Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All About Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon, whose mother had a premonition that he would become a hairdresser and steered him
to an apprenticeship in a London shop when he was 14, setting him on the path that led to his
changing the way women wore and cared for their hair, died on Wednesday at his home in Los
Angeles. He was 84.
Mr. Sassoon brought a kind of architectural design to the haircut in the late 1950s and early 1960s,
developing a look that eschewed the tradition of stiff, sprayed styles with the hair piled high and that
dispensed with the need for women to wear hair curlers to bed and make weekly trips to the salon.
For Mr. Sassoon, the cut was the thing — just about the only thing — and he fashioned his clients’
hair into geometric shapes and sharp angles to complement their facial bone structure. His short,
often striking styles helped define a new kind of sexy. They were also easy to care for and maintain
— the wash-and-wear look, it was sometimes called — and they helped propel the youthful
revolution in fashion (and just about everything else) that gripped London and then America and the
rest of the world in the 1960s.

One of his early clients was the mod fashion designer Mary Quant, who created the miniskirt.
Referring to it in a 2010 documentary film about him, she said to him, “You put the top on it.”       
“He changed the way everyone looked at hair,” Grace Coddington, the creative director of American
Vogue, said in an interview on Wednesday. “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

Mr. Sassoon became a business pioneer as well, creating a line of hair products under his name. The
shampoos, conditioners and other products were famously sold in television commercials featuring a
woman with a lustrous head of hair and the handsome, debonair Mr. Sassoon at her side, declaring,
“If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” Sales reached more than $100 million annually before
he sold the company in 1983.

“He was the creator of sensual hair,” John Barrett, founder of the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf
Goodman, said Wednesday. “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.”

“I made up my mind then that if I was going to be in hairdressing long term, I wanted to change
things,” he recalled in the documentary “Vidal Sassoon: The Movie.” “I didn’t have a picture of what
hair should be, but I had a definite picture of what hair shouldn’t be.”

Over nine years — inspired, he said, by Bauhaus architecture — he evolved his geometric style.
“When I looked at the architecture, the structure of buildings that were going up worldwide, you saw
a whole different look, in shape,” he said. “My sense was hairdressing definitely needed to be
changing.” He added: “To me hair meant geometry, angles. Cutting uneven shapes, as long as it
suited that face and that bone structure.”

-New York Times Rebecca R. Ruiz contributed reporting.

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