On Thursday, a new specialty license for African-style natural hair braiders was signed into law in New Jersey. Under the law (A-3754), a braider can now become licensed after completing a maximum of 40 to 50 hours of coursework, depending on their experience level. Previously, braiders could only legally work if they had a cosmetology license, a credential that takes at least 1,200 hours of training and can cost upwards of $17,000 in tuition. Many New Jersey braiders had been threatened with heavy fines and even criminal charges for “unlicensed braiding.”
“The new braiding license is a dramatic improvement over New Jersey’s incredibly burdensome requirement that forced braiders to waste their time and money to attend cosmetology schools, which most often don’t even teach African-style braiding,” said Brooke Fallon, assistant director of activism at the Institute for Justice. “We’re proud to have worked with dozens of braiders, who have been tireless in fighting for their right to earn an honest living without being harassed by the government. We hope that this bill will mean an end to the raids and heavy fines that have been inflicted on too many braiders in communities of color. ”
Originally, the bill would have eliminated licensing requirements entirely for hair braiders and passed both the Assembly and the Senate unanimously. But in late August, Gov. Phil Murphy made extensive revisions to the bill through a conditional veto. Last month, legislators decided to concur with the governor’s version, which was approved.
“Although the new law is certainly an improvement over the previous regime, it is not necessary to force people to waste 40 to 50 hours on a practice as safe and simple as braiding hair naturally,” Fallon added. “Already 25 states, including Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland, don’t require braiders to have a license. We will continue to work with braiders in New Jersey to ensure future regulations by the state cosmetology board protect the public while imposing the fewest burdens on braiders and their clients.”