Dan King
Dan King · April 8, 2024

DES MOINES, Iowa—Today, a group of barbers in Iowa have teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to form a new coalition to help other industry professionals get trained and earn a living in the field. The Iowa Barbers Coalition was formed after a bill, which would have made it easier for aspiring barbers to train under the supervision of licensed professionals in the industry, failed to pass out of a state house committee. 

“Barbers’ first experience with the industry should not be a mountain of debt and red tape.” said IJ Special Projects Assistant Tom Solomon. “We want lawmakers to recognize the need to create more accessible pathways to a meaningful career in barbering.” 

Iowa has some of the most burdensome licensing laws for barbers in the country, requiring 1,550 hours of schooling or 2,000 hours of an apprenticeship, followed by two state exams. For many individuals who hope to become barbers, the licensing requirements make it impossible. For example, Des Moines resident Stephanie Mattison spent $25,000 to enroll in barbering school, and could not pick up part-time work to pay for the schooling, because she was in class 10 hours per day. By comparison, emergency medical technicians, dental assistants, pharmacy technicians, school bus drivers, pesticide applicators, unarmed security guards, and most types of building contractors all require less training than barbers. 

“They just used us for their financial benefit,” Stephanie told IJ about Iowa’s barbering schools. “We had to work those 10 hours, and they got paid.” 

A 2021 report found that 58 percent of Iowa cosmetology students are unable to graduate on time and incur significant debt in the process. 

“The whole system is a mess.” said Jerrae Lindsey, who owns Uncle Jay’s Barbering Company in Iowa Falls. “We have a lot of talent in Iowa, but our laws are designed to benefit schools at the expense of barbers. Even our apprenticeship program is so complicated and restrictive that it may as well not exist. We’re going to change it.” 

House File 2117 would’ve allowed barbers and other beauty professionals to hire and train aspiring professionals. The Iowa Barbers Coalition is committed to passing similar legislation next session as well as exploring other ways to reform and improve the barbering industry in Iowa. 

Like-minded beauty professionals and aspiring beauty professionals are invited to join the Iowa Barbers Coalition.