Vidal Sassoon Put 'Ooh, La, La' Into Hairstyling, Fashion

Vidal Sassoon -– the man and the brand -– is one of those names that immediately evokes images from the lost decades. The first that comes to my mind is Mia Farrow and the haircut he gave her for “Rosemary’s Baby.” The second is of a simple but stylish shampoo bottle (originally brown, no less). The third is of his raffish pitches in television commercials: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” He was an embodiment of hip Carnaby Street in the era of hippie sensibility, and beyond.

Sassoon died yesterday at 84 in Los Angeles, a long way from his Cockney roots. “The man who remade high-end hair came from a hardscrabble background,” writes Stephen Miller’s in the Wall Street Journal with considerable understatement. The child of Sephardic Jewish immigrants (Greek father; Spanish mother), he lived in orphanages for a while after his dad died, then battled homegrown British fascists in the streets and fought in the Israeli war of independence, according to Miller’s obit.



“He emerged in an era when women's hair fashions involved perms and sets, processing with bleach, curlers, bulbous dryers and hair spray,” Miller observes. “Mr. Sassoon's short, geometric styles --quickly realized and set with hand-held dryers -- were welcomed as liberating to women on both sides of the Atlantic.”

He was also a very savvy businessman. “The name often conjures up a bottle of shampoo,” writes UK magazine journalist and stylist Lynnette “Lovely” Peck Bateman in her “Lovely’s Vintage Emporium” blog. “He did tell me once that he was the first hairdresser to put his name on one. Smart man.”

He sold the eponymous line it to Richardson Vicks in 1983; it went to Procter & Gamble when it acquired RV in 1985. Sassoon remained as the pitchman for the brand but sued P&G in 2003, alleging the company had abandoned his products in favor of such labels as Pantene. 

The lawsuit was settled the following year “to the mutual satisfaction of all parties,” according to

"The Sassoon brand wasn't like toilet paper. We were a thriving brand with a philosophy," he toldUSA Today’s Bruce Horovitz at the time. But Sassoon’s luster had admittedly faded. “Today's hip set pays Sassoon no mind. He has not touched the celebrity locks of Britney or Beyoncé,” Horovitz wrote. "Nobody wants a 75-year-old crimper," Sassoon told him, “with a wink.”

Sassoon was “the original rock 'n' roll hair god,” Peck Bateman writes. “He was part-hair stylist, part-entrepreneur and he paved the way for hairdressers to be more than just people who cut hair.” 

The streamroller metaphor appears more than once, in fact.

“He was truly the most revolutionary person ever to enter into the industry. He paved the way for the celebrity stylists of today,” Oscar BlanditellsUSA Today’s Olivia Barker “He had no fear. Vidal is the one who made me fall in love with my business because he showed the true art of styling.”

“He changed the way everyone looked at hair,” American Vogue creative director Grace Coddington –- who was a Sassoon model in the Sixties -- tells the New York Times’ Bruce Weber. “Before Sassoon, it was all back-combing and lacquer; the whole thing was to make it high and artificial. Suddenly, you could put your fingers through your hair!”

The Times has a “Remembering Vidal Sassoon” slide show of 11 pictures. A movie about his life, with the subtitle “How One Man Changed the World with a Pair of Scissors,” was produced in 2010 and is viewable on iTunes or available on DVD.

“Due to the fact that hairdressing's impact on society has not been very well documented or recorded, much less respected because of the lack of any serious written material, I am hoping that this is something that every hairdresser in the world will want to share with everyone they know,” writes its producer, Michael Gordon.

Sassoon also branched out into threads, so to speak.

Ooh la la Sassoon,” that verse of a jingle was my intro into the brand Sassoon, most notably the women's jeans back in the ’70s with its iconic commercials,” writes Marvin Fant, one of the 22 appreciative commentators to Barker’s USA Today obit. “….That jingle and those commercials have stuck in my head till this day.”

I guess that’s a good thing, but I really wish I hadn’t found that last YouTube clip — particularly after reading the comments below, correctly pointing out that Vidal had nothing to do with Sasson jeans. 

6 comments about "Vidal Sassoon Put 'Ooh, La, La' Into Hairstyling, Fashion".
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  1. Steven Kirstein from OnProcess Technology, May 10, 2012 at 9:12 a.m.

