As a hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon promoted a belief that the structure of the cut should provide the style; this led to the development of his signature wash-and-go geometric cuts of the 1960s. Though all his cuts are visually distinct, he is most often associated with the 5-point cut, a short geometric cut with one point over each ear and three visible points at the nape of the neck. A crucial player in the vibrant Swinging London scene of the 1960s, Sassoon promoted simplicity of line that was visually analogous to the minimalist, geometric lines of mid ’60s fashions. Sassoon’s most famous cut is that worn by Mia Farrow in the 1967 film Rosemary’s Baby.
Sassoon was born in the East End of London on January 17, 1928 to parents of Sephardic Jewish ancestry. His father abandoned the family when Sassoon was very young, and his mother placed Sassoon and his brother in an orphanage until 1939, when the family was reunited. At age 14, Sassoon was apprenticed to a hairdresser named Professor Cohen. He spent the next several years honing his skills at a series of gradually more prestigious London salons. During the same period, Sassoon was also involved with the 43 Group, an antifascist Jewish group in London. In April 1948, Sassoon joined the Israeli Army and spent several months fighting in the Arab-Israeli War before returning to London. Upon his return to London, Sassoon returned to work as a hairdresser, eventually opening his own London salon in 1954.
Though Sassoon quickly built a name for himself, it was not until 1963 that he experienced the creative breakthrough that led to his signature geometric cuts. Asked by London fashion designer Mary Quant to develop a new look for her models in an upcoming fashion show, Sassoon gave all the models haircuts reminiscent of the bob of the 1920s. Quant also volunteered her own hair and the Sassoon cut was born.
Like an artist, Sassoon named his creations, giving them names such as EyeEye, a cut that covered one eye, or the Curly Geometric, a permed version of his geometric cut. Fashion-forward women such as model Peggy Moffit, designer Emmanuelle Khanh, and actor Nancy Kwan quickly adopted the avant-garde Sassoon look. As his reputation spread, Sassoon began collaborating with fashion designers such as Rudi Gernreich, Mila Schon, Paco Rabanne, and Emanuel Ungaro to create hairstyles to complement their designs.
Sassoon eventually opened salons and hair academies in New York and London, while also developing a line of hair care products. In 1982, Sassoon founded the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Hebrew University in Israel, an organization dedicated to studying and documenting antiSemitism throughout the world. By 2004, Sassoon was no longer associated with any of the salons, hair academies, or products that bear his name. He lives in Los Angeles and devotes his time and financial resources to various philanthropic efforts.