All Articles Tagged "African hair braiding"
A few weeks ago, I was catching up with a friend, who had just returned from a trip and I noticed that her hair was different. As I tried to find her amid the sea of bodies in the packed restaurant, I took out my phone, ready to call and ask where she was seated, until I finally zeroed in on her. Viola! The reason I had a hard time pinpointing her was because her hair was different. When she left NYC she had long gorgeous braids and as I approached our table, I could see that she had traded that in for a weave.
As I embraced her, I joked about the fact that her hair was different and I asked her why her trip to LA had sparked the need for a weave, since her braids were relatively new and quite gorgeous. She laughed and explained that she wanted a change. She then proceeded to try to convince me that ever since she switched from braids to extensions, the amount of male attention she has been receiving has skyrocketed. I gave her a curious glance, and quickly surveyed her trumped up do. It looked contrived and frankly didn’t quite suit her. But I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that, so I smiled and told her I was happy that she was happy with her hair.
But the truth is that I was and still am confused. Her braids were glorious! She had gotten them done in Nigeria for almost nothing and yet they looked like a million bucks. Every time we met up, I always made a point to compliment them and she responded positively. But once the weave was secured, she was beyond enthusiastic. It was as if she had undergone a major makeover and her whole life was finally going to change. The man of her dreams just needs to see her with long straight hair paired with severe bangs.
This particular mindset makes me wonder how many of us rely on extensions to validate our beauty. I personally have indulged once in my life, and it was for a photo shoot for a hair magazine. I am definitely not saying that I will never get a weave again, but as long as I am able to maneuver my tresses in ways that work for me, I probably won’t utilize that route anytime soon. My point is that my friend clearly didn’t feel confident walking around with an ethnic style. Weaves have always been her mainstay. When I saw her with braids, I was elated. Mainly because she looked fabulous, and I was excited to see her step out of her comfort zone and try something new. It’s obvious that she felt restricted and unattractive the whole time, and I am sure spending time in LA didn’t help matters. I think they choices we make based on twisted perceptions hurt us in the long run. She is so convinced that weaves are the best way to go, that she didn’t even try to give her new hairstyle a chance. If the kind of guys she attracts are the ones that are drawn to long fake hair, are they really worth her time?
Weaves are not the enemy; we are our own worst enemies. We use them as a shield to hide under, to help propel us to a level of status that we think we deserve. But in order to meet quality guys, we have to be comfortable with our most basic self. It’s time to relinquish the relevance we have given to our hair and embrace what really makes us who we are. I hope my friend will get to the point where she doesn’t need to rely on her weaves to make her feel worthy.
A federal judge has ruled in favor of Jestina Clayton, who sued the state of Utah over its requirement that Clayton get a cosmetology license to braid hair, a side business that Clayton set up to help support her family. U.S District Judge David Sam ruled that Utah’s requirement was “unconstitutional and invalid.” According to the judge, licensing is meant to protect public health, but the state never established the public health and safety concerns that hair braiding raised.
Clayton came to the U.S. from Sierra Leone, has three small children, and started braiding hair to bring in extra income as her husband finishes school. She says she learned the skill when she was five years old. She filed her lawsuit last year after the state said it would be illegal for her to continue.
There is no uniformity in the laws governing the need for a license to braid hair. Utah is one of six states that requires a cosmetology license while those braiding hair in California and Arizona don’t need a license at all. In other states, like Florida, some training is required, but not the full cosmetology coursework.
“Progressives are joining what had been a strictly libertarian cause out of concern that excessive licensing requirements disproportionately hurt poorer Americans and newly arrived immigrants,” writes The Oregonian. In Oregon, hair braiders are required to clock in as many as 1,700 hours in cosmetology school, which can cost up to $20,000. The article makes the point that much that’s taught in cosmetology school doesn’t even apply to hair braiding because there are no chemicals involved in the process. Oregon now has legislation on the table, the “Natural Hair Act,” which will come up in the 2013 session. It would change the requirements for hair braiding, bringing the oversight in line with the nature of the business.
(That article in The Oregonian includes the interesting story of Amber Starks, who is making a business out of teaching people, black and white, how to care for natural hair.)
“The Utah case is particularly interesting because Utah obviously doesn’t have a long tradition of African hair braiding as a local industry,” says Slate. That’s a big part of the issue. A lack of knowledge about hair braiding — how it’s done and what’s required — is likely what prompted the overly-strict regulations in the first place. It’s one more example of how diversity in government — at all levels — benefits the governed.