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Memories of the Sixties Hairdressing Scene

( casual reminiscences - reproduced here by kind permission of Leon Simmons )

My father ( Albert Simmons ) and his partner Professor Leonard Stein (one of the very rare professorships ever awarded by the fellowship of Ladies Hairdressers) ran a then well known and fashionable ladies hairdressing salon in Marble Arch known as "Romaine of Park West". This was the breeding ground for the hair fashion revolution pioneered by Vidal Sassoon. Vidal worked for my father and recalls being interviewed for a job in his first auto biography "Sorry I kept you waiting, Madam".


In "Romaine's" were a remarkable team of creative fashion hairstylists who had some influence on Vidal's creativity ( Vidal will acknowledge that fact ) and some of them became international names in High Fashion ladies hairdressing. There was Harold Leighton ( Harrods ), Gerrard, the brothers Philip and Gerald Belchak, plus a number of others who distinguished themselves later on with their own enterprises.

Before running Harrods Ladies Hairdressing salon, Harold Leighton attended to many internationally famous stars and featured in many fashion magazines--he also wrote two illustrated best sellers on how to cut your own hair. He is still, I believe an international consultant on hair and cosmetics.


My father assisted Vidal in moving to a leading High Fashion Ladies Hairdressers in Albermarle Street ( can't remember the name ). They drove him crazy by booking him up with too many clients at a time and he couldn't handle the pressure ( he threw his tools in the air and walked out ). From there, as I recall, he went to Raymond "Teasy Weasy". Raymond was a great cutter of hair but used to conceal his technique of cutting by working in cubicles with his clients and starting at different parts of the head to confuse anyone watching him. According to my father, it took a long time for Vidal to absorb Raymond's cutting technique ( I have repeated this story to Vidal and he confirmed that Raymond was secretive about his cutting techniques ).


He used to ring my Dad and tell him about the problems he was having--but he eventually rang him up and said "I've got it!" Raymond, who was somewhat theatrical, would sometimes hold his head in his hands and pace up and down the salon in front of a long line of clients sitting under the driers. Eventually, one of the women would try to attract his attention, possibly touching his sleeve as he walked by, and attempt to talk to him. Raymond would appear outraged and would say, "Madam, can you not see that I am meditating!" All pretentious rubbish of course, but in those days that kind of camp nonsense was part of the ridiculous image that Mayfair Ladies hairdressers used to project their 'importance'. So it was at Raymond's where Vidal probably mastered his fabulous hair cutting technique.

But there was one thing missing: the technique of using the brush to dress out the hair. The master of that technique was "French of London" in Curzon Place. The inventor of the technique was Freddie French himself. I know this because I started my career as a stylist in this salon. So Vidal had the cutting skills and French owned the brushing out technique. Now, as I understand it, one of the managers of the French salon eventually went to work for Vidal Sassoon or at least swapped his technique of brushing ( dressing hair ) for Vidal's technique of cutting. It was the marriage of the two most important techniques in High Fashion Ladies hairdressing that assisted Vidal to create those wonderful hairstyles.

Justin DeVilleneuve was never ever in any shape or form a top hairdresser. Nigel Davies, as I knew him, was a junior ( shampooist and under tuition ) at Vidal Sassoon in the 60's. This was about the same time I was also working as a junior hairdresser at another salon in Mayfair. He was employed for a couple of summer seasons at my father's salon in Torquay and was a remarkably untalented stylist but was a bit of a showman. Vidal was a great buddy of my Dad and used to send juniors to Torquay to get experience in this busy salon. I knew Nigel quite well at that time and I was astonished that he became so successful. When I spoke to Vidal Sassoon many years ago he too was amazed, but was warm in his praise for Nigel's achievements.

Best regards,
                                                                                       
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