Friday, May 11, 2012

Freed By Vidal Sassoon

Explanatory note/caution: It's Friday, it's mid-May, and this post is no more substantial than yesterday's.

If you have read the recent headlines and/or obituaries, then you have seen things like this:

Hairstyling legend Vidal Sassoon, who freed women from (bad hairstyles)..

The London-born hairstyling pioneer.. freed women from (time-intensive haircare)

Vidal Sassoon used his hairstyling shears to free women from .. etc.

Vidal Sassoon.. was the man modern woman has to thank for her freedom.. blah blah blah

I'm not crazy about the 'he freed women' theme, but that's not what I want to write about today. Instead, (see above note/caution), I am going to tell you my very own Vidal Sassoon story. It is not quite as gripping as my Ayn Rand beach story, but it is more timely for this week. [A suggestion if you have even more time to waste: Google "Ayn Rand beach story" to find the original post, then click on to read a different but more entertaining version of that old post.]

Anyway, many years ago, when I was young but already deeply involved with Science, I spent quite a bit of time in London. I was very happy there, and I had some nice flatmates with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. They were not interested in Science. They were interested in clothes, fashion, going to clubs, and so on. I realize that those interests are not mutually exclusive, but I was not interested in those things. I got the impression that my flatmates felt a mixture of mystification and pity for me, but they were nice about it.

One day, they kidnapped me and forced me to go with them to the Vidal Sassoon School of Hair Design (or whatever it was called). They thought it would be entertaining to force me to care about my hair, or at least to do something about it for a change. (I have never been fond of getting my hair cut.)

We (and other young women) were put in a line, and some sassoonists walked along the line examining each person's hair. They ran their fingers through our hair, making comments, and dismissing everyone whose hair was deemed inferior. All of my flatmates failed this hair test; their hair had been worked over too many times by chemicals and heat. They were told to leave.

My hair passed! I was one of only 3 selected! In fact, my hair generated a great deal of excitement, and I had a small crowd of sassoonists circled around me, touching my hair and oohing and aahing. My flatmates watched in amazement. What was so great about my hair? It was pristine hair. Some of the sassoonists told me that they had never before seen pristine hair on a female over the age of 12. They stared at me like I was an endangered species of bandicoot, or a never-before-seen mythical creature. It was a bit unnerving.

They put me in a chair, argued about who would get to work on my pristine hair, and then set to work. What did they do with my special hair? Without consulting me, they cut it off, all of it. They left me a few vertical millimeters that made me look like a Q-tip for most of the next year.

Thanks for nothing, Vidal Sassoon. I did not want to be freed from my hair.

It was convenient in some ways, but I immediately noticed a difference in how people reacted to me. In fact, I gained a degree of invisibility as a short woman with short hair, and mostly that's not a good thing when it is already a struggle to be taken seriously.

And those who knew me couldn't resist rubbing my head, as if I were a strange pet. That is also not conducive to being taken seriously. 

Now that I am old(ish), I could probably cut off all my hair and people would either not notice or think I had cancer. But, even though cutting off all my hair (again) would be an awesome gesture in honor of the late Vidal Sassoon, freer of women, I will keep this as a blog-thought e-gesture.


hellblazer said...

Off topic, but the obits/blogs I've been reading have things like

Vidal Sassoon, anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Stylists also rave about my hair, but if they saw me in the street they would shrink back in horror. How can she go in public like that?

Maybe they threw your pristine hair into a volcano to appease the god. The anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser god.

Cherish said...

This is why I, in general, don't let stylists touch my hair until they have earned my trust. (Can they give me a trim without taking off six inches of hair? If so, we're off to a good start.) For a while, it seemed like every single one I came across had this desire to take a scissors to me and give me some bob-like hairdo that would've looked simply awful on me. This is especially true when doing hair donations...

Anonymous said...

