“If you don’t look good, we don’t look good!” At the age of 84, Vidal Sassoon has passed away. He’s one of those names that doesn’t need introducing. He changed hairdressing sure, built a global beauty empire even, but he also changed women’s lives, freeing them from the twice or even thrice weekly shampoo & set, (never underestimate just how much women do when they feel that they look good & don’t have to worry about their hair) and was a passionate anti-fascist. For any man his achievements were remarkable, for a boy brought up in an orphanage in the East End it was spectacular.

The photos above are a montage of  photos of my mother that Red magazine put together for a feature I wrote for them, but the important part is my mother’s portrait at bottom right. Yup, that’s her with a Vidal do in the early 60s. Amazing cut, beautiful (still) woman.

I’m really lucky in that I got to see Vidal Sassoon talk after the first public screening of the documentary about him (associate producer: Julian Vogel of Modus, fashion friends) at Village East in New York’s East Village in February 2011.  Nearly everyone at the screening was a hair stylist and chatting to the people sitting around us  was an extraordinary experience: to them, it was as though God himself had descended from the heavens. Truly, even at 83 he was the Beatles of hairdressing.

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I cannot recommend the documentary more highly. I’ve actually seen it twice – the first time was at its premiere at the TriBeCa Film Festival in April 2010, when producer Michael Gordon (founder of Bumble & Bumble) spoke – and would happily watch it again and again. It’s a story of triumph over poverty and adversity, of endurance, of great sadness and of joy too. It’s available on Amazon for a fiver now. There is also an excellent biography.

Vidal Sassoon The Movie [DVD]

Vidal: The Autobiography

(Photo of Vidal Sassoon via Modus Publicity blog)

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In 1973 or 1974, I think it was, I was a young college girl visiting London during the summer. I was 20 or 21, but looked about 14, a tiny girl from Southern Louisiana. I had been getting my haircut at a salon in New Orleans, where I was going to school, where all of the stylists had been trained in a Sassoon school. So, naturally, I wanted a cut from a REAL Sassoon salon. And I got my chance that summer.

Sitting in the chair, I listened to my stylist suggest a kind of pixie cut and what did I think about a dye job? A nice deep red, maybe? It would certainly be the most exotic look I’d ever tried to carry off, and I went with it enthusiastically.

The cut was great, and I loved the ragged back that looked like a lawnmower ran amok over my neck. The color practically glowed. And as I was just looking in the hand mirror at the back, and telling the stylist how much I loved it all, the Man himself showed up suddenly next to my chair.

Thinking back, I believe he must have wondered how this American child had ended up in a chair in his salon. But he was amazingly gracious and charming. Asked where I was from, about the salon where I usually got my hair cut, how I was enjoying London.

Seriously, it would have been no surprise if he had simply been too busy to notice some little tourist nobody in his place. And no fault, either, because I never in a million years would have expected him to notice me.

But he did. And he seemed genuinely interested in hearing my story, was not the least bit rushed, even seemed to enjoy the fact that a young girl considered a visit to his salon a major event to make time for after crossing an ocean to visit a foreign country.

Especially since my huge glasses made it plain that I was not a typical fashionista. Looking good has certainly always been a goal for me, but I’ve never been a completely up to the minute fashion plate. And I’m way too short to carry off most fashion in the best of style. I think that made him appreciate it even more.

But, really, isn’t hair in a class of its own? Just like he was. What a gentleman.


A very nice tribute to a great man. He must have been a beautiful soul,like all men that genuinely love and respect women and choose to live and work surrounded by them. RIP Vidal Sassoon.


lovely tribute. It is a sad loss, he genuinely changed the face of hairdressing.


A great man. My Sassoon trained hairdresser loves my steadfast adherence to a sharp cut, called I believe the “Swan” . Thanks for the DVD tip, straight over to Amazon.


I watched that documentary in bed this morning (lazy) and my friend and I had tears in our eyes the whole way through. What an amazing story, from such humble beginnings. I love how it never went to his head and that he was so grateful for what he had and never forgot his beginnings. So refreshing. And he seemed to get better looking as he got older!

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