African-style hair braiding is a common and safe practice that has been around for thousands of years. It also offers exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs in African-American and African immigrant communities to support themselves and their families, start their own businesses and become their own bosses.
Braiding is distinct from cosmetology. Yet to legally braid hair for a living, braiders in many states must spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on cosmetology training—training that has nothing to do with African-style hair braiding. Instead of getting their businesses off the ground, hair braiders get tangled up in senseless occupational and salon licensing regulations.
The Institute for Justice advocates at state legislatures for exempting braiders from state cosmetology licensing laws. Today, 27 states completely exempt braiders from licensure: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Since IJ launched its Braiding Freedom initiative in 2014, 16 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia—have exempted braiding from cosmetology, hairstyling, or barber licenses.
IJ’s model braiding bill is based on the day-to-day practices of braiders and the best language from the various state braiding laws. Since 2015, IJ’s lobbying efforts have helped state legislators in Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and South Dakota enact versions of the model bill to exempt braiders from licensing requirements.