Vidal Sassoon, "anti-fascist warrior hairdresser", dies

Vidal Sassoon with some of his hairstyles in the 1960s

Vidal Sassoon, the celebrity hairdresser and one-time militant in the anti-fascist 43 Group, has died aged 84.

Sassoon, dubbed the "anti-fascist warrior hairdresser" by the Telegraph joined the East End-based 43 Group as a 17-year-old trainee hairdresser.

The 43 Group was formed by Jewish ex-servicemen in the wake of World War II who returned home to the UK to see Nazis in Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) organising openly, and resolved to continue their fight against fascism.

The organisation fought pitched battles, often armed with knives and razor blades, with the BUF and eventually smashed them off London's streets. Sassoon's weapon of choice? Fittingly, a pair of scissors.

In an interview with the Iranian Jewish Chronicle he recounted his involvement in the group:

It was a rather strange situation because the war was over. Before the war there was quite a strong fascist party led by Oswald Mosley and he and his cohorts were put in detention (jail) during the war by Churchill. After the war they came out and immediately started up again with their anti-Semitism and running through the streets and having meetings, it was quite ridiculous. Many truly brave Jewish ex-servicemen started the “43 Group” because there were 43 people at the first meeting they had. These were tough men who had been through the war. Of course volunteers were needed, I was 16 or 17 at the time, most of my friends joined the 43 Group and there were quite a few hundred of us. Truly the fascists were smashed in the streets and yes if you were scared at times because it was scary. But after we saw the pictures that came out and the whole story of the Holocaust, there was actually no way we could allow fascists to run through the streets. I was arrested one night and put in jail, the following day the judge told me ‘to be a good boy’ and let me go. That was our life in those days, we decided that we were absolutely not going to allow what happened pre-war when Jews were just beat up indiscriminately in the streets. It worked beautifully because of mainly the tough Jewish characters that were in the British armed forces during the war, they were the people that did it. But also there were quite a few gentiles who had seen the camps, the horror of Europe and fought with us.

In a recent BBC documentary he told how he once turned up to work with a black eye after a night of fighting.

"I'll never forget one morning I walked in and I had a hell of a bruise - it had been a difficult night the night before - and a client said to me, 'Good God, Vidal, what happened to your face?' And I said, 'Oh, nothing, madam, I just fell over a hairpin'."

Later in life, Sassoon helped revolutionise hairdressing in the 1960s as his geometric, sharp hairstyles overtook the high maintenance, heavily hair-sprayed styles of the 50s.

For information about the 43 Group I recommend reading Morris Beckman's excellent book, The 43 Group, to which Sassoon wrote the foreword. See also the following documentary on YouTube:

(Subsequently Sassoon and some others in the 43 Group fought for the creation of Israel, which of course I and many other anarchists/communists would have serious issues with, but nobody's perfect…)

Posted By

Steven.
May 9 2012 20:36

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  • The 43 Group fought pitched battles, often armed with knives and razor blades, with the BUF and eventually smashed them off London's streets. Sassoon's weapon of choice? Fittingly, a pair of scissors.

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Comments

Black Badger
May 9 2012 20:53

Antifascista siempre! I wonder how many mainstream obits will mention this rather exemplary time in his life?

Steven.
May 9 2012 22:19

Bump, because I added some additional stuff to the article

DanielBaker777
May 10 2012 04:08

R.I.P

Antifascista siempre

No Pasaran.

trainermanspain
May 10 2012 07:08

He never tried to hide his roots

Entdinglichung
May 10 2012 07:12

Vidal presente!

Deezer
May 10 2012 22:59

More to the point will anyone else from the 43 Group who didn't become rich and famous get an obit on libcom?

Choccy
May 10 2012 23:24

PERSON WHO IS HEARD OF IN MORE LIKELY TO HAVE BEEN HEARD OF SHOCK wink

Chilli Sauce
May 10 2012 23:27

Cue celebrity working class heroes debate...

Chilli Sauce
May 10 2012 23:29
Quote:
He never tried to hide his roots

Don't think I missed that little pun, btw...

Steven.
May 11 2012 07:51
Deezer wrote:
More to the point will anyone else from the 43 Group who didn't become rich and famous get an obit on libcom?

if you or anyone else writes them we would be happy to.

You should notice that we have hundreds of biographies of people who aren't famous:
http://libcom.org/history/biographies

the button
May 11 2012 08:49

Puts a whole new slant on the "anarchist hairdressers" thing.

Deezer
May 12 2012 09:42

My point is more that while being an anti-fascist Sassoon was also a very successful capitalist - with everything that entails. How many working class people were exploited and fucked over in the building of his empire? Really don't think libcom should be the place for obituaries to people like this but if you all reckon you can excuse it with flipancy fair enough. This simply shows the failings of idiotic and political 'content free' anti-fascism.

Red Marriott
May 12 2012 11:15
Quote:
Cue celebrity working class heroes debate...

See comments here; http://libcom.org/library/alex-ferguson-manager-and-striker

Konsequent
May 13 2012 16:59

Deezer, I think you must have missed this bit "Sassoon helped revolutionise hairdressing". How many other members of the 43 Group can make this claim?

petey
May 13 2012 18:58

when i heard about his antifascist actions i was surprised and impressed. now that he's dead i read of his membership in haganah, another thing i never knew. perhaps in his mind there actions were of a piece? i have all the time in the world for someone willing to put the wood to blackshirts, but ...

Amajack
Apr 1 2016 07:47

Great person. Fearless Warrior. They stopped fascism and gave us a chance to live in peace.

cultural-hoxhaist
Jan 19 2017 03:04

sassoon then went on to join an israeli paramilitary force to commit ethnic cleansing during the occupation of palestine. fuck him.

wojtek
Oct 24 2017 00:24

History Hour - The 43 Group: Battling British Fascists (~10 minutes)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csv0wc