By now most everyone has heard the news of his passing. Vidal Sassoon, a name that is immediately recognized and is synonymous with hair - turned a passion into an empire. What many may not realize is how far he had come from his roots, and how his journey has paved the way for every aspiring stylist.
Born in London to Jewish immigrants, he was abandoned by his father, given up by his mother and spent much of his youth in an orphanage, poor and with little educational opportunities.
The creator of the ‘bob’ and the first man to put his name on a bottle of shampoo was more than just a stylist. He was an artist, a visionary and a savvy business man. Clean geometric lines, insprired from art movements, had been his signature since he opened his first salon in London in 1954.
His hair styles did more than change the look of a woman’s hair. It helped liberate them from stiff, high maintenance looks, just as women were becoming self empowered and leaving the role of ‘home maker” to make their own mark on the business world. He helped women move from the “bee-hive”, permanents and rollers and hours underneath the dryers to a “wash and go” fashion in step with the social change sweeping the world. “My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous. Women were going back to work; they were assuming their own power. They didn’t have time to sit under the dryer anymore.” Sassoon said.
Sassoon went on to open more than 20 salons and a number of teaching academies on both sides of the Atlantic. He also launched a line of shampoos and conditioners branded with his moniker and with the slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good”. He grew sales to exceed $110 million annually before he sold the brand (now owned by Proctor and Gamble Co.).
While time has raced on since Sassoon first made his mark on the world, he was the first “celebrity stylist” paving the way for others like, Paul Mitchell, Tabatha Coffey, Ken Paves, Brig Van Osten, and our own Nick Arrojo (who studied under Sassoon). Sassoon turned a craft into an art and changed the perception of a stylist from a hair cutter to an artist.
Sassoon was “the original rock ‘n’ roll hair god,” Writes Peck Bateman. “He was part-hair stylist, part-entrepreneur and he paved the way for hairdressers to be more than just people who cut hair.”
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