Hair Braiding Regulations in Texas Continue to Unravel

By Sheryl Estrada

Photo By Shutterstock

UPDATE:In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that deregulates the practice of African-style hair braiding and repeals the occupational license aspiring braiders were mandated to obtain.

The long struggle to own and operate hair braiding shops in Texasamidunconstitutional regulationsmay soon come to an end.

A measure to deregulate the hair braiding industry in the state, House Bill 2717, passed the House in April, and on Wednesday passed the Texas Senate.

According to the Texas Tribune, the bill, which “would exempt hair braiders from having to obtain a cosmetology license to operate a braiding business,” will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk:

Texas law requires extensive training andcertainfacilities for licensedbarbers and cosmetologists and braiders, even though they don’t usechemicals, tools, barber chairs or sinks.

Isis Brantley, owner of the Institute of Ancestral Braiding, foughtfor the right to own a hair braiding shop and teach African hair braiding since Texas regulators first cited her in 1995.

Shewas arrested for braiding without a cosmetology license in 1997.

“Seven cops came in my salon and they said I was under arrest, and they took me to jail for braiding hair,” Brantley said in a 2013 video where she discussed her experience, as well as how she hasworked with the Institute of Justice to file a federal lawsuit against Texas.

“Economic liberty is especially important for Black women,” she said. “This is our new civil rights movement.”

Although the state modified the requirements in 2007, the road remained filled with obstacles. Brantley was granted a braiding license, and rather than 1,500 hours of formal training, only 35 hours were required.

However, when she attempted to open a school to teach the skill, the state mandated that the school meet the same standards and licensing requirementsfor barbers.

State law would have required her to build a 2,000-square-foot barber college, including five sinks and 10 barber chairs, which is equipment she would not use. And Brantley would have to go back to school for 750 hours of barber classes.

Brantley has continually and painstakingly attempted to educate Texas on Black hair and the techniques she uses.

In January, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruledthe requirements for hair braiding shops are unconstitutionalviolating the Fourteenth Amendment.He also found that the law made it “prohibitively difficult for a hair braiding school to enter the market in hair braiding instruction.”

Brantley has shared African hair braiding techniques with women since1984, including teaching homeless and jobless women the skill so they may become entrepreneurs.

She has a long list of clients who come to her for hair braiding, including Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu. Brantleyis also thefounder of the Natural Hair Parade & Festival in Dallas, of which Badu has been a supporter.

“My goal is to is to create a community of economic liberty where we have our own businesses representing our own kind of hair,” Brantley saidin an interview at the festival.

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