An Ode to Black Hair Salons

Published: Thursday 28th July 2016 12:10PM

Updated: Friday 5th August 2016 9:02PM

To every black girl that has survived and secretly loved going to the black hairdressers…

Not unlike vaginal waxing, eyebrow threading and – I dunno – childbirth I guess, it’s one of those things that you don’t have to do and you’d rather not have to do… but it kind of has to be done. It’s time to get your hair did.

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We’ll start with the prep work you have to do prior to the day. You ring ‘Aunty’ to let her know you’re coming. You arrange a day, a time and a hairstyle.

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If hair needs to be bought you buy the bundles, while artfully trying to avoid client poachers from nearby salons. If you’re a risky mofo like me, you’ll buy it minutes before the appointment and hope for the best. For the fainter of heart, you buy it from a week to a few days prior.

 

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The day comes. Game time. I hope you’ve written off absolutely every pending commitment because it will take all day. I don’t care if you’re just getting a relaxer put in, it will take ALL. DAY.

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I say this because you’ll have agreed with Aunty to start at 11am but for good measure you’ll have come at 11:15. Despite your precautions, Aunty will ignore your calls and texts and walk through the door at 1.30pm. Oh and she’ll have quadruple-booked herself so prepare for her to get started on your kinky twists after two sew-ins and a press and curl.

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Every time she does this you want to yell and threaten to take away your custom but by this point, you’ll have forged a strong enough relationship to know that nobody else can do your hair this well for this price. Face it, you need her.


So you wait. The shop is packed, a screaming child has just tripped on some hair and landed at your feet so naturally you pretend not to have seen it and hope his mother doesn’t suspect you had anything to do with it.

You needn’t worry though because said mother is getting a mani and pedi so for the next hour, so her focus isn’t really on her children.

Finally, it’s your time to shine and as you take your seat and prepare your on-flight entertainment (nobody deserves to sit through four hours of Nollywood), Aunty interrupts you by plonking the X-pressions bundle on your lap. No chance of fiddling with your iPad now.

For the first half of the head you manage to convince yourself that this isn’t quite bad but by the final quarter, your bum aches, Aunty is one twist away from tearing off your edges and a patch of hair that could have been used for two braids has been parted into four all of a sudden. You want to go home. You want a paracetamol. You want someone to turn off Osuofia in London.

Just as the end draws near, a new feeling filters though – appreciation.

The nail people are East Asian, the eyebrow ladies South Asian and the hairdressers a mix of African and Caribbean. With all that flavour in one room it somehow just works.

Any one who was alien to a black hair salon would walk in and think the environment is a hostile one and who could blame them? Everyone communicates in shouts and insults – often the more aggressive they are with each other the stronger the bond most likely is. You know this though because this is a complete norm for you.

And if you know what’s good for you, you’d better do as the Romans do. Too much politeness will get an extra tenner added to your final price so when Aunty asks for seventy quid, you look her square in the eye and tell her sixty dammit.

If it hasn’t set already, the sun’s packing its bags as you leave – new hair, new you. Go home and put your headscarf on – the tightness should subside in a day or two. Once that’s over you’ve got a sweet three months before you have to do it all over again.

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