Mar 5, 2014

From the Stylist's Chair: The Sometimes UGLY Politics of Natural Hair


I am two months away from being done at Aveda! I am so very excited and also slightly leary. When I first began at Aveda the majority of my clients had natural hair.  It was strange because while I was initially the student I had also placed myself to be in a position to educate as well, as Aveda doesn't currently have a natural hair curriculum.

As school progressed my educators spoke to me about taking less natural hair clients to make sure that I was developing a well rounded talent.  At first I didn't want to hear anything about it, and then after some further thought I realized they were correct.  While I love natural hair I didn't want to confine myself to just one aspect of hair, because honestly I love it all. Having the ability to work with different textures of hair has truly help me to develop. I now ask questions from all sides of the equation.


I am very adamant about natural hair and the ability of all hairstylists, yes all hairstylists being able to handle all hair types, no exclusions or excuses.  While I realize that this will never be the case, a lot of the women in my class have reached out to me with open arms wanting to know more. I have been more than happy to share my knowledge.

But I also have concerns with attitudes of some of the natural hair and relaxed clients that come into the salon.  There are two specific instances that have happened numerous times that make me cringe:
  • The COST of Natural Hair styling: If you had to pay yourself for the time spent on hair and products I guarantee you it would not be cheap. We all know how much time a effort natural hair takes. Every head of hair is different and has different needs. At Aveda we charge $30 for natural hair styling, and the students don't get any of that money.  We are allowed to accept tips and that's it.  I have watched numerous women with natural hair act so ugly over this price! I've heard rude comments from clients and even had women refuse to pay the price while torturing their stylist through the entire service. Why is this necessary and why is this the reaction from some naturals? If you are going to a salon you aren't (and shouldn't be) just paying for hair.  Its about the service, the added benefits and little treats, and the relaxation that you get as a part of that service. It also about the true talent of a stylist! He/she may be able to learn your hair and perhaps tell you things about your hair that you didn't know. Eventually giving you an action plan to provide you with the best hair possible.
    • Your hair should be an investment, and if you are willing to take the time to supplement some of your hair maintenance to a salon throughout the year then you should budget accordingly. We as stylists invest in continuing education, keeping up with current styles and trends, and also study to learn how to keep your hair healthy and to look out for unhealthy warning signs. Doing hair may seem like an easy job to some but myself along with the stylists I work with - we provide a luxury service, one that isnt just about hair but your entire experience from when you walk in the door to when you leave. We not only educate you on your hair but we pamper mind, body, soul.  
  • The RACE card: The best hairstylist you might ever have may not look like you or have hair like you.  Some of you may never know that stylist because you are too consumed with what you want to see behind the chair. I can understand wanting to see and to have someone like you working on your hair, but this doesnt mean that there aren't others who are equally as qualified and  have a talent and knack for your hair even if it is different from their own.  I have watched some of my fellow stylists literally be intimidated and ripped to shreds by women who felt that because of the color of their skin they were inadequate to deal with their hair. I don't know how being rude is doing anything to futher the cause for acceptance of natural hair. 

As a stylist and a natural hair wearer, I want to put natural hair on the worldwide map. Every school should have a curriculum for it, every salon should be able offer services that are of a high quality with an immaculate end result. I don't by any means seek to remove the history or the culture that has come along with our hair. There is a freedom that comes with natural hair, a chance to remove the chains that have held us back in the past, embracing that freedom should mean less fear and more love. After all you have learned to love yourself in its truest and most natural form.

Natural hair is political, there is no doubt about it but, how you share and grow those politics is up to you. No one is saying that you can't be protective of your hair and who you allow to work with it, but everyone deserves to be treated from a place of love and respect whether you think they hold the same knowledge you do or not, and what purpose does that knowledge hold if you only keep it to yourself?      

 -Amber
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