Institute for Justice report blasts Maine for its lack of ‘braiding freedom’

Basketball teammates from Foxcroft Academy sported braids for their 2001 contest against Erskine. Clockwise from bottom right are Erin Merrill, Leigh Cartwright, Casy Snow, Megan Dow, and Jaime Champeon. (BDN file photo by Michael York)

Basketball teammates from Foxcroft Academy sported braids for their 2001 state tournament contest against Erskine. Clockwise from bottom right are Erin Merrill, Leigh Cartwright, Casy Snow, Megan Dow, and Jaime Champeon. (BDN file photo by Michael York)

The Institute for Justice released a report today grading each state based on its regulation of hair braiding (yes, hair braiding), and Maine scored a big, fat “F.”

Your immediate reaction might be to worry — because you likely at one time or another braided the hair of a friend or family member without first obtaining a license — that you’re now a fugitive from justice under Maine’s oppressive and iron-fisted hair braiding laws.

Not quite.

This report has more to do with rules imposed upon people who wish to braid hair professionally. In 11 states, the study found, people who want to go into business as hair braiders can do so without any official certification.

A hairdresser braids a woman's hair in her salon in Kenya's capital of Nairobi. (Reuters photo)

A hairdresser braids a woman’s hair in her salon in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. (Reuters photo)

Another five states demand aspiring professional hair braiders to learn “health and safety practices without requiring inordinate time or exorbitant amounts of money.”

Maine is lumped in with the worst group of the bunch, 23 states which reportedly require hair braiders to get certified as either a cosmetologist or hair stylist.

The reason this matters, says the Institute for Justice, is that “natural, or African-style hair braiding” can be one of relatively few low-barrier money-making opportunities for new arrivals to this country and others facing economic disadvantages.

Said report co-author Nick Sibilla in a statement:

Our research shows that occupational licensing laws, such as those governing hair braiding, create artificial barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. These restrictions are particularly harmful, since many braiders are seeking to take their first step up the economic ladder.

In Maine, in fairness, it seems less that state lawmakers specifically planted barriers to hair braiders, and more that they really didn’t consider hair braiding at all when drawing up business regulations.

Specifically, the Institute for Justice report states:

While Maine’s statutes do not explicitly mention braiding, the state’s Barbering and Cosmetology Program in the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation confirmed that braiders are regulated as cosmetologists. To obtain a cosmetologist license, a braider must be at least 17 years old, have at least a 10th grade education, pass an exam, and complete either a 1,500-hour course in no fewer than nine
months or spend 2,500 hours over at least 18 months as an apprentice.

The report then prices out a couple of cosmetology programs in the state, saying they could cost aspiring hair braiders between $14,000 and $16,000.

Here’s what the report’s other co-author, attorney Paul Avelar, stated on that front:

Cosmetology training does not teach or test braiding, but it does require hundreds of hours of instruction that is completely unrelated to braiding at a cost of thousands of dollars. It’s absurd to require so many hours just to braid hair.

Read the report here for yourself:

Untangling Regulations

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