Well, a strange set of posts this week, and no mistake, but I wanted to mention the death of Vidal Sassoon because he was such a very good example of something we find hard to get clear examples of when we teach creativity, and that is an individual who changed what is known in the trade as a domain. This means someone who changed a whole field of endeavour – my favourite being John Curry the ice skater, but none of my students have ever heard of him! The dearth of people who have singlehandedly changed the domain, of course, can be seen as an argument against the rather essentialist argument that some very few special people are born creative geniuses, but if we do want an example of a lone innovator changing everything before and since, Sassoon is a good person to think about. He did it not once, but twice.
The first time was the launch of his famous geometric bob, or five-point bob, which also ushered in a new age of blow-dried hair:
These precision bobs seem to me to embody all that swinging London stuff from my childhood. They evoke the geometric mini dresses that Mary Quant, another innovator, introduced, and, indeed, Sassoon bobbed her hair:
I grew up aspiring to be one of these sleek and stylish women:
That he changed the world with a pair of scissors is an observation frequently made of Sassoon, and his influence in freer, more natural hair lives on. I grew up with a slight dread of having to sit for hours under a hood hairdryer every week for the rest of my life. Sassoon swept all that away.
HIs second innovation is really more interesting for a business and management academic and that is the way that he turned himself into a brand and started merchandising shampoo and other hair products long before any other celebrity crimpers, as I seem to remember they were called, had thought of doing so. These distinctive bottles were very trendy in the seventies and eighties:
After him, again, the world of merchandising was not the same.
There was a wonderful programme on the BBC about him recently, and if they repeat it now that he has died it is well worth seeing for the evocation of the sixties and portrait of a serially successful entrepreneur. Meanwhile some more evocative pictures.