The 'Chanel of hair': Vidal Sassoon's cutting edge career

'To sculpt a head of hair with scissors is an art form. It's in pursuit of art': Vidal Sassoon

Vidal Sassoon, who died of natural causes at this home in Los Angeles on Wednesday, left behind a remarkable legacy.

And while the hairdressing world mourns the death of this innovative trendsetter — who was dubbed the “Chanel of hair” by fashion icon Mary Quant — HELLO! Online looks back at why his work was so important.



Vidal was well-known for creating the iconic, geometric bob first made famous in the 1960s by Mary Quant (pictured above), who pioneered the miniskirt.

But as the man who is credited with bringing Modernism to hairdressing, he is responsible for far more.

When the London-born youth burst on to the scene in the 1950s with his very own salon in the capital, hair was high, heavy and very high-maintenance.

But his creative cuts, which required little styling and fell perfectly into place, fit right in with the fledgling women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and many women retired their curlers for good.

“My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous,” he said 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.”

His wash-and-wear styles included the bob, the Five-Point cut and the "Greek Goddess," a short, tousled perm — inspired by the "Afro-marvelous-looking women" he said he saw in New York's Harlem district.


He whipped up a storm in the showbiz world with Hollywood star clients that included Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor and model Jean Shrimpton.

And he made 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 (pictured above). 

He expanded his salons in England and relocated 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 celebrity snipper also established Vidal Sassoon Academies to teach aspiring stylists how to envision haircuts based on a client's bone structure. By 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."

His hair-care mantra was: "To sculpt a head of hair with scissors is an art form. It's in pursuit of art."

Vidal’s career was suggested to him by his mother, who had a premonition he would become a hairdresser and pushed him in the right direction.

"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 Associated Press in 2007.

"Hairdressers are a wonderful breed," he quipped in 2004.

"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."

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.

Married four times, Vidal had four children with his second wife, Beverly.