Hairstyling pioneer Vidal Sassoon dies at 84 in LA

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“While Mr. Gernreich has dressed his mannequins to look like little girls,” The New York Times wrote after viewing Gernreich’s collection for fall 1965, “Vidal Sassoon has cut their hair to look like little boys with eye-level bangs in front, short crop in back. For really big evenings, a pin-on curl is added at the cheek.”

In 1966, he did a curly look inspired by 1920s film star Clara Bow for the designer Ungaro. He got more headlines when he was flown to Hollywood from London, at a reputed cost of $5,000, to create Mia Farrow’s pixie cut for the 1968 film “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Sassoon opened more salons in England and expanded to the United States before also developing a line of shampoos and styling products bearing his name. His advertising slogan was “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”

The hairdresser also established Vidal Sassoon Academies to teach aspiring stylists how to envision haircuts based on a client’s bone structure. In 2006 there were academies in England, the United States and Canada, with additional locations planned in Germany and China.

“Whether long or short, hair should be carved to a woman’s bone structure,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1967. “Actually short hair is a state of mind … not a state of age.”

Sassoon’s hair-care mantra: “To sculpt a head of hair with scissors is an art form. It’s in pursuit of art.”

He wrote four books: “Vidal: The Autobiography” released in February of this year; an earlier autobiography, “Sorry I Kept You Waiting, Madam,” published in 1968; “A Year of Beauty and Health,” written with his second wife, Beverly, and published in 1979; and 1984’s “Cutting Hair the Vidal Sassoon Way.

He sold his business interests in the early 1980s to devote himself to philanthropy. The Boys Clubs of America and the Performing Arts Council of the Music Center of Los Angeles were among the causes he supported through his Vidal Sassoon Foundation. He later became active in post-Hurricane Katrina charities in New Orleans.

He had moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s in search of a chemist to formulate his hair-care products and had decided to make the city his home.

A veteran of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, Sassoon also had a lifelong commitment to eradicating anti-Semitism. In 1982, he established the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Growing up very poor in London, Sassoon said that when he was 14, his mother declared he was to become a hairdresser. After traveling to Palestine and serving in the Israeli war, he returned home to fulfill her dream.

“I thought I’d be a soccer player but my mother said I should be a hairdresser, and, as often happens, the mother got her way,” he told the AP in 2007.

He told the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that he was proud to have entered the field.

“Hairdressers are a wonderful breed,” he said. “You work one-on-one with another human being and the object is to make them feel so much better and to look at themselves with a twinkle in their eye. Work on their bone structure, the color, the cut, whatever, but when you’ve finished, you have an enormous sense of satisfaction.”

Married four times, Sassoon had four children with his second wife, Beverly, a sometime film and television actress, usually billed as Beverly Adams.

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