nicely at any era! The recent bob revival, even, seemed inspired by his cuts.
Whether Vidal Sassoon products, electrical hair care range or salons mean anything to you or not, it’s hard to deny the effect Sassoon has had on the way we regard hairstyles and hair care today.
If you’d like to know more about Sassoon, Don’t Mess With The Zohan was loosely based on his life story!
What do you think of Vidal Sassoon?
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