The troubled economy — along with changing style trends — have had a big impact on black hair salons. But is there an upside?
In Sunday's Washington Post, Elizabeth Wellington writes that the recession "closed hundreds of African-American salons nationwide and stylists and business owners had to find jobs in mainstream salons."
A black stylist named Seline Braswell — who previously had her own salon — now works at a salon in Saks Fifth Avenue, where the clientele had been mostly white. She, her two stylists and two assistants have brought more than 1,000 new clients — mostly black — to the new location. Win-win, right?
Not according to Charles Gallagher, a white professor of sociology, criminal justice and social work at La Salle University: "You are erasing culture, you are erasing history and you are erasing a way African Americans have socialized with each other for decades," he says. "These J.C. Penneys and Saks are culturally spaceless. You don't learn about culture, gender or experience, and the lessons about the politics of the community, that's all gone."
While a cultural experience may be lost, is a sense of understanding gained? Brandy Davila, a black stylist who owns a multicultural salon in North Philadelphia, thinks so. "I'm finding it's a learning experience for everyone," Davila says. "White clients get to see what goes on with African American hair, and my black clients see that white people's hair isn't as easy to deal with as we think."
[Image via Michael D Brown/Shutterstock.]