THE 4C HAIR CHRONICLES: RUDE/INCOMPETENT/KNOW-IT-ALL HAIRSTYLISTS

What’s the deal with hairstylists who feel obligated to play God when they’re nothing but mere mortals paid to do a job? Apart from creativity, communication skills and friendliness are meant to play a great part in their profession, but judging by the behaviour of some ‘experts’, they wouldn’t know the first thing about customer service if that rotten attitude caused their own hair to fall out from the roots. Yes, they’ve spent months, sometimes years, training in the art of hairdressing, learning to navigate their way around a salon and tame every strand back in place, but how well do they know their clients? The worst offenders are the junior stylists who rely on natural talent without actual training. They always seem to know what’s best for your hair, but do they know your hair?

Five years ago I visited my local salon Crown and Glory Streatham to have my hair twisted. The girl assigned to the task, a young cranky French-speaking girl with basic English, ignored my request when I told her how thick I wanted each strand. She refused to listen when I pleaded with her not to attach the braids too close to my hairline. She mumbled intelligible phrases when I shifted in my seat after sitting steadily for a whole hour on my numb bottom. And how dare she jerk my head with force every single time she started on a new twist? All I wanted was a decent hairstyle for a date that weekend, but the Francophone brat made sure I looked my worst with a throbbing scalp, and her colleagues remained numb when I complained of her imprudent behaviour and pathetic skills. I stopped visiting Crown and Glory after that uncomfortable and excruciatingly painful episode.

This was not the first time I experienced poor salon service. In my old post 4C Wars – originally titled My Beautiful Hair – I mentioned getting a relaxer after struggling with my natural kinks. In reality I’d visited another salon a few blocks down from Crown and Glory that also doubled as a hair and beauty store, and purchased texturiser by a leading brand I’d previously used. The available stylist laughed, claiming I’d bought the wrong product, and recommended an unknown brand packaged in a cheap tub. Ignoring my own instinct, I listened to her unsolicited advice. As the expert, she knew what she was talking about. Or did she? The texturiser burned my sensitive scalp leaving me in agony, and the stylist had the nerve to hiss “Hush!” at me. The chemicals were rinsed off, revealing totally straight hair. Yes, she’d relaxed the natural growth I’d spent a whole year cultivating. I went mad, and she argued my straightened hair would ‘settle’ in a few days. Settle Schmettle. She refused to take responsibility for her own actions, and her colleagues took her side, no consideration left for the customer who trusted them.

Believe it or not, hair stylists have been known to discriminate against us 4C sisters, refusing to attend to us unless we relax our hair? I’ve heard stories of women bullied by stylists to get their hair relaxed, or no-one attends to them. How ironic – everyone embracing the Team Natural craze, the black hair market netting billions each year, no salons attending to African hair in the purest form? Even here in the UK, Dominicans are the stylists naturalistas trust with our precious manes, but our own people are totally clueless or simply not bothered.

Certain salon stylists address their customers with no respect, answering every question rudely. Why should we trust them with our hair? I still remember the nasty Jamaican who yelled at me when I requested a French plait (“I don’t know what a f****** French plait is, I’m giving you a normal plait…). I couldn’t believe my ears when some crummy salon owner told me to go back to the salon I came from when I asked why she would change £30 for single French plaits on either side of my head. Don’t you hate it when they keep chatting on their phones when they’re on duty? And don’t get me started on those who eat and use their greasy fingers at work…

A black hair magazine once stated “a grumpy stylist is a bad stylist.” As a woman on a budget, I can hardly afford high end prices even if they’re true experts who treat their clients as human beings (I love the sweets and lollipops they leave on their reception desks!) I get it, you get what you pay for, but there’s no reason for that attitude, we’re both human. Your prices may be affordable, but I don’t pay £30 for you to insult me while I suffer under your stinky armpit, and the fact that you can’t even do a decent job means you’re a disgrace to your profession.

Treat your job with respect. Or find a new one.

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