Vidal Sassoon: 1928-2012
I had the good fortune to have met the iconic hairstylist Vidal Sassoon back in 1994, when I was a young pup of writer. Sassoon was a charming old soldier of the fashion biz. We talked for an hour about all of his accomplishments, his revolutionary five point haircut (pictured above on the young Grace Coddington), his chain of salons and his line of products. I believe I took him to task because Vidal Sassoon shampoo no longer had the almond scent which I adored as a child. Of course by that time, he was just licensing his name to these products and had no real say in how they smelled.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Sassoon was part of the pop cultural zeitgeist. Like fashion designer Mary Quant, his name was synonymous with swingin’ Carnaby Street style. Andy Warhol appeared in ads for hairspray, while Sassoon himself starred in commericials in which he famously intoned the slogan, “if you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” By the time I moved to Toronto in the ’90s, it was a post-mod world, but getting one’s hair done at Sassoon still made one feel all fancy. I think a got a Jane Fonda style shag there.
Shags may come and go, but there’s no overlooking Sassoon’s most revolutionary contribution to modern society. By changing the emphasis from styling to the actual haircut, he freed generations of women from the old set and curl. In my grandmother’s time, ladies went to salon once a week or sat in a friend’s living room and had your tressed laboriously pinned and teased for an hour. This is why, in old movies, people would say that had to stay home and wash their hair. It was a commitment. And then you hoped an prayed that the style would hold for the next seven days. Sassoon’s revolutionary cutting techniques made wash and go, bouncing and behaving hair possible. If you ever gone the blowout route, you’ll have had a taste of how time-consuming and tyrannical hair care was before the mid-sixties.
I’m sad that Sassoon is gone. I’m happy that I got the chance to meet him though. I also got his autograph.