23 February 2024

Vidal Sassoon: as remembered by Harold Leighton

A long-time friend and colleague reminisces about Vidal Sassoon.

It will be very difficult to be brief as our friendship lasted many decades. I was a young apprentice learning hairdressing in 1950 at a salon named Romaines of Park West in central London, just a stone’s throw away from Marble Arch. Vidal happened to join the salon around a year later, when he came home after fighting in the war in Israel.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time, a very lucky young man as it turned out. I had the thrill and pleasure of learning my craft in two salons where we worked together. 

Vidal,  Gerard, and Harold, we were known as the Three Musketeers. We had the good fortune to be trained by some wonderfully dedicated people, like Leslie and Connie Green, Frank Blashke, Morrie Gross, Len Stein, Albert Simons, Gerry London, and so many more.

We worked tirelessly, training almost every night (with the exception of Fridays, as we would go to the steam baths in Holborn and rest up for our Saturday half-day at work before we chased off to football at Chelsea. We taught ourselves new methods, throwing away the large 8 and 10-inch scissors, the thinning shears and razor, and teaching one another to cut blunt. We moved forward to the 3 and 4 inch scissors in and around 1955.

After some 4 years at Romaines, Vidal moved to Dumas in Albermile Street off Bond Street Central London, known as Mayfair. Gerard and I followed so as not to break up this bond of work we had together. We had been friends for all our working lives until the very sad news that I have been expecting for some months finally came yesterday.

My memories of him are tremendous. We used to go dancing on the weekends to many of the clubs. He was a true showman as he did cabaret dancing on the stage with one of his mates. He was still a great mover and shaker when we saw him dancing during his hair shows for Wella. I remember seeing his first in Birmingham show in the UK around mid-1950s.

Vidal was a true friend all these years, and I never heard him utter a cross word. I truly loved the guy and shall miss him, but am lucky to have so many wonderful memories. The industry may seem a bit shallow for the near future, but will soon come around with new innovation and stars that will become icons, just as he would have wanted and expected. He will be watching over us!

Harold Leighton


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