Vidal Sassoon on the artform that is hairdressing, 1985

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The Guardian

‘Vidal Sassoon was here’ proclaimed the cover of the Observer Magazine of 21 April 1985, likening his craft to graffiti, as if he had tagged all those tresses before dashing off to look after his global product line (which he sold in 1984 for £75m) – a cut and run. Well, his slogan was: ‘If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.’

The man who ‘started a revolution with his scissors’, then in his late 50s, referred to hairdressing as an artform in his interview with Sally Brampton, to coincide with a retrospective exhibition at Hamiltons gallery in London. Such an accolade for a hairdresser sounded incredible at the time, but then Sassoon was no ordinary trimmer.

Though he hadn’t put scissors to hair for more than a decade or lived in the UK since the mid-Swinging Sixties, he was a legend and a global superstar, said Brampton. ‘Not bad for a man who started life in the poorest area of London’s East End, and who spent his formative years in an orphanage.’

In 1959 he created his first revolutionary cut, ‘The Shape’ – a layered cut, the hair swept forward from the crown to fall in points at the curve of the jaw – which was the basis for ‘The Five Point’ in the early 60s. ‘Women wanted, needed, to be freed from the ritual of back-combing and teasing their hair,’ he said.

Hairdressing was ripe for revolution and Sassoon loathed the ‘chi-chi’ approach. ‘Oh, you know, the “Oh, madaame” syndrome, and the kiss on the hand.’

He said he was proud of the scores of young hairdressers who had left to set up their own salons. When he sold the product company, he owned only 26% of the shares – the rest were owned by past and present employees.

‘With a touch of acerbity,’ wrote Brampton, ‘Vidal suddenly added, “You don’t think X bought that house in Belgravia with spit, do you? No, with hair conditioner.”’

July 24, 2022 at 10:51AM Chris Hall

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