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Regulating cornrows

John Stossel

April 6, 2005


Every once in a while, people in Washington have a good idea. A really good idea. An idea that creates jobs and provides a service people like.

Then, the government gets involved.


Some years ago, a married couple, Taalib-Din Uqdah and Pamela Farrell, went into business braiding hair, African-style. They called their shop Cornrows & Co. If politicians' speeches are right, Uqdah and Farrell were heroes: Inner cities need businesses, and the couple had built a booming business in Washington, D.C. They had 20,000 customers, employed 10 people and took in half a million dollars a year. Some women came from as far away as Connecticut, six hours away, to have their hair braided by Cornrows & Co.

Did the politicians honor these entrepreneurs for contributing to the community? Find ways to encourage others to do similar things? Well, the government did respond. But it wasn't with encouragement.

Local bureaucrats ordered Uqdah to cease and desist, or be "subject to criminal prosecution." Why? Because he didn't have a license. "It's a safety issue," said the regulators. Those who run a hair salon must have a cosmetology license. The chemicals they use dyeing or perming hair might hurt someone.

Hair dye is hardly a serious safety threat, but even if it were, Cornrows & Co. didn't dye or perm hair. They only braided it. That didn't matter, said the Cosmetology Board -- they still had to get a license. In order to get one, Uqdah would have to pay about $5,000 to take more than 1,000 hours of courses at a beauty school.

It's unclear what beauty school would have taught him. Beauty schools didn't even teach the service Cornrows & Co. provided. They taught things like pin curls and gelatinized hairstyles that hadn't been popular for 40 years. One rule required students to spend 125 hours studying shampooing . I didn't realize it was that complicated -- have I been doing it wrong all these years?

Uqdah says the braiding he provides can't be taught in schools and shouldn't be licensed. "I've watched little second-grade girls sit down and braid each other's hair." He says there's evidence of hair braiding in Africa going back 5,000 years. "You cannot license a culture." He says the licensing test is weighted heavily toward the needs of straight or chemically straightened hair, not the kinky hair many blacks have. When he argues that different hair requires different skills, he says, licensed cosmetologists "go into denial. They like to think that they know how to do it all. And they don't."

Uqdah thought he understood why the cosmetology board wanted to shut down his salon: "Money -- other salons don't like the competition."

I think he was right. Even if licensing boards intend to protect the public, in time they are captured by the people who care most. Who cares most? Not consumers -- you don't get your hair done that often, and even if you did, you don't care enough about it to want to join a regulatory bureaucracy. Innovators don't join the boards; they're busy innovating. Scientists, economists, doctors, and others with genuine expertise in safety and commerce don't join the boards, either. They're busy doing more important things. So boards are usually captured by the licensees, the established businesses. William Jackson, a former member of the Washington, D.C., Cosmetology Board, admitted, "The board, 90 percent of the time, are salon owners."



Uqdah refused to close his shop. He fought the government instead, ultimately going to federal court with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, and D.C. changed its law. Now, hair braiders don't have to get training that has nothing to do with what they do. Uqdah says, "I had to spend 10 years fighting the city. And now I've gone out and created a mechanism that other people can do what I've done -- with or without a license."

He and those others are fortunate that the Institute for Justice took his case. Usually, the established businesses get away with using licensing boards and "safety" regulations to crush competitors. That's unfair. And if the question is who's protecting the public, it seems to me Taalib-Din Uqdah has done much more than the bureaucrats who wanted him to spend 125 hours studying shampooing.



©2005 John Stossel

© MBM

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My mother was a licensed beautician. To learn how to do 'Colored folks' hair, however, she had to go to a school operated by 'Colored'.

Why?

The schools operated by Europeans did not, and could not teach how to 'do' 'Colored Folks' hair.

All of their graduates were licensed without that knowledge.

The my mother went to, however, was required to teach all of its students to 'do' 'European Folks' hair. And could offer graduation without the knowledge.

My barber tells it was that way when she went to school for licensure.

That thing about shop owners running the game is true.

But that is the case with every profession.

Please note there was a time there was not requirement of a law degree to practice law.

Anyway...it always different for us.

PEACE

Jim Chester
I have no problem w/ getting a cosmetology "certificate" for hair braiders..

Maybe the schools should change their game up and offer certificate programs that include some type of braiding training..

But the general education on hair care, general shop training and the like should not be a problem for anyone.

