© Terence Donovan, ca. 1962, Vidal Sassoon hair cut, Nancy Kwan

Scanned from Bronwen Meredith’s “Vogue - Body and Beauty Book" (1977). The hairstyle is named for Nancy Kwan for her role in “The Wild Affair" (1963).


I saw this picture on Tumblr today - it’s the profile pic of frenchtwist (a nice blog for mainly black and white photography). Like it happens sometimes, the picture didn’t leave my mind the whole day long; so I drag-and-dropped it into Google Image Search. Research brought up some interesting stories about the picture, here is one of them:

”(…) Seven Arts film people telephoned to say, "We’d like you to cut Nancy’s hair for her role in The Wild Affair." “Fine,” I said. “Let’s get together this week and talk about it.”"No time for chat," they said. “We want to come around right away.”

Two hours later a small army arrived - managers, agents, photographers with their various assistants, and John Krish, the director. There were so many of them that it was quite a while before I saw Nancy, who was looking completely enigmatic about the ordeal ahead of her. It was an ordeal. She had the most wonderful thick, strong hair, so long that she could sit on it. Now she was going to lose it in the name of entertainment.


Vidal Sassoon in action in his Grosvenor House Studio, Autumn 1962 (source)

She sat down quietly. Her manager called for a little table, and as I got ready to work, he produced a chessboard and began setting up the pieces. As I used barber’s shears on that magnificent rope of black hair, she never raised her head. She moved only when she stretched out a hand to move one of her chessmen.

She won, and I think I won, too. The game and the cut finished almost simultaneously. Nancy stood up and gazed at herself for a full minute in the mirror. Then her reflection smiled out at me. As soon as they had gone, I telephoned Max Maxwell of Vogue and told him what I had just done. He told me to hold on for a moment, and when he came back, he said, "I’ve spoken to the editor. We want Terry Donovan to do a picture of her. We’re going to give it a whole page, not only here, but maybe in American Vogue, too."

A few days later I met Nancy again in Terry’s studio. Immediately she said, "I like it. Everybody likes it. It’s so easy to manage."

With those words, her stock shot up on my private exchange. She knew what I wanted to hear. She knew I had probably been worrying. After that we had no chance to speak very much for about two hours. Nancy was busy, and I was completely fascinated by this classic encounter between Donovan, a wild, way-out character, and the cool, cool Kwan. There was no clash of temperaments. Instead they worked almost in silence, like a well-trained team. Here were a couple of complete professionals, with Nancy reacting to the mood of the photographer and seldom having to be told what he wanted.

The following morning Terry showed me the picture he had chosen from the dozen he had taken. I knew at once it was a winner. It was used not only in the British and American editions of Vogue, but circled the world. My new style, which until then had been known as the Mary Quant cut, because it had been seen first at her collection, got a new name: the Nancy Kwan cut.” (Vidal Sassoon)

Hair and fashion icon Vidal Sassoon has died at the age of 84 on May 9, 2012.
May his soul rest in peace.

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