May 10, 2012 in Nation/World

Hairdressing legend dead at 84

Sassoon revolutionized women’s hairstyles
Sandy Cohen Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this April 23, 2003, file photo, Vidal Sassoon poses in his Beverly Hills, Calif., home.
(Full-size photo)

LOS ANGELES – Hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who undid the beehive with his wash-and-wear cuts and went on to become an international name in hair care, died Wednesday. He was 84.

Sassoon, who had leukemia, died at his home on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. Officers were summoned to the home at about 10:30 a.m., where they found Sassoon dead with his family. They determined that he died of natural causes.

When Sassoon picked up his shears in the 1950s, styled hair was typically curled, teased, piled high and shellacked into place. Then came the 1960s, and Sassoon’s creative cuts, which required little styling and fell into place perfectly every time, fit right in with the fledgling women’s liberation movement.

“My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous,” Sassoon told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “Women were going back to work, they were assuming their own power. They didn’t have time to sit under the dryer anymore.”

Sassoon opened his first salon in his native London in 1954 but said he didn’t perfect his cut-is-everything approach until the mid-’60s. Once the wash-and-wear concept hit, though, it hit big and many women retired their curlers for good.

His shaped cuts were an integral part of the “look” of Mary Quant, the superstar British fashion designer who popularized the miniskirt.

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.

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

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.

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.

Married four times, Sassoon had four children with his second wife, Beverly, a film and television actress.

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