This is how Afro Hair Education has Enriched our Careers
While your initial hairdressing training sets you up for a great career it’s not where the learning stops in this industry – especially if you want to delve into the world of textured and Afro hair.
A lot of the inexperience when it comes to Afro hair stems from the fact that you could go through your whole hairdressing training without touching textured hair if you choose to. Now, some educational courses refer to ‘combined textures’ but many hairdressers that are not Black themselves have had to seek further learning opportunities to truly master the skill of Afro hairdressing in the same way they know how to tend European and Asian hair types.
We spoke to some of the best non-Black textured specialists in the UK to find out how they learned Afro hairdressing and how the skill has enriched their career so far.
Lisa Farrall, Matrix UK ambassador and founder of WIG London
For me I always wanted to be able to do every hair type. I remember seeing a girl turned away from the salon because nobody could do her hair type, the stylist was apologetic but this burnt a hole in my soul- the client looked like she wanted to cry. I ran down the road after her and said, “I’m at college will you be my model?” This girl became my client long after I qualified for about 10 years.
I was just 18 and I remember thinking, ‘If I wanted to go to the salon with my friends we would have to go to separate salons and if your babies are a different colour than you, you can’t sit together in the same salon and get your hair done?’ – This definitely didn’t sit right with me.
It’s important we understand it’s not about taking space but creating space.
I was even told at college that Black people like to do ‘their’ own hair in ‘their’ own salons and I should give up. But what choice do you have if you can’t go into ANY salon on the high street? You would be forced to create your own space. That was obvious.
I did a 80 mile round trip at 19 to go to Birmingham where I took a night course on Afro Hairdressing. My tutor took me under her wing and gave me a job in her salon, I was still working in my other salon – a big high street chain. I worked in the Afro salon every Saturday I learnt hands on swell as college. It’s important we understand it’s not about taking space but creating space.
I remember no one sitting in my chair for a long time I had to prove myself and I took pride in doing this. That’s salon culture.
I launched WIG London in 2016 as a session stylist I would always be given the Afro models at fashion week and I wanted to create a space that avoided the ‘we don’t do your hair terminology’ I’m very logical as well as creative and I’m not going to moan about hair equality without giving a solution. Wig London offers courses tailored to you and your salon – this is a safe space where you can learn to do all hair types. The Wig London team travels across the UK into salons and we also do pop up events.
Kara Francis, Errol Douglas London
I have been in the hairdressing industry for over 18 years starting out at TONI & GUY. I started doing Afro hair pretty early in my hairdressing career – a lot of my friends are Black or mixed heritage, and they would let me practice on their hair. However, it was not included on my training course. When I was training there was only a handful of stylists that could do Afro hair, but I watched and learnt from them.
I am in an interracial marriage and we have a daughter, this opened my eyes to the lack of products available for Afro/texture hair types. It is important to me as a mother, for my daughter to grow up with a positive view that she is beautiful. I faced my own issues with my naturally curly hair when growing up, often told that it looked untidy. Hair is a powerful
part of our identity.
We must call out inequality wherever we find it and work together to make positive change.
Senior stylists in the industry have a duty to inspire the next generation of hairdresser. Education is the key. To help us achieve this we need colleges and training events to embrace the work already present in some salons and great events such as Afro Hair and Beauty show.
As an industry, we need to recognise the demands of our consumers and work towards improving services. Errol Douglas is an amazing example of this, a legend in the industry.
The conversation around Afro/textured hair is important. Colleges and education institutions offering hairdressing training need to address this. Currently, this area of hairdressing is absent from most curriculums. We must call out inequality wherever we find it and work together to make positive change.
James Earnshaw – Midlands Hairdresser of the Year Winner
I have always been interested in all hair types since I started hairdressing back in 2007. I used to dabble in working with textured hair but it only really came part of my proper skill set when I started working with Michelle Thompson.
Michelle’s skill on all hair types is something I have so much respect for, so I used to assist her a lot and picked up the skill, the salon I worked at the time we had clients of all hair types and textures so I just kind of started doing it.
For me, it’s been super important not to turn clients away cause of their hair type, but also for shoots and things like fashion week you don’t know what hair type is going to be given to you, and I love that I can work on all types.
I believe when starting training you should be working on all hair types form the very beginning and this will stop being developing a fear of working on textured hair.
My skill with texture hair has opened up so many doors with diverse brands I work with such as amika that I am able to work all types of looks for them. I believe even if you live in an area where you may think you don’t “need” this skill, learning textured hair actually strengthens your skill on working on European hair too, because it strengthens your blow-drying and finishing techniques a lot also meaning you can cater better to those curly European clients.
I believe when starting training you should be working on all hair types form the very beginning and this will stop being developing a fear of working on textured hair. It would be great to see less separation and just have all hair types included in everything from competitions, education and shows.
Jemima Bradley, Blue Tit
I think we can all agree that for a long time there’s been huge segregation in our industry. The lack of education in textured hair is shocking. Not only should it be in the NVQ but also in-salon training needs to be provided, something I haven’t received.
I’m sure there are a lot of stylists that can stand with me to say their experience has been the same. If we can change this, we can change how the industry runs. Education is the root of the racial segregation problem we have in this industry, our lack of knowledge in textured hair has allowed it to be over looked and pushed aside. It’s important the exam boards put this is place. Their curriculum is dated and they will be soon qualifying unemployable stylists in a multi-cultural society if they don’t stand up, and be the change the industry needs and they need to stay relevant.
Education is the root of the racial segregation problem we have in this industry, our lack of knowledge in textured hair has allowed it to be over looked and pushed aside.
The training bodies now need to be open to this conversation, listen to what the new generation of young stylists want for their education, and for the industry they’ve chosen to work in.
Training bodies need to see their Black apprentices and own up to neglecting there texture and deeming it irrelevant to the country’s NVQ. It needs to be mandatory because Black hair is hair. Hair classifications are not enough. They need to stop coming out with excuses, and change their curriculum.
Lead image by Adrian Fernández on Unsplash