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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2012

Vidal Sassoon, 1928-2012: Hairstylist featured cuts that fell into place easily


LOS ANGELES -- Hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, who undid the beehive with his wash-and-wear cuts and went on to become an international name in hair care, died Wednesday. He was 84.

Mr. Sassoon died at his home in Los Angeles, a police spokesman said. Officers were summoned to the home and determined that he died of natural causes.

When Mr. Sassoon picked up his shears in the 1950s, styled hair was typically curled, teased, piled high, and shellacked into place.

In the 1960s, Mr. Sassoon's creative cuts -- which required little styling and fell into place perfectly every time -- fit right in with the fledgling women's lib movement.

"My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric, and take away everything that was superfluous," Mr. Sassoon said in 1993 in the Los Angeles Times.

"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.

Mr. Sassoon opened his first salon in his native London in 1954 but said he didn't perfect his cut-is-everything approach until the mid-1960s.

Once the wash-and-wear concept hit, though, it hit big, and many women retired their curlers for good.

In 1966, he did a curly look inspired by 1920s film star Clara Bow for the designer Ungaro. He got 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.

Mr. Sassoon opened more salons in England and expanded 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 hairdresser also established Vidal Sassoon Academies to teach aspiring stylists how to envision haircuts based on a client's bone structure.

In 2006 there were academies in England, the United States, and Canada, with additional locations planned in Germany and China.

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