Natural Hair Guru Isis Brantley Is Suing Texas for the Right to Teach Hair-Braiding

Categories: Fashion

Danny Hurley
Erykah Badu, a client of Brantley's, at the Natural Hair Parade.
In business-friendly Texas, people who want to teach the art of all-natural African hair-braiding have to jump through quite a few unnecessary loopholes, a new lawsuit claims.

Isis Brantley, a Dallas-based hairbraider whose clients include Erykah Badu, got to know Texas hairbraiding rules the hard way in 1997, when seven police officers entered her Oak Cliff hair braiding shop, the Institute of Ancestral Braiding, and arrested her. The offense was something that people in the black beauty industry across the United States have been accused of: braiding hair without a cosmetology license.

Stylists who create traditional African hair-braids have long argued that since they don't use any harsh chemicals or heat, their trade is safer than what is typically taught in cosmetology school and shouldn't fall under the same regulations.

In California, for example, African hairstylists were once required to spend $5,000 at a licensed cosmetology school, yet "none of these government-mandated classes actually taught students how to braid hair," writes the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian advocacy group representing Brantley. "In fact, they taught techniques that were especially damaging to African hair." The IJ helped strike down California's strict regulations against braiders in 1999.

In Texas, Brantley challenged the rules and in 2007 she successfully lobbied the state to create a separate Hair-braiding License. Now people who want to make a living off African hair braids need only a 35-hour course.

But while Brantley can braid free from police officers, she found that teaching was still off limits: Students who took her 35-hour course weren't able to become professional hair-braiders themselves. In June of this year, she received a letter from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation explaining why: Hair-braiding instructors are still regulated under the state's barber statute.

That means that in order to teach braiding, instructors basically have to learn how to become barbers -- that's hundreds of hours in barber school, four exams and lots of tuition money. The only way those regulations are waived is if Brantley agrees to be a "guest instructor" at a barber college.

"Texas has no problem with Isis teaching, it just has a problem with her working for herself," Brantley's attorney, Arif Panju from the Institute for Justice, said in a statement.

Brantley and the IJ are now filing suit against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation so that she can teach African hair-braiding out of her own salon, a small brick building off of Beckley Avenue in Oak Cliff.

The complaint says that the TDLR is violating Brantley's constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

"Our policy is that we don't comment on ongoing litigation," Susan Stanford, the agency's public information officer, tells Unfair Park.

But the manager of the agency's Barber and Cosmetology Program did acknowledge that asking hair-braiders to learn how to become barbers is kind of annoying, telling the Texas Tribune: "It could be a hardship for someone that just wants to do the braiding."

Here is the lawsuit:

Brantley v. Kuntz File-Stamped Full Complaint.pdf

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This is just another method white people use to control us. No debate about it.

scottindallas topcommenter

This gov't overreach.  If a health class is needed, fine, that's a 3 hour course.  Barbers were our first doctors, and that is how this got to be regulated.  We don't need gov't protections in the free market, there's competition, alternatives, and no compulsion to go to get one's hair professionally done.  Hairdressers aren't a profession, there is no fiduciary duty, this is gov't overreach, and exposes the fraud of the GOP's "all markets are free" argument.  I may be the only true "small gov't" advocate.  The GOP wants gov't in free markets and wants utility markets privatized.  Big monopoly and gov't are the same thing. 


As a cosmetology student, just go to cosmetology school. There are diseases that people need to be made aware of. Africa, may have the standard on braiding, but it is rather shit with disease control. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Here is how it should be done if you want the regulations changed.

1) Don't argue with TDLR about ethnicity, not using scissors, etc.

2) Contact your State representative and talk with him/her about how the TEXAS LAWS concerning COSMETOLOGY AND BARBERING need to be amended to allow specifically "All African natural hair braiding".

3) Be prepared to show or demonstrate the following:

- How the public will be protected.

- What educational requirements are required.

- How proficiency is demonstrated

- How will complaints against hair braiders be handled

- What the specific licensing requirements will be.

4) And most importantly, don't forget the following:

- What fees will be generated by the applications and license renewals and how this will be greater than, or at least equal to, the cost to TDLR to administer the program

- A nice campaign contribution to your State representative and let him/her know how many votes he/she will likely gain from sponsoring this proposed bill.


and just playing the race card


"Stylists who create traditional African hair-braids have long argued that since they don't use any harsh chemicals or heat, their trade is safer than what is typically taught in cosmetology school and shouldn't fall under the same regulations."

Yes, but cosmetology school addresses many other issues, like keeping work stations sanitary and dealing with clients who have infectious diseases and lice. There's other health conditions — like a bacterial infection called folliculitis — that can spread if these braiders aren't disinfecting combs and other tools. I suspect Isis isn't teaching all that to her students — just technique. Google "tinea" and "carbuncle" (the latter will make you lose your lunch) for a horrifying idea of the havoc a poorly trained hair technician can create. 

I think the state has its mind straight, and Miss Isis is up in knots over completely reasonable requirements.


I really, REALLY despise artificial barriers to entry.  And licensing is one of the biggies.  This is just the sort of regulation that hurts consumers.


In this case It speaks to the  power of the Barber Collage ( by what ever name they are know by ) Business association  the  lobbyist on their payroll it shows the fine work they have done in Austin .The Schools get the money from the training  and the refresher courses to keep current and the state gets the Regulatory license fees for as long as someone wishes to do such work in Texas .

Trivia ...Tammy Wynette keep her Beauticians License up to date  so she could get work if her career in country music went south .


You can't have the expansive government you want without paying for it.


You need a license to braid hair? Are you f'ing kidding me?


@linzd21 You're embarrassing yourself with this racist comment. 


@linzd21 Your comment is spewing ignorance. While I do agree that all hair technicians (is that what they're still called?) should know the dangers of their profession, there's no point in hair-braiders going to a cosmetology school if they aren't teaching correct methods for African American hair, which would be their primary clientele. And that second part.... yea, you're just inherently racist for that


@romar214 All they need  for sanitation is  a Blue Light Bulb a Comb Bath thing a broom dust pan combo pack and the ability to know the difference between dandruff and head lice ..


@ruddski I'm sure a suitable donation to Rick Perry's presidental campaign would clear all this up.


@Lakewooder No, you need a license saying that you are educated on regulations regarding sanitation, disease control and prevention. Braiding is the easy part. 

holmantx topcommenter


plus, you must take continuing education.  Same for hair stylists and barbers.

And you must pay for fingerprinting to turn into Homeland Security, just in case you ever decide to go on a three-state killing spree.

I had to report to a private contractor fingerprinting service here in Dallas in order to renew two licenses the state regulates but is now under the Dodd-Frank Act.

No longer must you be suspected of a crime before you have to submit to fingerprinting.

It is what the Left and the Libertarians have been aligning over.

The Liberals and the Neoconservatives don't have a problem with this.

Sorry.  You have to actually think about this before you get it.


@Lakewooder Africans have been braiding hair for hundreds of thousands of years in Africa and the diaspora without problems. Africans didn't have a so-called "disease problem" (which is false) until Europeans with their nasty selves took over Africa. The conquered people always eventually acts like the conquerer, and the conquerer was and still is nasty.

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