    To Marvin and Thom:
    I'm pretty sure that Vidal Sassoon had nothing to do with Sasson Jeans.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, May 10, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.

    Ave la'shalom. May he rest in peace.

  3. Tom Quarton from Philos Consulting,LLC, May 10, 2012 at 12:09 p.m.

    Vidal Sassoon was truely a game changer. He raised the bar and brought respect and significant value into his profession. As a stylist he worked tirelessly to create styles that brought out the best in his clients. He was committed to his craft and his creations will live well into the future. He was also a passionate individual who shared his success with his many causes. There is much to be admired about Vidal.

    I learned a great deal from Vidal Sassoon. After the acquisition of his company by Richardson- Vicks where I had been in marketing for 9 years , I was promoted to be the Vidal Sassoon Marketing Director and was in the first wave of the RVI team to live in LA and work to make this a huge success for all parties. Vidal was one of the first to welcome me into his creation. What I witnessed then and throughout my tenure of several years was a man of high energy, a passion for excellence and making a difference. He led by example. Success requires vision and sweat. Stand up and be bold. Invest in what you see as important. He lived his identity line " If you don't look good, we don't look good". It was about his bond and relationship with his clients.

  4. Robert Blau from Warner/Chappell Production Music, May 10, 2012 at 4:37 p.m.

    I had the privilege of working for Vidal prior to and during the acquisition by Vicks and then P&G. He and his creative partner Lawrence Taylor understood what was to become 'branding' before anyone used that term, with an in-house creative department handling everything but media buys. The entire company was run by the "If you don't look good we don't look good" mantra, and in addition to being one of the most generous people I ever met, he understood and lived by the idea that his people were his greatest asset.
    Everything from the design of the offices, the products, the people he employed, the way customers were treated, the advertising, even the hair and clothing of his team members were part of the brand experience. He and his partners were a class act that of course disappeared once the brand was sold, but his impact on hair design, the way hair care products are branded and marketed to this day, and even just the idea of using something better than Prell on your hair are all part of the impact of this amazing man.
    However, Sasson Jeans had nothing to do with Vidal Sassoon, hence the different spelling, nor did the oo la la tag. Vidal Sassoon did market jeans after winning a lawsuit against Sasson, and actually had a boutique in Beverly Hills for a short period, selling a variety of designed clothing.

  5. Harry Webber from Smart Communications, Inc., May 11, 2012 at 1:06 p.m.

    This is a new low in the amateur hour that is Marketing Daily. The Sasson Jeans campaign created by Marcella Free and Frank Ginsberg of Averett, Free & Ginsberg exploded the Designer Jeans category in the 1970s. It also made history by "borrowing" a strategy that I had deployed for another AFG client, Ambush Perfume. And that was to release the campaign as a full-blown hit record then recut the tracks to 30's and 60's and launch the campaign while the hit record was playing in full-rotation on the nation's Top 10 radio outlets. This technique effectively expanded the reach of the campaign by millions and millions of impressions at a fraction of the media cost. We used disco king Patrick Adams to cut "Waiting For An Ambush," and Marcella and Frank followed-up with "Ooh La-La Sasson." The original concept was to take the song "Sad Songs Say So Much" and alter the words to "Sasson Says So Much" but the deal fell out of bed in the eleventh hour and "Ooh La La Sasson" was pulled out of the ashes. But for a so-called marketing trade publication to get their brands twisted in a memorial tribute is a new all-time low for this rag. Shame on you Mr. Fortune.

  6. Harry Webber from Smart Communications, Inc., May 11, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.

    Here's a little history lesson for Media Daily from People Magazine:

    "Although sales have pushed Elton's Breaking Hearts album to gold, these days the singer's favorite color seems closer to blue. Last spring he consummated a lucrative tour sponsorship deal with Sasson Industries, by tailoring his recent hit Sad Songs (Say So Much) for TV and radio advertisements. (The new refrain: "Sasson says so much.") Sasson won't divulge Elton's piece of the action but says the campaign has spurred jeans sales as much as 300 percent in some areas. At one Maas Brothers department store in Tampa—where fans received a free ticket to his show for every $30-$50 purchase of Sasson goods—1,400 pairs of jeans were sold in 90 minutes. "

    Few people remember Elton as a pitchman for Sasson, but few can forget "Ooh La La Sasson," (other than Media Daily). So much for star power.

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