Hairdressing Icon Vidal Sassoon dies aged 84 in Los Angeles

One of the more famous photos of Vidal Sassoon, taken on London’s Millennium Bridge, a footbridge across the Thames, nicknamed the ‘Wiggly Wobbly Bridge’ due to the way it moves as you walk over it.

Hairdressing and fashion icon Vidal Sassoon passed away at his home in Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles on the 9th of May. The 84-year-old had been battling leukaemia for some time and died with his wife and family by his side.

A true rags-to-riches story from his early days in an orphanage in the East End, to his time as a soldier in Israel, his beginnings on Bond Street in 1954, and ultimately international success.

Spurred on by his mother’s dream that her son would find success as a hairdresser, Sassoon trained under Raymond Bessone, in his salon in Mayfair. Sassoon later stated that "he really taught me how to cut hair...I’d never have achieved what I have without him.”

"I made up mind, if I was going to be in hairdressing, I wanted to change things. I wanted to eliminate the superfluous and get down to the basic angles of cut and shape.” Vidal once said. He revolutionised

hairdressing by steering women towards ‘wash and wear’ looks. In the ‘60s, he re-worked the classic bob with angular cuts on a horizontal plane and created the revolutionary five-point cut.

Working with fashion designer Mary Quant, Sassoon helped spark the ‘60s Carnaby Street style of short hair, white lipstick, strong eye make-up and mini skirts. His tag line, "if you don’t look good we don’t look good” became a defining moment. 

After building a global enterprise of salons, academies and styling products, Sassoon sold the rights to his name in 1983, which was later acquired by Proctor and Gamble in 1985.

After selling his company, he then worked towards philanthropic causes such as the Boys Clubs of America and the Performing Arts Council of the Music Centre of Los Angeles via his Vidal Sassoon Foundation.

In 2003 he sued P&G for breach of contract for apparently neglecting the marketing of his brand name in favour of the company’s other hair product lines such as Pantene. The two parties settled out of court.

Sassoon was a lifelong fan of Chelsea Premier League club and in 2009 was honoured by the Queen and named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2010 he worked with Bumble and Bumble founder Michael Gordon to launch a documentary on his life, Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, bringing his story to a whole new audience.

Neil Cornelius, said his death was the loss of a hairdressing legend. "It is very, sad because I grew up in the East End like Vidal and from the age of eleven I wanted to be a hairdresser like Vidal. I remember the first time I met him. I have washed the hair of Princess Diana, I have met Nelson Mandela, but meeting Vidal Sassoon topped all of those.”

Lee Stafford said that "Sassoon revolutionised the way everybody wears their hair today, he also made British hairdressing the best in the world, he was my hero.” Tabatha Coffey wrote on Twitter that "my great day turned into a devastating day. RIP Vidal Sassoon thank you for all you have done for our industry and for me.”

Vidal Sassoon was more than just a hairdresser – he was a rock star, an artist, a craftsman who ‘changed the world with a pair of scissors’. Revolutionising the art of hairstyling, leaving his mark by changing the way that women look and cut their hair today. This extraordinary man was not only one of the great innovators of our time, but a cultural life force whose influence far outreaches the industry he changed forever.