In 1961, Vogue magazine said that “almost every famous female head in the world has gone or will go” to Kenneth, the hairdresser who created Jacqueline Kennedy’s legendary bouffant and softened the golden locks of Marilyn Monroe.
From the grandes dames of Manhattan society to first ladies (including Kennedy and Rosalynn Carter) to foreign royalty to movie stars to a new generation of career women, Kenneth Battelle, who chose to be known by his first name only — and no “Mr. Kenneth,” please — was the coiffurist of choice.
When he left his Manhattan lair in the 1960s, women around the country asked for his autograph. When Glamour mentioned his name on the cover, circulation went up, according to Karlys Daly Brown, a former beauty editor of the magazine.
Battelle died at 86 on Sunday at his home in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., two years after he cut his last head of hair.
Battelle was often called the first celebrity hairdresser, and he had a list of clients to prove it — Brooke Astor, Lee Radziwill, Katharine Graham, Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn among them. Lucille Ball called him “God.” His contribution to his craft — he insisted that it was neither a profession nor an art — was to persuade women to rely less on permanents, bleaches and hair spray in favor of a more romantic look. He advanced the use of rollers to create natural-looking waves. In 1961, Battelle became the first and only hairdresser to receive the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award, given from 1943 to 1984. Vanity Fair said that in the 1960s only two hairdressers vied with him for tonsorial pre-eminence: Alexandre in Paris and Vidal Sassoon in London.
new york times