There was a running joke in the middle class town I grew up in that to get your hair done, really done, you had to go to the ‘hood. If you didn’t make the trip over to the adjacent neighborhood for a salon visit, you’d be subjected to stylists who were so inexperienced with “black hair” they damaged your style permanently or stylists who would reject your business altogether.

Years later, little has changed. On Jezebel, writer Rebecca Carroll recounts her quest to find a salon that could do “black hair,” and all she was looking for was a haircut. An excerpt:

Sure, it’s Williamsburg, but how hard could it be for someone who’s job it is to cut hair … to cut my hair for length and keep the shape? And shape is key, because with a really close crop you have to be strategic about where the hair needs to be a bit longer, otherwise the default shape is that of your head.

Midway through the haircut, administered by a young, fully tattooed and slightly humorless Polish woman, I reiterated what I had told her when I first sat down: “Just cut the length, please don’t change the shape.” I reiterated this because she was changing the shape. She looked at me in the mirror, emotionless, and said: “I’m sorry, African hair is not my specialty.” Um, my hair was born in America. I did not adopt my hair from Africa. Also, maybe mention to me before you start cutting that you’re no pro when it comes to “African” hair?

Carroll’s tale is set in Williamsburg, but there are towns and cities across the country that present the same dilemma. It simply isn’t a priority in some areas to learn to do “black hair” despite the fact that a decent portion of black women live in the community and our money is green like everyone else’s.

It’s harder still when your black hair is not relaxed. Carroll recounts being told a salon could do her hair, but she’d have to relax it first:

But perhaps the most perplexing response I got was from a salon that told me they could cut my hair, but only if I’d had it processed first. When I asked if they cut black hair, the receptionist answered: “Actually, not unless it’s straightened.” So, basically, go somewhere else to make your hair the texture of white hair and then we’ll be good to go. Huh.

You can’t help but feel like good ole discrimination is rearing its ugly head when you read narratives like that—and many of us have heard those stories if not lived them ourselves.

Black hair deserves specialized attention and care. But that’s no excuse for an overwhelming number of salons to turn away paying African-American customers.

Women with black hair deserve access to stylists who are trained in dealing with a plethora of textures, not just straight. We’re paying. We deserve good service.

And we shouldn’t have to leave town to get it.


What are your thoughts, Clutchettes and Gents? Should hairstylists educate themselves on doing “black hair”?


  1. sweetie

    you are a fool! in Williamsburg there are hundreds of “Dominican Style” salons that recognize hair is a texture not race and instead you chose to go to a “trendy” caucason-centric salon.

  2. Natural is the best way to go. Love your hair and take care of it yourself!

  3. I walked into a salon here in Austin, TX with my husband to get his hair cut. he is white. There were pictures on the wall in this salon. One was a white blond woman, one was a dark haired white guy, one was an hispanic woman and in the corner covered by a very, tall large potted plant was a black woman. It’s like they did not want black women to come in. Its a chain salon so I guess they couldn’t just take it down. He never went back, he was more offended than I was. I have natural hair that I care for myself so I don’t need a salon. But seriously I would not want a non black stylist touching my hair.

    • I agree. My hair has been a challenge since I’ve moved to FL. A lot of black stylists I saw could not style hair, period. One stylist told me she couldn’t do my hair but she could do a sew in. It makes sense here since a lot of women wear weaves, but at the very least, be able to care for the hair under the weave!
      I’ve had a white stylist cut my hair once when I was relaxed…I hated the way she looked at my hair…The cut had no shape what-so-ever!
      I’ve been to the Dominicans here in Orlando, they don’t speak English and are rough with natural hair. Also, I’ve heard stories of them sneaking relaxer into the conditioner. Even if they could do my hair, it would be using so much heat that the hair would fall out…won’t go to them again.
      I’ve been fortunate to find a black woman here who can do a blow out and trim on natural hair…
      A good stylist is hard to find, takes time and energy, The writer of the article is not being discriminated against, however. She failed to use common sense. If she gets to sue for discrimination, they should sue her for being stupid.

  4. RMW77

    This article is ridiculous. Just go to an african american beauty salon. Why would you seek out a white stylist, then cry discrimination because he or she can’t work with your hair-which is different from their usual clientele?

    • aDORKable

      An African American salon isn’t always available depending on where you live and you can still have problems with an African American beauty salon as well. Finding a stylist is hard work, finding a stylist that will listen, understand, is knowledgeable and use the right products on your hair, and be affordable is even harder.

    • After visiting many Black stylists and leaving with uneven cuts(or too much cut off) or damaged hair, I started doing my own hair at home. However, if I ever get micro braids, I’ll go to an African shop. If I want a trim, I go to a White salon, and they welcome me and cut/trim my hair right. (I do wash and flat iron my hair at home first).

      I prefer to do my own hair because most people simply don’t know what they’re doing. Many Black stylists don’t even know how to properly take care of Black hair, especially curly hair because many/most of their clients have relaxed hair. Even finding an African stylist who won’t braid too tight/break your hair off is a challenge. Hair care takes time and patience.

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