If he is pulling down half a mill' ticket the little jive azz 5k should not even be an issue..
I used to be a hair-braider in a Natural Hair Care salon in Maryland. And I've actually received natural hair care services from Cornrolls & Co. and so has my mom. I also purchased Pamela Farrell's, Where Beauty Touches Me, which is an informative book loaded with valuable information on how to care for, style, and manage natural hair. However, I find that native African women tend to provide the best braiding services. This is why I stopped going to Cornrolls & Co. and switched to the African Hair Gallery, owned and operated by African women who don't speak a word of English, only French, but their work is exceptional, each time I go. I have to agree with Blaqfist about the licensure because I find that a growing number of women sporting naturals are coloring their hair for depth, while others with "locks," (formerly known as "dredlocks") are coloring and tinting the tips of their dreds for the appearance of volume. Consequently, there must be some sort of training and/or licensure requirement mandated, especially for novice beauticians just entering the business and establishing clientele. As discussed in the article, black women's hair is very sensitive so there is a certain way that natural hair must be combed and shampooed. With a wide-toothed comb, you must begin combing at the tip of the hair section while gradually working your way down to the scalp, which lessens the pain. You don't yank the hair out from the roots, which any black woman knows can be tortuous. Before shampooing, natural hair must be parted into LARGE sections, conditioned (perhaps with Jojoba Oil) to soften the hair follicle, then shampooed very gently at least twice (three times if the hair is very thick to remove all the dirt). The hair must also be braided carefully and professionally so that the hair would not be pulled too tightly on the scalp, which may cause redness and even hair loss.
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For years in New York the idea has floated around that braiding and natural hair styles should have their own licenses. But as Tailb said the beauty schools simply do not teach these techniques. I think that since its not regulated by the state, that it would be a good idea for them to start their own school for braiders and natural hair care maintenance since they seem to be experts in this field. That way they could make expand their business even more.
quote:
Originally posted by blaqfist:
I have no problem w/ getting a cosmetology "certificate" for hair braiders..

Maybe the schools should change their game up and offer certificate programs that include some type of braiding training..

But the general education on hair care, general shop training and the like should not be a problem for anyone.

If he is pulling down half a mill' ticket the little jive azz 5k should not even be an issue..


But if he has a business successful enough to pull down half a million dollars, then obviously he already has enough general shop and hair education knowledge to where training is unnecessary.

His shop did not do perms or coloring. So why force him to spend 5k learning something he'll never use, while losing even more money while his shop is closed down while he's spending 1,000 hours on what for him would be useless knowledge?

He might as well drive around on a a D.C. freeway for those hours and throw the money out the car window. Seems the result would be the same. Roll Eyes

Personally, I applaud him for taking on the system and winning. Another Black man makes out ... he should be congratulated.
I am sorry ya'll, but the brother needs to go to cosmetology school....

Sorry to be a downer..

But for even most barbers ( I kinda know the whole barber college thing) alot of th stuff covered in their training will never be used anyway..

Most barbers will never cut a white mans hair, but they are trained to do it...

My view is this, barber college teaches basic health techniques that anyone could use..

It aint just learnign how to shampoo sombodies hair..
quote:
Originally posted by blaqfist:
I am sorry ya'll, but the brother needs to go to cosmetology school....

Sorry to be a downer..

But for even most barbers ( I kinda know the whole barber college thing) alot of th stuff covered in their training will never be used anyway..

Most barbers will never cut a white mans hair, but they are trained to do it...

My view is this, barber college teaches basic health techniques that anyone could use..

It aint just learnign how to shampoo sombodies hair..
You are correct....

more than styling is taught in cosmetology school.....

however....

special attention needs to be given to african hair (varying degree of coil, maintenance, health and style) as well as the special reaction to chemicals (if ever used)....

I think "training" is important..... but the current cosmetology system of training is geared towards the care of European hair or loose coiled hair.....

Training in health (avoiding disease etc...), maintenance, shop training, customer care etc..... is needed.....

from an African perspective...

Peace,
Virtue
The regulations are making it criminal to braid hair without a certificate from a school that doesn't teach how to braid hair anyway!

Supposedly the reason is because governments want to legislate people who alter hair in order to make sure they know how to do it safely. While that sounds almost noble, the schools aren't teaching students how to alter hair the way their businesses are doing so. So the government still doesn't know if they know how to do it safely.

That's why the laws are so moronic.

And it's theft.

Why should someone lose hours of time during which they could be earning money and be forced to pay over $5000 dollars to learn things they don't do?

The most benign way I can look at this is as an example of lawmakers' ignorance. At worst, the curbing of this cultural artform through unreasonable laws is an example of ethnocentic bias.

They need to come back to me with their proposals after they come up with a curriculum and test that can produce a benefit that will make the regulations worthwhile.
quote:
Training in health (avoiding disease etc...), maintenance, shop training, customer care etc..... is needed.....


I 100% agree w/ you..
And that is the angle I am coming from..

I do agree that the carriculum needs to be adjusted to address the very different types of hair that one might come in contact w/....

Just to give you an example; of what I meant by "most of the stuff taught in barber school will not be used"...

A buddy of mine had a hard time passing the final test because he coudl not pass the shaving portion of the California barber test..

It may sound like a small thing, but this portion of the test is pretty detailed...

It aint just getting a razor and hitting a guy up..

It is pretty intense..
I'd love for someone to make barbers take 1000 hours of classes to learn how to make wigs, chemically process hair, apply make-up, do fake nails, and massage corns without once teaching them how to use a razor, although they've been cutting hair for years.

They don't do any of the nails or other stuff at their business, but tell them that their $5000 for the course and additional fees for keeping up their accreditation is worth it because they also learned how to wash hair and combs during a couple of those 1000 hours.

Put the icing on the cake by making it illegal for them to cut hair before the schools they are required to go to provide curricula that teaches them how to cut hair.

Only then would I be able to swallow the barber analogy.

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