Tennessee has been cracking down on unlicensed hair braiders, having levied almost $100,000 in fines in the last decade to more than 30 different natural hair stores in the state.
According to a report by Forbes, many of these violations — identified by the Institute for Justice—were for braiding without a license, not health or sanitation violations. The Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners gives a $1,000 “civil penalty” every time it finds a person that gives natural hair care services without a license.
Now a number of salon owners and braiders are uniting to support a bill that could eliminate the state’s required license for natural hair stylists. Gaining the license is already quite an ordeal: braiders have to complete 300 hours of coursework, and only three schools in the state offer those courses. These schools charge between $1,500 to $5,000 for tuition.
Fatou Diouf told Forbes that the coursework was “mostly a waste of my time.” Diouf has been fined up to $16,000 for employing unlicensed hair braiders.
In Mississippi, for example, a braider does not need a license to perform natural hair care services. Instead, the state only requires braiders to register with the Department of Health and pay a $25 fee.
Nebraska passed a law in 2016 to lift the occupational cosmetology license on hair braiders, part of a trend seen around the country.
“We don’t need 300 hours to know how to wash a clip or a comb,” Diouf said of the Tennessee license. “I never did any other job but hair braiding my whole life. I cannot recall a time when I did not know how.”