1960 – Jacques Dessange in his salon at 37 Franklin D. Roosevelt Avenue, trying one of his wig designs on a client © Giancarlo BOTTI/GAMMA RAPHO

Born in Souesmes, in Sologne in 1925, Hubert Jacques Dessange was passionate about hairdressing from a very young age. From very early on, he would assist his father in his salon, first learning how to shave, then how to cut men’s hair and trim beards and finally helping his father with women’s hairdressing, aged just 13.

In 1945, aged 20 and having completed his school-leaving certificate, he left for the capital. Although he worked in men’s salons to begin with, it was women’s hairdressing that fascinated him.

Anecdote : In the first year, he was fired from twelve salons in a row because of his lack of technique in cutting women’s hair.

It was the famous hairdresser Louis Gervais who eventually gave him his chance in 1947, renaming him Jacques (his middle name) Dessange. Gervais sent him to work for a season in his salon in Trouville. From that point on, Jacques Dessange’s visionary spirit began to emerge. He wanted to free women from the backcombed styles and finger waves of the post-war era. Turning his lack of technique into an asset, he innovated by putting more movement into his cuts. When the salon manager asked him why, he replied: “A hairstyle lives, ma’am. When a woman moves her head, her hair must follow.”

On his return to Paris, he built up a well-to-do clientele and quickly became the star hairdresser of the Louis Gervais salon on rue Bassano in the 8th district. From the late 40s his appointment book overflowed, as he styled the models of the big fashion brands, from Dior to Carven, not to mention Chanel.

Anecdote: Such was the demand for his services in the salon that he would sometimes see up to 25 clients a day, whilst his colleagues would each only see fifteen.

Jacques Dessange understood that to maintain his status as a star hairdresser, he had to work fast and well. Despite that, he never rushed with his clients, paying the same attention to each of them. He greatly admired women and they repaid him well, thinking nothing of queuing for several hours for the it-hairdresser of the day to tend to their locks.

“There is no such thing as ugly women, only women whose beauty has yet to be revealed.” Jacques Dessange

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