Famed hairdresser Vidal Sassoon helps style the hair of a model in Shanghai in this September 9, 1997 file photo. Sassoon has died at his home in Los Angeles at age 84.
VIDAL Sassoon used his hairstyling shears to free women from beehives and hot rollers and give them wash-and-wear cuts that made him an international name in hair care.
When he came on the scene in the 1950s, hair was high and heavy - typically curled, teased, piled and shellacked into place. Then came the 1960s, and Sassoon's creative cuts, which required little styling and fell into place perfectly every time, fit right in with the fledgling women's liberation movement.
"His timing was perfect: As women's hair was liberated, so were their lives," Allure magazine Editor-in-Chief Linda Wells said. "Sassoon was one of the original feminists."
Sassoon was at his home in Los Angeles with his family when he died on Wednesday at age 84, police spokesman Kevin Maiberger said. Maiberger said police were summoned but found that Sassoon had died of natural causes, and authorities wouldn't investigate further.
His exact cause of death was unclear, but publicist Mark Sejvar said Sassoon had leukemia for several years.
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-'60s. Once the wash-and-wear concept hit, though, it hit big, and many women retired their curlers for good.
His shaped cuts were an integral part of the "look" of Mary Quant, the superstar British fashion designer who popularized the miniskirt.
"My idea was to cut shape into the hair, to use it like fabric and take away everything that was superfluous," Sassoon said in 1993 in the Los Angeles Times, which first reported his death. "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.
A veteran of Israel's 1948 War of Independence, Sassoon also had a lifelong commitment to eradicating anti-Semitism. In 1982, he established the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.