I was re-reading Waiting to Exhale last night, and I got to the part where Gloria, the salon owner, finds herself minus two employees, soon to be three. She’s having no luck finding replacements either, because the few new prospects who come in to be interviewed are inexperienced, not good enough, or both…plus some of them are white.
The white candidates claim they were “trained” (the author also puts the word in quotes) to work with black people’s hair, but Gloria is dubious, on the grounds that the only way a person can really know how to work with A-A hair is if you’ve been tending it yourself since you were a kid. “And forget about a Jheri-curl,” she thinks. Furthermore, her regulars tell her flat out that they won’t let a white person touch their hair.
This establishment is one of those “sorority salons”: since it’s the only black salon for miles around, it’s become kind of a social hub. (A lot of the book’s exposition is given in conversation between the stylists and regulars!) I wonder, although it was never stated, if that might be another reason the regulars objected to the idea of a white stylist, because they wouldn’t feel they could have the same kind of rapport with her.
The problem wasn’t resolved before the book ended (except that the third stylist promised to stay until Gloria found a replacement), but I was wondering what might have happened IRL, and if these concerns were typical.
I would honestly feel more comfortable with an unknown black hairstylist than an unkown white hairstylist.
No, wait. I’d feel more comfortable with a hairstylist with hair like mine than not. I feel that a black hairstylist would have more experience with my type of thick, tightly curled hair. Now, if I knew a hairstylist was good with black hair I wouldn’t care what color she was.
Now that I think about it, most of my hairstylist have been hispanic so I guess everything above is just smoke outta the part of me the hairstylist never touches.
I would prefer to go to a stylist who has experience with hair like mine. I go with the close clipper cut, which seems easy enough, but it is easy to do it wrong. In my search for a barber at college I came across a Korean that sheared me like a sheep. He just didn’t have the right touch. Then again, I’ve come across Blacks that suck at cutting too.
I’ve brought her to a couple of predominately black hair salons in the last year or so just to try and get some relief from the six hours every Sunday that is dedicated to her hair care and styling. She’s almost 11 and her hair is a few inches short of her rear end (this is very difficult to achieve with black hair - just so any white women reading this thread understands).
I was satisfied with the results - but found that they took as long or longer than I do for the same resulting style so I saved no time and spent big bucks.
Her hair has been a fun, educational journey for us both. Wherever we go, when I see a black woman with beautiful hair I make a point of it to speak with them to find out their regime. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of great advice just for the asking
My daughters hair is a source of pride for her - frankly it is for me, too because I have so much time invested in it.
I would NEVER let a white stylist touch her hair unless she also had a black daughter and I saw the condition of her childs hair first. In my admittedly limited experience, white people in general just don’t have a clue about the fragility of a black head of hair and are very rough with it, often breaking the hair in the process.
I had an experience that was the mirror image of what the OP is asking. I am a white guy and was living in an urban area (Main South in Worcester, MA for those who know it). I badly needed a haircut and didn’t feel like putting it off any longer.
I decided to take a chance and went to a barber shop on Main St. in a predominately black area. Enter Leon. Leon is the nicest guy, but he tells me first thing he has never cut a white dude’s hair before. Fortunately hair grows and I’m not terribly particular, because I really didn’t have many choices at this point. I felt it would be rude to back away slowly and say no thanks. I asked him to just trim it fairly short.
The results were predictable. I have fine brownish blond hair that has a tendency to stand on end when it is short. I looked like a baby bird when we were done. Short to a black man is verrrrry short to a white guy. My wife still remembers that cut. Guys have it easier in this regard as it was only noticable for a couple of weeks. If I was a woman I’m not sure I would be so sanguine about it.
This seems rather like the old puzzle about the town with one barbershop and two barbers. Do you go to the one with the great haircut or the one with the really bad haircut?
Of course, you go to the one who cut the great haircut, ie, the one with the terrible haircut. So if you are in a salon with a white stylist and a black stylist, and the black stylist has a great cut, you can probably trust the white stylist to cut a black person’s hair.
And have made the assumption that the white stylist did the black stylist’s hair. And made the assumption that the black stylist’s hair is anything like the condition that yours is in.
Which is a whole lot of assuming.
To the OP, having had my hair screwed up by stylists of all genders, colors, and ethnicities, I’ve instead decided to limit what I allow a stylist to do to my hair to keep the damage at a minimum (and even that doesn’t always work, but it’s a start.)