I was also the center of attention recently when I went to get my hair cut (an annual event) and the stylist started raving about the "health" of my hair, bringing over all her cohorts to take a look. I think they were very disappointed when they asked me what kinds of products I used to maintain this "health" and discovered it was only big box store shampoo. However, it was the first time I have gotten my hair cut and they haven't recommended a bunch of expensive products while I'm trapped in the chair. Evidently we are a rare species of low-maintenance hair women.

EliRabett said...

They sold your hair

Anonymous said...

i agree. they sold your hair. I myself trim my own hair because I do not trust the stylists, feel paranoid about having public combs someone else sterilized on me, and generally, do not like a stranger to touch my hair.

Anonymous said...

The touching thing is not just with women with short hair. I have had 2 ladies run their hands through my long hair at my retail job. I also had a woman reach across the counter to touch my face because "my skin looked soft".

Old Biddy said...

Obviously, pristine hair is a crime against hairdressing, so they had to rid you of it.
When I was a kid in the late 70's/early 80's my mom used to sign both of us up for free haircuts at the local hoity toity salon. (They needed people for their employees to practice on) I remember seeing the Vidale Sasson posters on the wall. They must've liked my pristine thick teenaged hair as well, since they would chop off most of it. Most of the time we ended up with some pretty scary mulletesque creations. Perhaps not coincidentally, we both ended up growing our hair out and avoiding stylists for many years thereafter.
As an adult, I've gotten way too many haircut where "Just a trim, no layers" turned into at least 5 inches off and tons of layers. My hair grows really slowly, so this would amount to almost a year's worth of growth.
Once I moved to Ithaca, one of my new neighbors took a look at me and instantly decided I was her hair twin. She told me where she got her hair cut. She was right. Now just a trim actually is, and there's no pressure to get layers or highlights or staighten or color it. It's rather shcoking that it took 43 years and a move to a college town to get me haircuts in line with what I wanted.

Anonymous said...

I agree with earlier commenters. They sold your hair.

Female Science Professor said...

Those fiends.

Anonymous said...

I see other people came to the same conclusion already, but they totally sold your hair. Fiends indeed!

That said, my stylist was trained by Sassoon and is awesome. The only downside is that a haircut with that level of precision takes absolutely forever.

plasmaphysicsmom said...

Yay, low-maintenance hair people! After years of long, slightly curly/slightly frizzy, wash and go, I decided to try a shorter hairdo and a stylist cut my hair in long layers that I really liked. One day I said I was going to an orchestra concert and she could do something to it, which I really meant, just actually blow-dry it and make it look like other people's everyday hair but she went all out and gave me this very crazy big hairdo that I felt embarrassed to sport around the people that knew me and saw me there. No more "dos." Then that stylist hurt her shoulder and got a replacement that made my hair look like a mullet each time I gave her a chance. Needless to say, my hair is back to long...

Comrade Physioprof said...

The only downside is that a haircut with that level of precision takes absolutely forever.

I get my hair cut at a fancy salon, and I swear this fucken stylist cuts each single strand of hair individually. It takes an entire hour.

Rachel said...

weird, I have tried several times to have my long long hair cut off very short and I have had trouble getting the people to do it.
I was a young teenager the first time, but I was an adult the next time. (third time was locks of love and I think they didn't know how to cut it really short).
But the first two times the stylist insisted on cutting it medium length before she'd allow me to get it really really short. (live with it for a while this way before you decide.) They apparently believe that someone who requests 15" chopped off is mentally unstable and will sue them later or something.

Anonymous said...


Comrade Physioprof even uses profanity when discussing a haircut

muddled postdoc said...

I have the same problem as Rachel above. My hair grows quite fast that it grows about a foot or more in 3-4 months and considering I don't do fancy do's, trimming and cutting it back down to a bob costs about the same. When I do go to chop it all off the hair dressers seem to have mini breakdowns and keep taking off an inch at a time while I keep saying make it shorter.
The most amusing incident was when I was in college and I had hair down to my hips and wanted it down to a bob. That cause the all the hair stylists to gather round and exclaim while mine very reluctantly did what I asked.