Vidal Sassoon, the English hairdresser known for revolutionizing hairstyling both technically and aesthetically, died after a long battle with leukaemia at age 84 on May 9, 2012 in Los Angeles. Sassoon invented the “wash and wear” philosophy, liberating a generation of women from constant trips to the salon for almost daily upkeep and styling. He is also famous for his severe, geometric hairstyles, specifically the “wedge bob,” an angular, chin-length cut that is still extremely popular today. Sassoon was the first hair stylist to open up his own international chain of salons with an accompanying self-titled line of hair products.
Sassoon begin his career at the age of fourteen as a shampoo boy. He trained under Raymond Bessone before opening his own salon in 1954 in London. At his own business, Sassoon sought to develop a way of cutting and styling hair that would make the whole affair more efficient and easier for both hairdresser and client. Sassoon said, “If I was going to be in hairdressing, I wanted to change things. I wanted to eliminate the superfluous and get down to the basic angles of cut and shape.” Over the course of nine years, Sassoon developed his signature style, inspired, he said, by Bauhaus architecture. Sassoon wanted haircuts that were completely modern, but also low-maintenance enough that women could care for and reproduce the style at home. Besides his wedged bob, Sassoon also quickly became famous for his geometric perms, styling Mia Farrow’s much-imitated masculine crop in Rosemary’s Baby, and, of course, the iconic Nancy Kwan haircut, photos of which appeared almost instantaneously in British and American Vogue. Coming from a generation that produced stiff, hair-sprayed styles involving a lot of time, tools, and effort, Sassoon’s architectural designs which worked with the natural shine and texture of the hair were a breath of fresh air. Grace Coddington, who used to model for Sassoon in the sixties and is now the 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!” Sassoon encapsulated the mood of the sixties and seventies with hair that was just as free-spirited, effortless, and sexy as the liberated women he was styling. In fact, one of his early customers was mod fashion designer Mary Quant, the creator of the miniskirt.
Vidal Sassoon is survived by his fourth wife, Rhonda, and three children, and leaves behind an unprecedented legacy as an innovator in women’s hairstyling and beauty.
Emily Kirkpatrick for The Untitled Magazine