Last night I was invited to a screening of Vidal Sassoon The Movie, the upcoming biopic of arguably the world’s most famous hairdresser. The documentary spans Sassoon’s 60+ years in the industry, tracing his path from a London orphanage to international success, with a fair few adventures along the way. Following Michael Gordon, founder of Bumble and bumble, as he sets out to document Vidal’s life in an upcoming book, the film tells the story of how Sassoon revolutionised the world of hair.
And it’s really hard to coherently express just how Sassoon changed things. Like Mary Quant changed fashion with mini-skirts, like Steve Jobs changed technology with the iPod – he changed everything. Prior to Sassoon, women went to the salon once a week for a wash and set – that was that. You didn’t do your hair at home, you didn’t use hair products at home – you went to the salon for your weekly appointment, and your hair stayed in place for seven days.
Sassoon didn’t just change hair with his pioneering geometric, Bauhaus-inspired styles (although he did do that, and how); he changed how women wore their hair completely. His ‘wash and wear’ philosophy meant women could do their hair themselves, at home, and just go to the salon for their six-weekly trim. They were no longer slaves to the salon, and their new looks were loose, free, and easy to look after. He freed up their time, allowing them to get on with more important things. Like his buddy Mary Quant, Sassoon gave women a new lease of independence, and let a whole new generation of young people look and feel radically different to anything that had gone before.
He is the most inspirational hairdresser in the world, hands down, and his vast knowledge and passion for the subject is incredible – even now in his 80s. He is so enormously intelligent, it humbles you – architecture, philosophy, literature, music, science… he is enormously well-read, and passionate about learning. He’s also hugely political – growing up as Jew in East London he had first hand experience fighting Oswald Moseley as part of the 43 Group, and later served with the Israeli Defence Forces to fight the Arab-Israeli war.
The film will be on general release in May 2011, and even if you aren’t a hairdressing fangirl like me who loves all things Sassoon, there’s still plenty to take from it. If you have any interest in 1960s culture, it’s a doozy – the imagery above is just a teeny trailer-sized snippet of the feel of the film, and there’s plenty of great swinging sixties London footage to enjoy.
Here are some of my Sassoon favourites…
The world-famous, still relevant, incredible, scientific, mathematically complex, Five Point Sassoon cut. As modelled by Grace Coddington. Yes, Grace Coddington.
The famous Nancy Kwan cut. Almost better than this are the shots of the cut in action – she started the day with nearly 3′ of hair.
Sassoon cutting Mia Farrow’s hair for Rosemary’s Baby – hundreds of photographers came to watch, and they added a line in to the film where she says it’s a Sassoon cut. Check out the older lady in the back with her ‘oh no he di’n’t‘ face.
Oh, and here’s the trailer for Vidal Sassoon The Movie! Go see!