From Straight to Kinky: Battling the Decline of the Black Salon in the US

From Atlanta to D.C. to New York to Miami, the Black hair salon in America is adapting to the fact that its regular clients want to wean themselves off of permanent hair relaxers and sew-in weaves. What’s been the catalyst for this drastic hair decision? Well, it’s an entire movement that is well-documented in online videos, blogs and celeb pictures of those who are going or have gone natural and actually look fabulous doing it.

We are looking to the Solange Knowleses, the Traci Ellis Rosses and the Viola Davises of the entertainment world. We’re looking to the Curly Nikkis and the Mahogany Curls of the blogosphere. We are inspired more than we have ever been. But, this inspiration is costing the salon their regulars. Black woman are so inspired that they are slowly abandoning a $150 per month habit of perming, straightening, washing and styling.

According to the Wall Street Journal, most “black salons are independently owned, with self-employed stylists who rent booths from shop owners.” Industry research firm Professional Consultants & Resources says that U.S. salon services generated $50.3 billion in 2009 revenue, mostly from small, independently owned shops. In fact, Black women actually outnumber other consumers of “ethnic” hair products, which recorded a 3.2% sales increase in 2009, to $1.5 billion.

As has been depicted in many a Hollywood movie, Black hair salons and barbershops have been the central meeting place in the African-American community: “a safe space for socializing, organizing politically and grapevine information-sharing,” said Lori Tharps, a Temple University assistant San Diego Blonde professor who is co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. Now, in 2014, what is keeping the Black woman from flocking back to that oasis in her community

The naturalista can do it herself
According to Professor of English at College of New Jersey Cassandra Jackson in a Huffington Post column, “natural hair allows for a certain amount of freedom from salons, which is good because many natural salons cost significantly more than traditional ones.”
She cites the focal point for learning to treat, care and style natural hair is YouTube and online message boards rather than salons. Women will spend hours on the web searching for their favorite kinky hairstyle and the accompanying tutorial for how to do it themselves. They’re also searching on their own for products to help their hair grow long and healthy. Some may even be so inspired to whip up their own treatments of coconut oil, shea butter and avocado.

The Black hair salon doesn’t do natural styles
Many Black hair salons have made no effort to educate themselves about the burgeoning natural hair movement. The question is: do they have to? Well, according to a web poll done by Naturally Curly asking if the U.S. was ready for a first lady with naturally kinky hair, 56% of respondents said no. Still, this statistic is slowly sliding in favor of the naturalista.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *