Vidal Sassoon, the man behind the fancy haircuts and scissors, passed away aged 84 after a battle with leukaemia.
Life for young Vidal, wasn’t an easy start and everything he was famous for was made through hard work and determination.
Born in London to a Jewish family, his mother became a single parent after having enough of his fathers serial womanizing, she couldn’t support her 2 boys, so she painfully gave her sons up to a Jewish orphanage, tragically they could only see their mother once a month and they were never allowed to leave the building for days out with her.
Vidal attended a Christian school, just before it was evacuated because of WWII. After his return to London he left school aged 14 and worked as a messenger before starting an apprenticeship in hairdressing.
When he was 17, World war two was still going on, but he was too young to go in to service, instead he became the youngest member of the 43 Group, a Jewish veterans’ underground organisation. They fought against anti-semitism after the war ended by breaking up Fascist meetings in East London. A newspaper famously referred to him as an “anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser”.
In 1948, at the age of 20, he joined the Haganah (which then became the Israeli Defence Forces) and fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which began after Israel achieved statehood.
In an interview about his missions with the Israelis he said that it was “the best year of
my life, when you think of 2,000 years of being put down and suddenly you are a nation rising, it was a wonderful feeling. There were only 600,000 people defending the country against five armies, so everyone had something to do.”
Sassoon was trained by Raymond Bessone, in his salon in Mayfair, in 2010 he gave Raymond acknowledgment by saying “He really taught me how to cut hair…. I’d never have achieved what I have without him.”
Sassoon’s first salon opened in 1954 in London, his famous works included the geometric perm and the “Nancy Kwan” hairstyles. They were all modern with low-maintenance. The hairstyles created relied on dark, straight, and shiny hair cut into geometric yet organic shapes. In 1963, Sassoon created a short, angular hairstyle cut on a horizontal plane that was the recreation of the classic ” bob cut.” His geometric haircuts seemed to be severely cut, but were entirely lacquer-free, using completely natural hair to its full potential.
By the early 1980s, after moving to USA, Sassoon had sold
his name to manufacturers of
haircare products and the
multinational Procter & Gamble was applying his name to shampoos and conditioners sold all over the world, with an infamous commercial campaign carrying the slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” Former salon colleagues had bought Sassoon’s salons and acquired the right to use his name, extending the brand in
salons into the UK and America.
1982 saw Sassoon start the Vidal
Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism , or SICSA, a research centre dedicated to the non-political, interdisciplinary gathering of information about antisemitism.
Sassoon sued Procter & Gamble in 2003, taking his dispute to the Federal Court alleging that P&G was destroying his brand by fixing a marketing scheme so that haircare products (especially Pantene) would benefit more than his own. The suit was settled to their mutual
satisfaction before trial.
Vidal authored several books,
including A Year of Beauty and
Health co-written with his former wife, Beverly Sassoon. He had a short-lived TV series called Your New Day with Vidal Sassoon, which aired in the fall of 1980.
Sassoon was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the queen in the 2009 Birthday Honours list.
In 2010 a documentary film was commissioned about his life, receiving much acclaim it was released in New York at the Tribeca film festival.
Sassoon’s personal life was just as colourful as his business life, married to his first wife,
Elaine Wood, in 1956, but after just two years marriage, she left Vidal in 1958 for another man.
Vidal Sassoon married his
second wife, actress Beverly Adams in 1967, They had four children: two daughters, Catya (1968–2002), and Eden (born 1973), and two sons, Elan (born 1970) and David.
Sassoon and Adams divorced in
His third wife was Jeanette
Hartford-Davis, they married in 1983 and divorced soon after. In 1992 he then went on to marry Rhonda C. Sassoon.
In June 2011 Sassoon was reported to have been diagnosed with leukaemia two years earlier, and was receiving treatment in Beverly Hills and London, Sadly Sassoon died on 9 May 2012 at his home in Los Angeles with leukaemia being the cause of death.
Even to this day, you see celebrities sporting the bob and many other of his inspired creations, without his flare, hair magazines today, wouldn’t have the outlandish yet beautiful haircuts they do on the front.
The man himself may be gone, but the scissors will still keep snipping those grand haircuts.