By Temi Adeleye
Hair education is like any other education. Whether it is hair or math, students are provided with the basics but it is up to them to be motivated to learn more complex work. Yet in the field of hair, the more complex work involves the hair belonging to people of color.
For generations, thick and curly hair belonging to African-American women was labeled as “nappy” or “bad hair.” The ideology stemmed from the slavery period and traveled through time that straighter hair was deemed as “good hair.”
In Zukiswa Majali’s abstract of “Everyday Hair Discourses of African Black Women,” she wrote about the how “good hair” and “bad hair” are compared in the black community. “On the one hand, everyday dialogues about ‘good’ hair were understood as referring to straight hair,” Majali noted in the article. “On the other hand, dialogues about ‘bad’ hair usually referred to kinky or ‘woolly’ hair.”
People throughout the country are learning how to style and manage black hair from various sources. As stylists make these discoveries, they are sharing their findings with others via social media.
Who Knows What?
Ismelda Ramos, an instructor at East Boston Beauty Academy, said her institution teaches how to do hair for all hair types.
Ramos said the academy’s clientele are predominantly Hispanic/ Latino but they do service all hair types.“White person [salons] would be anywhere, Latinos are pretty good at taking care of African-American type of hair and Asian is more easy,” said Ramos.
Ramos also believes anyone can take care of Asian hair, they just need to understand how to cut and style it. Yet several Asian salons in Boston were contacted about this perception but no one wanted to share their thoughts on it.
While the hair types for Asian, Hispanic/ Latino women are different from straight hair belonging to white women it is believed they have a better chance than black women of walking into any salon in Boston and finding someone who can work with their hair.
Misleading Advertising And Its Effect
There are numerous salons in Boston that have people on staff who are experienced with hair types belonging to people of color but it is not easy to find them because they do not advertise their services properly. What stands out when looking at websites of certain salons that claim to work with all hair types are photos that only show Caucasians modeling hairstyles.
When Googling salons for specific races, some salons appear more than once. These salons advertise to cater to different hair textures but display otherwise through their galleries.
Furthering Your Education
Teda DeRosa, an educator from Empire Beauty School-Boston said people must go the extra mile to learn how to cater to hair for people of color.“At my school, we teach a lot more, geared towards diversity of hair textures, because there is so much, so many mixed cultures that the hair textures are crossing over. So you should be able to do everyone’s hair,” said DeRosa.
DeRosa is the owner of the Ebony and Ivory Hair Studio in Stoneham, where she caters to mostly African-American women in the area. She said black women struggle finding good stylists but the burden increases once you step out of Boston.
Kobena Mercer’s chapter from “Black Hair/Style Politics, reused in “Everyday Hair Discourses of African Black Women,” explained the importance of hair and its ties to identity.“Hair, as organic matter and part of the human body, has been subjected to manipulation and styling throughout history,” Mercer wrote.
With the importance of hair to identity, some are suggesting tylists could and perhaps should further their education in dealing with different textures so they can increase their clientele and the standards of the industry.
“The texture is the difference between all hair types. We only had straight-haired mannequins, so we only learned on straight hair. I had to learn how to translate that over to textured hair,” said DeRosa.
Stylists noted that different textures require different products and treatments, to nourish the strands for a healthier look. For example, there are several curl patterns and some require heavier creme-based products than others.
Shelle Mendes, owner of Salon Monet on Newbury Street explained how curl patterns today are categorized. “The curl pattern is all the difference in each type of hair. Straight, curly, wavy, tight curl and now in alphabets they are calling hair in different formats. A, B, C. ” Mendes is referring to curl patterns for all ethnicities. The curls range from 2a/b (for white, mixed race and Hispanic/Latino women) to 4c for (mixed race and black women). Knowing these curl patterns, will teach stylists what each hair type needs to remain healthy and beautiful.
Hannah Williamson, owner of Styled by Hannah, said, “We had all different types of ethnicities at the school and every couple of weeks, we would try something new.”
DeRosa noted, however, “it’s not the easiest to find someone who can deal with African-American hair and really care about African American hair and treat it in a healthy way.” DeRosa offered some advice to white stylists in Boston and around the nation: “Learn to do all textures because you’ll learn to be more versatile and make a lot more money.”