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If I asked you to name people who’ve made history. Who would you name? I’m guessing politicians, doctors and business leaders are the first people who come to mind. Right?

The Bank of England is searching for a new face of the British £20 banknote – someone of historic significance from the field of visual arts: architects, artists, ceramicists, craftspeople, designers, fashion designers, filmmakers, photographers, printmakers and sculptors.

I can think of a visual artist who revolutionized an entire industry – changed it from a trade to a highly respected profession – not only made an impact in his country but on a global scale. A man whose mark was so powerful that it has lasted over 50 years.

Who am I talking about?

Vidal Sassoon.

Eden Sassoon and hairdressers are campaigning to have Vidal Sassoon – hairdressing icon – considered as a nominee for the new face of the the British £20 banknote.

Here is why I think that he is deserving of this honour.


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Vidal Sassoon was from the world of arts.

He was an artist and architect – he had a major impact on pop culture in Britain and all over the world through hair and fashion.

Need more?

How can a hairdresser have such an impact on so many industries and so many people? Let me explain.

Artist: Vidal Sassoon turned hair into an art form. He was proud to work in the hair industry and transformed it from a trade into a respected profession.

“For nine years I worked to change what was hairdressing then into a geometric art form with color, perm without setting which had never been done before.” – Vidal Sassoon

Architect: Vidal Sassoon saw the relationship between hair and architecture. He was proud to be a hair stylist but said in many interviews that his dream was to be an architect. He looked at each client as an individual – each haircut was based on their face shape and bone structure.

“We learned to put discipline in the haircuts by using actual geometry, actual architectural shapes and bone structure. The cut had to be perfect and layered beautifully, so that when a woman shook it, it just fell back in.” – Vidal Sassoon

Hair Industry: He transformed the hair industry and the way we look at hair with the wash and wear, bob and the five-point cut just to mention a few – haircuts that still look modern today. He helped turn hair into an accessory. He was one of the first hair stylist in the industry to be as popular as his celebrity clients.

“If you get hold of a head of hair on somebody you’ve never seen before, cut beautiful shapes, cut beautiful architectural angles and she walks out looking so different – I think that’s masterful.” – Vidal Sassoon

“Hair excited me. As the old ways – backcombing, rollers and rigidity – went out of the window, I started to feel the possibilities in front of my eyes.” – Vidal Sassoon

Fashion Industry: In the 1960s Vidal Sassoon helped define fashion in London pushing Britain as a leader in the fashion world. Although he was a hairdresser, he really thought of himself as a designer – hair was his fabric. Vidal saw how a fashionable cut could compliment an outfit.

Fashion designer Mary Quant, who helped make the mini skirt popular, said “I made the clothes, but (Vidal Sassoon) put the top on.”


 Vidal Sassoon signature styles.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney said “There are a wealth of individuals within the field of visual arts whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society and who continue to inspire people today.”

He was a leader in our industry who motivated hundreds of thousands of people around the world to become artists and not only in the hair industry. He propelled stylists to become photographers, designers as well as teachers and business people.

This is what great leaders do. They motivate people to believe that they can live out their dreams as he did. He made it possible for stylists to express their artistic passion for creating hair designs and to be taken seriously as a profession in an industry that was basically none existent. So what he did for hairstylists is something that will be remembered and honored by our industry forever.

On the other side of the coin, what he did for women – although symbolic – is something that I think he doesn’t get enough credit for. Women wanted to focus on their career and spend less time at the salon. He recognized the changing role of women and adapted his profession and craft to change with times. He helped free women from roller sets – making moving “wash and wear” hair the fashion norm with his haircuts and styling techniques. Beauty and fashion isn’t all about appearance – it can have a social impact and be empowering as well.

There is so much to admire – Vidal’s passion and love for hair, fashion, business and mentorship. He didn’t do it alone of course. He was as good as his team around him. He knew how to choose his people. His energy attracted the best – they were drawn to him and wanted to join his revolution.

We owe so much to Vidal and still to this day the foundation he set is still being taught all over the world and practiced by stylists in all areas – from the schools to the street, the stage and the big screen. For someone to have this kind influence on an industry is mind boggling. Vidal knew he was on to something. But just like any true artist, he wasn’t trying to take over the world. He simply wanted to live out his passion and didn’t stop when things didn’t go his way. He fought his whole life to express himself and dedicated himself to his craft.

That’s a true artist in my opinion. In any form. From one artist to another. I want to say thank you Vidal Sassoon.

Click here to nominate Vidal Sassoon for the new face of the British £20 banknote.

Nominations close on 19 July 2015.​

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