RIP Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon cutting Mary Quant’s hair, ca. 1965

Legendary hairstylist Vidal Sasson died on Wednesday, May 9th at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 84. Born in London, he took a job in a hair salon after dropping out of school at the age of 14. He first came to fame in the 1960s with his unique haircuts. His easy, unfussy hairstyles were the polar opposite of the heavily teased and lacquered “hairdo’s” of the time, sported by older and younger women alike. His contributions to hairstyling coincided with undercurrents of change in other areas of culture, such as music, fashion, and film, in the early Sixties. These undercurrents were started by young innovators in their fields, and sprang up independently of each other. It was inevitable that they would merge into one cohesive movement, which became known as the “Mod” (short for Modern) movement. The Mod Movement was a youthful backlash against the staid, stuffy traditions of the older generation. London was its epicenter, and the decade became known as the Swinging Sixties. Sassoon’s cuts perfectly complimented the youthful, easy fashions of the Mod Movement.

The Kwan Cut: Nancy Kwan, ca. 1963

Sassoon first came to prominence on a worldwide level with his angled bob in 1963. It famously adorned the head of actress Nancy Kwan and became known as the “Kwan Cut” before being adopted by fashion designers Mary Quant and Emmanuelle Khahn (i.e. the Quant/Kwan/Khahn cut?). In 1965 he pioneered the “geometric” cut – a short, angled haircut that was pointed in the back, front, or sides. Mary Quant soon adopted the Geometric cut as her trademark, and it remains so to this day. Peggy Moffitt, fashion model and muse of designer Rudi Gernreich, also adopted the geometric cut, and like Quant, still sports it to this day. In 1967 Sassoon gave actress Mia Farrow her short haircut for the film “Rosemary’s Baby.” It was filmed for posterity at Paramount Studios. Sassoon was flown in from London to cut Farrow’s hair and was paid $5000 to do it.

Sassoon cutting Mia Farrow’s hair in front of a live audience while being filmed, 1967.

Peggy Moffit with her Sassoon Geometric Cut

Peggy Moffitt at the premiere of “Vidal Sassoon The Movie” in September 2011.The tattoo of her, on the arm of her admirer, also sports a Sassoon cut

In the 1970s Sassoon pioneered the Wedge haircut. He also launched his line of haircare products. They were reasonably priced and available in drugstores everywhere. The slogan from the commercials still resonates to this day: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”

Sassoon in the Seventies, with models demonstrating The Wedge (left) of the 1970s and the Geometric Cut (right) of the 1960s.

Sassoon’s print ads for his hair care line in the 1970s used celebrities like Andy Warhol, as well as a healthy dose of humor.

His Vidal Sassoon academies have trained thousands of hairdressers worldwide. They continue to do so, ensuring that his legacy to the world of hairdressing will continue long after his death. But perhaps his most enduring legacy is that Vidal Sassoon popularized the hand-held blow dryer, thus freeing women from the shackles of oppressive salon dryer chairs, under which they would have to sit for an hour (perhaps more) while wearing a large plastic cap on their heads.

Vidal Sassoon arguably became the world’s first hair stylist to become a celebrity in his own right. His bobs and geometric cuts will forever be associated with the Swinging Sixties, just like Mary Quant’s miniskirts, or Beatles’ music. He will be missed.


One Comment on “RIP Vidal Sassoon”

  1. sean james says:

    thats my arm in the peggy photo

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