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Celebrity British hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon (1928-2012), was in an orphanage as a child. 

Vidal Sassoon was born in London to Jewish parents. Because of extreme poverty, he and his younger brother were put into a Jewish orphanage from age five until his mother retrieved him at the age of eleven. His mother was only allowed to visit once a month and “most of the time he was starving” (Iley). 

Vidal began working as an apprentice hairdresser at age fourteen, at the suggestion of his mother. He opened his first salon in 1954, but didn’t become famous until the 1960s when his ‘wash-and-wear’ short hairstyle, the ‘bob’ “became a sensation.” 

There were times in the Sixties and Seventies when the press were literally camped outside my Bond Street salon, snapping the new haircuts as they walked out of the door, even photographing the staff themselves wearing the latest looks. In our heyday we were chased down the street, followed by a pack of screaming girls (Sassoon).

With his London salon a “hive of beautiful people”, Sasson went on to open salons in New York and Beverley Hills, eventually operating more than twenty salons. In addition, Sassoon created hair products such as shampoo and conditioner, selling them under his name. 

“He was the creator of sensual hair,” John Barrett, founder of the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman, said Wednesday. “This was somebody who changed our industry entirely, not just from the point of view of cutting hair but actually turning it into a business. He was one of the first who had a product line bought out by a major corporation” (Weber). 

In 1983, Sassoon sold his brand to Richardson Vicks who on-sold it to Proctor & Gamble two years later. At the time, the brand was reportedly generating $110 million every year. In 2003, Sassoon sued Proctor & Gamble for “destroying” his brand. 

Vidal Sassoon was made CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2009 and was the subject of a 2010 documentary. 


Brown, Rachel. “Vidal Sassoon, Famed Hairdresser.” WWD: Women’s Wear Daily, vol. 203, no.97 (2012):8. 

Iley, Chrissy. “Vidal Sassoon interview.”, 16 May 2011. 

Sassoon, Vidal. Vidal, London, UK: Pan Books, 2010. 

Weber, Bruce. “Vidal Sassoon, Hairdresser and Trendsetter, Dies at 84.” The New York Times, 10 May 2012. 

Image available here.