African-American Hair Braiding Salons Tied Up In Legal Battles

Bureaucracy has not taken kindly to practitioners of African-American hair braiding. In Illinois, there’s been a crackdown on salons that offer the service and haven’t conformed to the state’s ridiculous regulations—if you want to braid hair, you need a cosmetology degree and a license, which takes hours of time and thousands of dollars. While this poses a financial issue to many hair braiders, the law also doesn’t cater to the art both for practical and philosophical reasons. For starters, hair braiders who have gone to cosmetology school report that the curriculum doesn’t even cover the technique. Second, African hair braiding is considered a historical craft that is learned by passing it down through generations, and it’s not something that is necessarily taught by the books. And there’s more drama to add to the situation. Apparently, it’s largely licensed cosmetologists in the area who are providing tips about unlicensed hair braiders. (We sense a movie script here.)

However, Illinois is about to pass new legislation that would give more leeway and act as a vague compromise: “Braiders who prove they’ve practiced their craft for at least two years could automatically get a hair-braiding license after paying a fee. New braiders could get a license after undergoing 300 hours of training in braiding methods and sanitation.” Do you think that’s fair? [AP]