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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. After his parents separated and because of extreme poverty, Vidal and his younger brother were put into a Jewish orphanage at age five.

What I missed most was my mum. They only allowed me to see her once a month.

I ran away from the orphanage. I went to my dad…he got me back to the orphanage as quick as he could. And I could see there was no caring or love…I could tell that as he walked away, he’d passed me over to the authorities, that he already had something else on his mind. He didn’t even look back at me. And I think that moment was when I lost any love that I had for him. I never saw him again (Documentary).

Vidal Sassoon’s mother retrieved him from the orphanage at the age of eleven. During the war he was separated from her again. evacuated…

…with all the kids of London and sent to the country where we lived with cows and sheep for next few years (Documentary).

Foster care was a positive experience for Vidal.

As a young man he joined anti-fascist groups:

After the Holocaust you couldn’t just sit at home and allow those thugs, running around and screaming “we’ve gotta get rid of the yids.” They already got rid of six million (Documentary).

Vidal Sassoon subsequently spent a year in the new state of Israel from July 1948:

Before I went to Israel I didn’t know who I was. As a Jew you’re a minority in every European country. It was the first time I can truly say I found a sense of dignity as a human being (Documentary).

Vidal had begun working as an apprentice hairdresser at age fourteen, at the suggestion of his mother. He opened his first salon in 1954, but did not 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, Vidal Sassoon: The Movie directed by Craig Teper.


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. 

Vidal Sasson: The Movie. 

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

Image available here.