By the early 1980s New Romanticism, a dramatically theatrical street style emerged in London clubs. Its adherents rejected the tribal aggression of punk by raiding history’s wardrobe dressing as nuns, fops and pierrots. Vertical punk hair was taken to the extreme and Creative Director Tim Hartley with colourist John Beeson used perming techniques and vibrant colour in the Kabuki of 1981. In the same year Mark Hayes created Toyah, the first haircut to feature an undercut fringe that was then coloured to mimic a headband. The undercut became a key technique at Sassoon in this decade as seen in the Neireid of 1983 where the hair at the sides and back was cut short with the top left long.
Annie Humphrey’s love of the Post Impressionist artists Georges Seurat inspired her Spot-Lighting and Flying Colours techniques in which colour was applied with a comb to emphasize areas of the haircut, in particular the surface, ‘spot-lighted’ in gold to make it stand out from the rest of the hair. Multi-coloured highlights using a similar pointillist technique gave a natural looking depth and tone to the hair by laying a series of subtle complementary tones of blonde next to one another, again creating depth, volume and surface shine.
Sassoon’s mix of style and performance made it the obvious choice as official hair consultant to the athletes participating in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. Sassoon and his international team conducted months of research with 100 athletes to determine which haircuts performed best during different sporting activities. A huge campus salon was set up in the University of California to cut and care for the hair of 2,500 athletes.
As the 1980s drew on, power dressing became a key trend as more women began to enter into the executive workplace. Fashion designer Claude Montana showed sharp suits with huge shoulders that aped the male silhouette and Thierry Mugler worked with a colour palette that was both brash and bright. Sassoon’s bob made a return as its sharp, angular lines suited fashion’s more serious mood and was worn by women of all ages all over the world. Short and sharp with a clear geometric outline, the bob proved itself a timeless icon of hair design and a symbol of women’s quest for freedom. The Sassoon bob continues to be a pinnacle of cut and colour.