A good news week for anyone with, or working on Black hair. The new National Occupational Standards [NOS] for Hairdressing published in June now ‘meet the needs of the UK’s diverse community in one standard.’ This is a BIG story for us all to take note; Black hair must be better cared about. The news was widely reported in everything from the national papers and TV to the local radio and broadcast news.
Black hair to be embraced
Effectively, the NOS had followed up on the work of a taskforce set up by the British Beauty Council and Hair & Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) in 2019, that called out the poor provision for clients with Black and Afro hair. A 2017 HABIA study stated that out of 35,704 salons assessed, only 302 were Afro-Carribbean. As the independent, not-for-profit organisation recognised by Government, HABIA is not a hairdressing-only trade association but works with all industry organisations, individual employers, learning providers, awarding bodies, and Government and its agencies across the UK.
Specifically for us however, the NOS found that many qualifications do not require students to learn how to cut and style Afro and textured hair, resulting in a major gap in professional expertise for this demographic. It is now deemed essential that the qualifications bodies reflect the need for all hair types to be cared for with provision for everyone. The dream is that nobody be turned away from a salon because their hair type is difficult, or unmanageable, or plain scary to hairdressers who haven’t trained and become comfortable particularly with Black hair.
With the release of a statement by the BBC and HABIA, there was a blitz of news coverage this past weekend, and we encourage you all to keep up the pressure to keep this story front of mind. Talk to your teams, your colleagues, your friends and clients. This amendment to our industry code of practice is no small item to be passed over quickly!
Metro newspaper network published this comment that explains the issue: “Most Black people will know that it isn’t possible to walk in to any hairdresser on the high street and ask for even a simple cut or style. It is common to hear that the stylists aren’t trained to work with Afro hair.” Helena Grzesk, the chief operating officer at the British Beauty Council said she was delighted that training for hairdressing now includes all hair types. Grzesk told the Metro: “We share Habia’s belief that the hair and beauty industry can and should be truly inclusive but until now, tens of thousands of hairdressers have no qualifications in cutting and styling Afro and textured hair.”
But we must be considerate in how we move forward. The point is not to take business from the many successful and well-run Black hair salons and barbers in the UK. Rather to spread the service to all areas. To encourage Black hairdressers into the industry, by showing them that our qualification syllabus embraces all hair types. To make it easier to recruit and train hairdressers to offer all clients a good service. To make Black hair seen, but not different.
In an interview for Sky News, Manchester salon owner Leleika Lawrence (who specialises in Afro hair but she trains her staff to work with all hair types,) said: “We’ve had people come in saying they’ve been turned away from a salon and that stylists were intimidated by their hair texture.”
This must not continue. Let’s hope we have a new direction.
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