New Jersey may be the next state to change the hair braiding industry, thanks to new legislation pushing to drop its outdated laws against the practice.
In many states, including New Jersey, laws prohibit braiders from practicing their craft unless they've spent a minimum of 50 days in cosmetology school, NJ Spotlight reports. But because many beauty schools don't teach the skill (yet another frustrating fact), the idea behind the law is to ensure that professional braiders know what they're doing. “Because hair is involved, hair braiding has traditionally been classified under cosmetology, because people outside of the culture know little about it," state legislator Shanique Speight told Yahoo! Lifestyle. "To prevent any potential harm to the public, the rules and regulations that apply to other cosmetology services have also applied to hair braiding." (Some of the concerns associated with braiding include traction alopecia and other damage to the scalp.)
Speight and two other legislators have begun pushing to change the law: “This is an important change, and the number one reason [behind amending the law] is that the current cosmetology school does not teach people how to braid hair. But [braiders] currently must go to schools where they have to pay as much as $17,000 and spend roughly 1,200 hours for something that does not reflect what they will be professionally doing," legislator Angela McKnight told Yahoo!.
“Prior to this, I had no idea about how tough it was for these women to practice what they love doing," Speight said. "These women should have the right to support their families without these kinds of restrictions.”
In a landscape where black women and men are still being discriminated against for their hairstyles, it's clear that stylists still have a lot of hoops to jump through in order to earn the credentials to be able to work with natural hair. Those in favor of law reform assert that deregulation would allow stylists less barrier to entry, making braids more accessible to the local community while also empowering braiders to open their own salons.
However, not everyone agrees with the fact that the regulations should be eased. “Deregulating natural hair is really saying that natural hair isn't important," celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey, who frequently works with Yara Shahidi, told Teen Vogue in an interview. “The regulation is there to protect us as the professionals. We need to work on the proper education or the appropriate license for hair braiding, which is not included in cosmetology classes.”
The root of the issue, it seems, is that all stylists — whether they work with natural hair or not —should be given the tools and opportunity to pursue a career in their desired field.
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