Photo Credit: Marsha B.
If you’re a person of color that lives in New York, you’ve experienced that bum rush that occurs after you exit any train station on 125th street. Women gather by the turnstile in efforts to lure you into their hair salon. Should you be interested in their services, they usher you into a crowded storefront with 6 or 7 other women braiding hair at a rapid pace. Approximately 6-8 hours later, you reemerge from the store front, $150 poorer with an extremely tight head of braids. This is the universal experience for African hair braiding in New York City.
During my journey to the motherland, I learned that there is a distinct difference between hair salons in Kenya and salons in New York. Unlike the city, Kenyan salons strive to create an experience for you. I accompanied my friend Britini Williams to a salon and documented her experience.
We went to the Le’Pic Executive Salon and Spa located in the Adlife Plaza. The full-service establishment has a barber shop, hair salon, nail salon, spa area and massage services. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the manager who took our coats and seated us in the waiting area. A few minutes later, a stylist came over to Britini to discuss the style she wanted for her hair. After finalizing her style, she was taken next door to a beauty supply store to purchase some hair. I was completely shocked to learn that 5 packs of hair would cost a measly $4.
The stylist began at approximately 12:35pm. Britini’s shoulder-length mane was washed prior to her arrival. Her stylist blowdried her hair to eliminate any knots or curls. African hair braiders have a reputation of braiding or twisting tightly and being heavy handed. In order to alleviate any discomfort, the stylist tried two twisting techniques on her hair. Britini opted for the knot method over the knotless one. There was minor flinching but overall, she said her experience was good.
In a little bit under 2 hours, Britini’s hair was complete. She accessorized it with gold hardware throughout her twists. The cost of the service, including hair and accessories was $35.
Britini enjoyed her experience at the Le’Pic salon. Not only was the service done in a timely manner, she loved that her stylist was completely gentle with her head. My observation is that more love was put into Britini’s experience. The value of the service meant more because they strived to make sure she was completely happy.
The experience at a barber shop in Kenya is much different from one in New York. In Kenya, barbers dedicate a lot of time to grooming. You can count on your hair to be washed, cut, massaged and oiled during your visit. While there, I documented my friend Alexis Flakes get her haircut. We went to a mall in the Westlands area that had a hybrid beauty salon and barbershop. As we entered, we were offered water or coffee to drink while we waited for an available barber.
Alexis wanted a clean shave to accentuate her mohawk. While it looked like an easy job, the back of her hair was in a deep V that would require attention to detail. She was very precise with how she wanted her hair which made her barber a bit nervous. Still, he was able to execute her cut seamlessly.
Following her cut, Alexis was invited to get her hair washed. In Kenya, with every haircut, the barber washes your hair. You have the choice of whether you’d like your hair washed before or after you sit in the chair. Alexis decided to skip the wash and go straight to the massage. The barber sat her in the chair, oiled her scalp and began to give her a 5-minute scalp massage.
The entire service cost $12. I remember going into a barbershop in Brooklyn to get a haircut and spending $20. I wasn’t offered coffee and there definitely wasn’t a massage in the end. The level of care that each client receives in Kenya is amazing. It’s safe they take personal grooming, and customer service seriously. Sadly we can’t hop on a plane and head to the motherland every time we want our wig flipped. What do you think? Have you experienced better service in other parts of the world?