( casual reminiscences reproduced here by kind permission of Leon Simmons
Recreating Sixties Hair Styles
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
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
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 De Villeneuve 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 Sasson 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.