By Tautahi Subritzky
Raymond Bessone is most often referred to as the U.K.’s first celebrity hairstylist. Born in Soho, London in 1911, Raymond’s introduction to the hair industry was through the backstreet barber shop that his father owned. There, Raymond was tasked with creating false moustaches and beards (everyone has to start somewhere).
From false facial hair to owning a salon in Mayfair, where a young Vidal Sassoon would later train, Raymond apparently had quite the work ethic and personality to boot. He put on a false French accent, wore glam custom-made satin and velvet suits and painted his nails with scarlet red nail polish. His salon was dripping in glamour too, with ornate gilt mirrors, huge crystal chandeliers, and fountains that gushed champagne. Ooh la la!
With a decadent salon in Mayfair, his flamboyant personality and a steadily building clientele of celebrities, Raymond soon caught the eyes of television producers. During a 1954 television appearance, Raymond demonstrated his cutting technique by snipping off a “teazie weazie bit here and a teazie weazie bit there” – a catchphrase was born and from then on he became Mr Teazie Weazie.
Raymond was the first hair stylist to secure his own show on primetime Saturday evening television, "Quite Contrary" on BBC, where millions of women were hooked by his elaborate hairstyles and over-the-top outfits. The show’s format was simple. Each week Raymond would exhibit his latest gravity-defying creation whilst dancing around his model, followed by a cloud of cigarette smoke billowing from a cigarette he was holding in his non-cutting hand while explaining how to get a wave ‘just so’. He showed that British hairdressing was glamorous and trips to the salon could feel like an almost theatrical experience.
Notoriety seemed to follow Raymond during his career. He made headlines In 1956 when actress Diana Dors flew him to America for a shampoo and set, reportedly at a cost of £2,500 (a sum which in those days could buy a small house).
Raymond was one of the earliest hairstylists to adopt the use of bold ‘unnatural’ hair colours such as pink, peach and green. J’adore.