“The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary”. The rules of life of the legendary hairdresser Vidal Sassoon
Photo: Vidal Sassoon. Still from the documentary Vidal Sassoon. Movie. On the Millennium Bridge in London / nytimes.com
Could a little boy, the son of a Kiev emigrant, ever think that the brightest movie and pop stars of the 70s-80s and even the 90s would be recorded in line with him, as a master of hairdressing? No. At first, he didn’t really want to study.
But taking up hairdressing, British stylist, entrepreneur and public figure Vidal Sassoon fell in love with it so much that he сame up with several revolutions, made it his vocation and forced the whole world consider him a worthy craft.
He deservedly and forever inscribed his name in the golden list of outstanding geniuses of beauty.
They found themselves on the street of the post-war London East End in the evening. In the light of the lanterns, Vidal watched his mother’s excitement as he stopped under the sign of Adolph Cohen’s Barber Shop. She collected her thoughts and timidly knocked on the door. To their great surprise, the door swung open, and the son and mother, crossing the threshold, immediately found themselves in a completely different world, where there was a sharp smell of cologne and soap suds.
“Would you be so kind to take this boy as your apprentice?” Betty Sassoon asked timidly. In her hand she was clutching a newspaper clipping that reported that the famous East London hairdresser, Adolph Cohen, was recruiting apprentices for his apprenticeship.
Cohen replied that he would gladly take a new student, and immediately announced the cost of two years of training. It costs only 100 guineas! But the amount for the unfortunate Betty, who raised her sons alone after their father them, was too heavy. “I don’t even have a hundred buttons to pay you!” she cried out in hearts.
Vidal was not a bit upset. He did not see himself in a hairdresser’s apron and with scissors in his hands. It was rather the desire of his mother, who believed that the ability to cut will feed him until the end of his days. It means that he will do something more interesting.
“And we went to the door. I was happy”, Vidal Sassoon shared in his autobiographical book. “Taking off my hat, I opened the door in front of my mother with a gallant gesture, which I had spied on in some film, and we left”.
“And then there were footsteps behind us. Catching up with us, Cohen told me, “I see you, young man, have excellent manners. Come out on Monday free of charge”. Mom’s face brightened, but a smile immediately disappeared from mine. I cursed myself and that film with a stupid gallant gesture”.
On Monday, a young 20-year-old student was already at his new workplace. Bring it in, count the change – it is not how he imagined studying in a hairdressing salon. He stirred paints, washed heads, floors and mirrors, and in the evening he ran away to meetings of an underground organization of Jewish veterans and took part in the anti-fascist movement.
At the call of blood, he left for Israel, where he tried to start all over again. However, a letter from his mother returned him to the hated London. How to get a job if you can’t do anything? Vidal Sassoon went to the hairdresser again. He confidently moved to the most fashionable area of London and chose Raymond Besson, the best hairdresser in the city, as his mentor. And – lo and behold! – finally fell in love with this craft.
“He taught me how to cut hair: it only requires a small pair of scissors and precise movements of the wrist. I would never have achieved what I now possess if I had not met him,” Vidal Sassoon said anxiously about his mentor. Now he has his own clients, records for several weeks ahead, and even fans. The hairdresser worked hard. “The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary,” he said.
And now rumors quickly spread throughout London how that young master skillfully wielded scissors. And Vidal Sassoon was a little upset. “Hairdressers in general have not received the praise they deserve,” he reasoned. “A lot of people don’t think hairdressing is a decent craft”. He wanted to change the situation as soon as possible. And he did it.
COUNTESS ON THE STAIRS
Vidal remembered well what it was like for his mother – children, work, endless cleaning, washing and cooking. He thought about how to make life a little easier for his clients. They say that it was this thought that helped him come up with ultra-fashionable hairstyles – bob, caret, pixie, sesson and others. They were revolutionary and did not require styling at all. He also introduced a personal hand-held hair dryer – as opposed to a hairdressing barrel hairdryer.
“A working woman could save a few shillings a week because she only came in for a haircut every five weeks,” Sassoon said. – “She could rinse her hair in the shower, comb and just let it dry. It has changed the lives of many young girls who didn’t always have the time or money to style”.
Vidal Sassoon opened his own salon Raymond in 1954 in London. He gave up complex hairstyles, curls, hairspray and grease. The main rule of Sassoon was simple styling, a five-point haircut, individual for each client, as well as the use of the natural properties of each type of hair – the ability to curl, density, and so on.
Vidal Sassoon simplified everything, and already in the 60s he was called the genius of hairdressing. He became the favorite hairdresser of Hollywood divas Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor. The legendary hairstyle of Cleopatra in the film is the work of Vidal.
“My idea was to give the hair a shape with a haircut. I was working with hair as a sculptor with my material, I wanted to use hair as fabric and cut off everything that was unnecessary. For me, a hairstyle is certainly geometry, angles. These are also uneven cuts, if they favorably emphasize the oval of the face and the shape of the head. I wanted to bring a geometric shape with color to the art of hairdressing, which had never happened before,” the master will say about those years.
He was attentive to each of his clients – when he cut the hair of ordinary sales girls, the countesses were waiting decorously on the stairs. The concept of mastery of Vidal Sassoon fit into one capacious formula: “Wash and go”.
Vidal Sassoon, as he dreamed, turned the idea of hairdressing. At the end of his life, he could say with confidence, “Hairdressers are a wonderful breed. You work one on one with another person, and your goal is to make him feel much better and to make his eyes sparkle when he looks at his reflection. When you finish your job, you feel extraordinary satisfaction”.
Vidal Sassoon’s hairdressing business is booming – new beauty salons are opening worldwide under his brand. The most prestigious hairdressing academy in London bears his name.