However, I’m more willing to believe a black stylist who claims to have experience working with black hair than I am a stylist who isn’t black who claims to have experience working with black hair.
When I was getting regular chemical relaxers, I would have only gone to a black stylist. I wanted to be seen by a stylist that had the most experience with what I was getting done.
Since I’ve gone (almost) natural (I still get a very mild relaxer applied about two to three times a year), I’ve gone to two white stylists. One was a man and the other was a woman. The woman was OK but the man was spectacular! He gave me such a great cut and listened to what I wanted.
Now I go to a salon owned by a black man and I’ve settled with him. He’s great, his salon is great and he doesn’t overbook. If I go on a Saturday, he’s got wine, cheese and grapes. He’s a little pricey but so worth it.
I’m saying that absent any other evidence, I’m willing to guess that somewhere during the course of his or her life, the stylist has probably, at least once, attempted to work with his or her own hair.
For the black stylist that means that probably, at least once, he or she has worked with the black hair growing out of his or her head. (which in no way makes them an expert - as I said, my hair has been screwed up by people of all races.)
It is not an evaluation of trustworthiness, it’s an evaluation of access to the type of hair in question.
But thank you for the accusation of racism. Way to ferret that out!
Well said, amarinth. I’d like to add that in my experience, a stylist will rarely say, “No, I really don’t think I’d be able to handle that,” when you ask whether or not s/he could perform the service you desire.
Most of the stylists I’ve encountered have declared that OF COURSE they could blow-dry my hair (after my attempts to give them full disclosure about how curly it is, which isn’t usually obvious because I blow it straight) . . .
Then I just sit in the chair and watch as both my hair and the stylist’s eyes get bigger and bigger in the face of my rapid descent into Don King-dom.
IMO, it’s not a matter of trustworthiness at all, however–it’s just a matter of the stylist not knowing what s/he’s getting her/himself into.
Flat Ironed, eh? Maybe I’ll recommend that to the next person who tackles the task of giving me a blow-out. I swear, when I was younger (like, in middle school) I never had this problem, but now, aside from my mother, myself, and a guy in NYC (where I DO NOT live), folks just can’t seem to smooth out my mop!
Why can’t I look like Mariah Carey, or Chili from TLC, dammit (just in terms of the smooth, shiny hair, mind you)?
It’d be one thing if someone said, “I don’t want someone who’s not my race touching my hair no matter how good she is”, but quite another to say, “I have to know this person is good before I let her touch my hair.”
There are about eight million different ways hair can turn out other than the way you want it. This is not an enterprise to be entered into lightly.
I think what BC is objecting to is the implication that a black stylist is automatically, by the sole virtue of being black, more experienced dealing with black hair. There’s a world of difference between “I have to know this person is good,” and saying “I’d believe a black person is good at this before I’d believe a white person is good at it.”
Personally, I don’t really see how it helps to have a stylist with hair similar to your own. I’m a white girl with fine, thin, limp hair that absolutely will NOT hold a curl, and I go to black stylists all the time. Sometimes the cuts are mediocre, but they’re often wonderful. Having hair very dissimilar to my own doesn’t seem to hamper a stylist’s abilities at all.
BTW, this got me to wondering about a thread someone started a while back, about a salon charging a black woman an “ethnic hair” charge. A lot of people were all bent out of shape about it, claiming that black hair was no harder to cut than white hair, and that the charge was racism. But in this thread there seems to be a feeling that black hair does indeed require special skills and techniques. Can somebody elaborate on what seems to be a pretty blatant contradiction?
I have found all of my stylists via referrals. I wear my hair short (but not natural, it’s relaxed) and I’ve found it even more important to know for certain that I have someone capable of doing a good job. If I haven’t seen with my own two eyes that someone does good work, and heard with my own two years about someone’s technique and so forth, I’m not trusting them, no matter their color or background.
I have had a non-black stylists – one was a Jewish woman whose hair texture was so much like mine (she even used a relaxer on hers) we both got a good laugh out of speculation on the possibilities that we shared some common ancestry somewhere. When she moved out of the city, I was given a recommendation for a woman who is biracial and personally has pretty straight hair, but who knows her stuff when it comes to those of us of a nappier persuasion. I’ve been with her now for several years. If I should need another stylist in the future, I have a couple already lined up, women who work magic with the 'dos of some of my friends on a regular basis. For me, it’s all about the word of mouth.