There’s a very black and white issue among hair salons that seems to be largely ignored. It’s what you might call the “elephant in the middle of the room”. I’m referring to the phenomenon of so called “black” hair salons and “white” hair salons. For the most part, beauty salons are in the business of providing personal hairstyling services. So therefore it is the aim of the salon to have a staff of trained hairstylists to provide hairstyling services to a clientele largely made up of women who would like to have their hair done by a skilled professional.
Although by defintion a hair salon claims to specialize in hair unfortunately they are not like McDonald’s. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re Black, White or Green if you go to McDonald’s and order a burger and fries they don’t look at you like your crazy. Why not? Because serving burgers and fries fast, is their specialty.
But if you happen to be a women of color with frizzy, kinky, extremely curly, thick or coarse hair you may run into difficulty in trying to get your hair done if you randomly walk into a hair salon for an appointment. I haven’t come across any signs posted on salon entrances that read “Whites only” but if you walk into certain salons don’t be surprised if you get the brush off. What explains the seeming segregation?
First, many salons lack diversity in their clientele so the immediate reaction upon seeing a woman of color is to assume they can’t handle her “type” of hair. The salon may not even offer the service she is looking to have done. So therefore they are either reluctant or unwilling to provide service to the woman of color who isn’t their typical client.
Second, and more often than not, if the hair salons clientele isn’t diverse the staff usually isn’t either. So many times there simply aren’t any stylists that are even capable of servicing clients who are perhaps African-American and also have kinky or extremely curly locks.
And from what I’ve observed among a number of fellow white hairstylists, many of them truly cannot handle ethnic hair textures well. This creates the perfect situation for the opposite scenario to exist in the “black” salons.
I once worked briefly for a high end salon in New York City’s flat iron district. One of the many unfavorable experiences that took place there really stands out in my mind. This particular salon actually had a large, diverse staff . Despite this fact, they really sought to attract and cater only to a very exclusive clientele.
In many truly upscale salons, for obvious reasons the preferred client is a comfortably wealthy woman. In Manhattan the majority of the women that fall into the wealthy category happen to be white. One day while we were in the break room a young, white stylist openly expressed his disgust ( although not directly to me but clearly in my presence) when he got the call from the front desk informing him that his next client was So-and-So, a really sweet black client who wanted to have her very curly hair blown out straight by him. The client had seen him previously and since she absolutely loved her hair before she decided to book with him again. The kicker was that he was a talented stylist. I was very shocked that he did such an amazing job with her hair. Little did she realize, he was completely less than thrilled about the prospect of having her as a client with the torturous task of doing her hair.
It was the fact that he so openly expressed how much he “hated” doing “that kind of hair” that really disturbed me. Although he was quite capable of providing an excellent service he had absolutely no desire whatsoever to provide a service to women with what he thought was some dreadfully, awful curly hair.
From my vantage point of having worked in both “ black” and “white” salons, I feel there is a without a doubt, great disparity when it comes to hair salons. Ideally every beauty salon’s motto should be “ Got Hair?”
Have you ever been snubbed by a hair salon?