When Michael Caine was just becoming famous, so were his mates.
Other young actors and people he knew.
Nowadays it sounds like name dropping because they’re all famous.
But at the time, they were all just mates: Terence Stamp, David Hemmings, Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Sean Connery, Peter O’Toole.
They’d work, and party, and get drunk together, and give each other advice on their careers.
Just the way everyone else does.
One of this group was a hairdresser.
He’d opened a shop in the west end and he was doing okay.
In fact better than okay, he was really fashionable.
He was a cockney called Vidal Sassoon.
He had a different style of cutting hair that didn’t depend on the artificial 1950s look.
Until Sassoon, most hairdressers would cut the hair then spray it into position with tons of hairspray.
Vidal Sassoon did it the other way round.
First he washed and dried the hair and let it hang naturally.
Then he cut it into shape.
So it always fell the way it was cut.
This wasn’t just a totally new way to cut hair, it was a totally new look.
All the Vogue models would want Sassoon to personally cut their hair, people like Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.
Even top designers, like Mary Quant, and film stars like Mia Farrow.
So Sassoon’s Mayfair salon was doing very well, but despite that Michael Caine felt like giving him some advice.
It was in the early hours of the morning, after an evening’s partying, over a bottle of wine.
We’ve all been there.
Michael Caine said “Look Vidal, you’re doing alright, you’re making a few bob, but you’re not going to get really rich the way you’re going.”
Sassoon asked him what he meant.
Michael Caine said “It’s like my old dad said, the really rich have got something going that makes them money while they’re asleep.
Look at it this way, you’re cutting hair and you’re doing alright, but everyone wants you personally to cut their hair, and you’re only one bloke.
There’s a limit to how many haircuts you can do in a day: six, seven, eight.
You want to set something up that doesn’t depend on you personally cutting hair.
I’m in film: the money keeps rolling in even after I’ve finished acting in that film.
Same with popstars, the money from the records keeps coming in even after they’ve finished singing.
Find a way to get something going in this hairdresser game that keeps working for you even when you’re asleep.”
Vidal Sassoon went quiet.
This was good advice.
He’d never thought of that.
Expand his business beyond the physical limits of what he could actually do himself.
Michael Caine went to bed, but Vidal Sassoon kept thinking.
Within a year, he opened the Sassoon Academy in Mayfair, teaching young professionals how to cut and care for hair.
This established him as thought-leader in the field of beautiful hair.
Then he opened Sassoon Academies all across the USA, Canada and Australia.
He became the most celebrated hairdresser in the world.
Meanwhile he launched a haircare range featuring dozens of different products.
The range with his name on it became massive.
Sassoon was teaching people around to world to cut hair his way.
All these hairdressers would become evangelists, who would only recommend Sassoon haircare products.
He had in fact created closed-loop marketing.
In 1982 sales were $110 million worldwide, the equivalent of half a billion dollars today.
Just by listening to Michael Caine’s old dad’s simple cockney logic.
“Get something going for you that works while you’re asleep.”