Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sassoon and the Salon

Shot by David Bailey, 1965
Vidal Sassoon, 1928 – 2012

I had only been thinking of Vidal Sassoon the day previous to his passing, I was well in need of a haircut and I was daydreaming that one day I would be brave enough to adopt one of his cropped styles. I watched the documentary on his life last winter, How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors, when it was broadcast on BBC.

Sassoon's "wash-and-wear" philosophy with his geometric, "Bauhaus-inspired" precision cuts, perfected at his London salon, liberated a new generation of women from the time consuming perms and updos that had previously been the vogue. The attraction of his styles for women was that they were modern and low maintenance. That's a philosophy I'm well on board with!

Sassoon giving Quant the famous five point cut in his salon
Quant remembers Sassoon: "Vidal Sassoon revolutionised the way women thought about their hair. Before Vidal, they just had a ‘hairdo’. Then Vidal invented cut and style. He was a visionary. He didn’t do perms and sets. He saw that, like architecture — for which he had a passion — hair could be cut into bold, unfussy, structured shapes."

Sassoon's aesthetic was inspired by Bauhaus-style architecture that was springing up in London and the UK throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He seen that the fabric of the cities themselves were changing and while British interiors were transitioning, he introduced the pioneering style into his salons as well. Modern architecture rejected ornament, embraced the machine aesthetic (the interior particularly) and form was to follow function. Sassoon's style characterised this, he succeeded in curating the art of every day life through his expertly crafted and executed styles for the average woman.

Bauhaus school, 1925-27, Dessau, Walter Gropius.

Robin Hood Gardens social housing complex, 1968-72), East London, Alison and Peter Smithson. (Photo © Chris Guy via archdaily)

Grace Coddington modeling the five point cut.
Sassoon used these images to advertise his cuts in his salons.

In accordance with Sassoon's aesthetic, his revolution was not restricted to women's hair alone, but the stage in which Sassoon himself played the lead role, the salon itself. He is responsible for the salon environment as we know it now. He favoured contemporary sleek furniture, the windows of his salons looked in on the customers and his staff at work, creating an modern, open setting, where ideas took shape and experiments were played out on a vibrant set.

Exterior of the New Bond St. salon in the 1960s, this photo really shows off the sleek, modernist exterior and how it creates a sharp contrast to the surrounding buildings.

Master of all he surveys: Sassoon in his 171 New Bond Street salon in the mid 1960s.

VS New Bond Street salon in the mid-1970s (Photo © RIBA, excuse the watermark!)

Vidal was the rockstar of the hair world. His salons were new, sexy and modern - all chrome and mirrors, bustling with fashionable young people.

Stills from Repulsion, 1965

Art meets life. Roman Polanski chose to set a scene from Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve using Sassoon's busy London salon as the set for the film's beauty salon.
In some of these shots you can just about spot some of the iconic images of VS cuts, including the infamous image of Nancy Kwan's asymmetrical bob.

(You can find the whole film on youtube.)

See more:
Wallpaper magazine: Vidal Sassoon's ode to architecture

Master Cutter: An Interview with Vidal Sassoon (W Magazine)

How To Get Your Salon Interior Right, British Journal of Hairdressing, interesting in comparing Sassoon's influence on salon interiors.


  1. I loved that Sassoon documentary. They're a brilliant company, I got asked to hair model for them a couple of years ago and they employ some really creative people. Like, the colourists do colour exclusively and stylists do the hair cuts etc. I would totally recommend them for anyone with the £££ to spend on their hair. They still do some amazing spock pixie cuts. x

    1. Oh how interesting! Your hair is pretty fab though! Maybe one day I will go for the cut and go short, and it will definitely be in the Sassoon spirit!

  2. Loved this entry, Zoe! Though I own a Vidal Sassoon hairdryer, I knew very little about his life!

    Love the new blog layout too! :)

    1. Thanks Maeve! I remember watching the documentary simply because I love the sixties and was curious about the man behind the brand!

      After a year or so of the other one, it was time for a change! Trying to go somewhere with the blog as well, so new look, new resolutions!

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