Occupational Licensing

License to Braid

Barber college follies

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What do you need to lawfully teach someone how to braid hair? In Texas, the list is pretty long: a "barber college" measuring at least 2,000 square feet, with multiple mannequins and wash stations, plus 2,250 hours of training. The Dallas-based hairbraider Isis Brantley is taking the state to court over what she says are onerous and unreasonable occupational licensing regulations.

Brantley, the founder and owner of an all-natural African hairbraiding salon, has made headlines for servicing everyone from homeless people to the neo-soul singer Erykah Badu. Though she has decades of experience, Texas law requires Brantley to build a barber college and undergo barber-specific training in order to teach her craft. The only way for Brantley to legally avoid those requirements would be to teach under government-approved barbers.

In Brantley v. Kuntz, a lawsuit filed against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation by the public interest law firm Institute for Justice, Brantley claims that the regulations are erroneously applied to non-barbers and hinder her ability to be self-employed. "The 14th Amendment at its core protects economic liberties," says her attorney, Arif Panju. "You cannot put restrictions that are so unreasonable and unconstitutional."

This is not Brantley's first time challenging economic regulations. In 1997, she was arrested for the crime of braiding hair without a cosmetology license. Brantley filed and won a lawsuit, which led to the state's creation of a separate 35-hour hairbraiding license.