The hair social media world has been imploding. We’re a tough, yet sensitive crowd at the best of times. And as part of the creative category, our industry has the most outspoken, influential, beautifully diverse members. I absolutely love you all.
We collectively described what will go down in our industry as the “Great PPE Debate of 2020.” This moment will be in the curriculum — mark my words! Every continent, state, country and zip code has argued about masks and visors relentlessly. Every stylist has a story and every stylist has a voice, which brings me swiftly to my next point:
BLACK LIVES MATTER
This movement is so important. It is also an extremely sensitive subject that as a white, gay male of privilege, I don’t feel is my place to speak on. However, it is important for me to look at this inwardly, as an opportunity (during which, some have been afforded “time off”) to educate ourselves and our followers with content, absorb material, amplify Black voices, use the platforms we are afforded and recognize the clear divide within our beloved industry.
As stylists, we have extremely loud voices within our communities. We are indescribably empathic, compassionate human beings, and it’s time to speak up for equality. We must stop racializing hair and start referring to it by what it is…hair. It is time to end the division in our industry that is ingrained in beauty school.
The Issue in Beauty School
90% of stylists, who took my Instagram poll hadn’t learned anything other than silkier hair types. In my own personal experience at college, we were never taught tighter curl patterns, relaxers or afro designs. Now… smooth, curly and coarse hair types are in modern textbooks. But, they are not being properly taught — or at all — in most schools.
I know we have a responsibility to study our textbooks, but with the majority of us being visual, hands-on learners — and with no push from our lecturers — it is easy to see why many of us have glossed over these pages or been told to largely ignore them by our teachers.
After speaking with several stylists of different races, nationalities and experiences, the majority have said that lecturers often respond to questions about textured hair services with “There is not enough diversity in this community/area,” or that the educator themself has no experience.
Six pages into an advanced U.K textbook, I came across a picture of a Black client and Black stylist. Throughout the book, nearly every picture shows clients and stylists of the same race — whether white or Black. See the problem?
This automatically segregates our hairdressing community.
Assuming that Black or POC stylists ONLY do “Black hair” is a very common thought and has been re-iterated to me repeatedly. On the flip side, the stylists who reached out to me from the 10% who did learn about tighter curl formations and textures had Black or POC lecturers able to teach them.
Another problem is just how underrepresented Black stylists are within our publications, color companies and events. Where are all the amazing Black/POC color technicians and cutters? Why don’t we see more diversity within large educational teams?
Go to any hair show, and you may notice that Black stylists that are so popular onstage and online have been clumped into a category of wigs, weaves, afros and textures. These stylists are some of the best cutters and colorists we have, yet they go largely unseen.
The Issue in Salons
I’ve had several followers reach out to tell me of their hair traumas in top-rated hair salons, where stylists insist on using a flat iron prior to cutting curly hair (gasp!) and conversations with mothers of mixed ethnicity or black children have had to seek out “texture specialists.” These specialists must travel from one side of the city to the other and at a much higher cost than the average child haircut. I do understand we’ll all have our speciality, that thing that makes us most satisfied in our careers. But, shouldn’t we be taught, at the very least, the basic fundamentals of all texture?
Shouldn’t everyone have the same luxury to sit in our chair?
What Can We Do?
I will never understand how a Black person or a POC feels, because I’ve never faced racial discrimination. Going forward, though, I can learn how to become a true Ally in the UK and our BAME community.
Simply professing that you are anti-racist is not enough.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — louder for the people in the back — hairstylists are powerful. Although I don’t have all the answers, friends, remember that we have loud voices. Use them, and don’t allow this to be a fleeting moment.
For the first time, many of us have been exposed to true, deep-rooted injustices and oppression. And we have the most powerful tool at our fingertips: the internet. Share info, fact check (very important) content on social media and challenge negativity with conversation. Be prepared to lose clients, followers and friends, because if you are feeling like me right now, there is no going back.
It’s time to end division and demand that our curriculum, companies and publications are inclusive, diverse and held to a higher standard. I encourage you to take the time to read, listen, watch, learn and join the discussion. We cannot change history, but we can change the future.
We as hairstylists should be able to confidently approach and service any customer, of any hair type, with a smile and a welcoming attitude. You know, one of the first things we are taught.