Obituary: Philip Kingsley


He had really wanted to be a doctor but could not afford to go to university so at 14 Philip Kingsley, who has died aged 86, started work in his uncle’s hairdressing salon.

The war was just over and people were slowly adjusting to a new way of life. Material was in short supply and hats were becoming scarcer. Hair was now centre stage, free to be waved, coloured, teased and flaunted in all its glory.

It was also often subjected to a chemical onslaught which left it in appalling condition — at a time when shampoos came in one-size-fits-all formulas and conditioners had not yet been invented.

Even as a junior apprentice, Kingsley quickly realised that his seniors knew no more than he did about hair and caring for it. The would-be doctor turned-hairdresser set out to learn as much as he could about it, embarking on a correspondence course in trichology.

Kingsley brought haircare into the modern age. He introduced the concept of texture; fine, coarse or frizzy, and correctly identified the connection between diet and hair condition.

He also spotted the link between hair and morale. “If you are unhappy with your hair,” he declared, “you are more likely to be an unhappy person.”

He began restoring his clients’ depleted locks by concocting his own preparations at first in his garage, before opening his own clinic in Marylebone in 1957. Ten years later he moved to Mayfair.

It was a dream come true for the Jewish boy from Bethnal Green, the son of Barney, a tailor and Dora Silver, a seamstress who sewed buttonholes.

Kingsley understood the sex appeal of hair, especially in Western society where, as he cannily observed, people can’t flaunt their “primary sexual characteristics in public”.

Many of his findings, widely accepted today, were pioneering at the time. Kingsley’s treatments were preceded by hair analysis and a thorough evaluation of the client’s condition.

The rich and famous flocked to see him, particularly after he opened a clinic in New York in 1977. Among his clients was Ivana Trump who – told to add liquid to a product – reputedly replied: “You mean I have to cook?”

Kingsley’s most celebrated client was possibly Audrey Hepburn who sought his help in 1975 while shooting the film Robin and Mariam.

Excessive styling had rendered her hair dull and weak so he made up a pre-shampoo masque which restored its natural bounce and shine. With a few tweaks it was launched as the Elasticizer and became his best-selling product.

Other stars included Sir Laurence Olivier and Hollywood royalty such as Jane Fonda, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet, as well as rumoured rock royalty like Mick Jagger and even a few true British Royals.

Kingsley passionately cared about his products, formulated and launched under the name Philip Kingsley Products in 1982, to the point of buying back the licence a few years after selling it to Eli Lilly.

Although he never professed to be able to cure baldness, he claimed he could help slow down hair loss. He worked with New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital on products to combat hair loss due to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

Kingsley wrote four books on hair-care and for the past ten years was also a regular columnist for the Sunday Times’ Style magazine.

A passionate Tottenham supporter, he kept fit by playing football and doing daily RAF exercises. And of course, by looking after his — always immaculate — hair. Philip Kingsley married Betty Kaye but they divorced in 1971. He married Joan Maizner in 1981. She survives him together with his four daughters, Sue and Helen from his first marriage, and Anabel and Kate from his second.

Julie Carbonara

Philip Kingsley: born June 4 1930. Died September 3 2016

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