Texas Governor Signs Law Abolishing Natural Hair Braiding Regulations

State no longer to treat hair braiders like barbers, a final victory for Isis Brantley

Image: Isis Brantley (Photo Courtesy of Institute for Justice)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law, legislation that fully deregulates the practice of natural hair braiding and repeals the occupational license aspiring braiders were forced to obtain before earning an honest living braiding hair. This puts an end to nearly 20 years of conflict.

The effort to deregulate natural hair braiders follows a successful constitutional challenge by the Institute for Justice and Isis Brantley. The legal battle began in 1997 when seven government officials raided Brantley’s business and hauled her off in handcuffs for braiding hair without a special government license. When the state of Texas began regulating hair braiders in 2007 it lumped natural hair braiders with barbers and cosmetology practitioners, requiring natural hair braiders to attend cosmetology school and complete a 35-hour course on hair braiding. This meant coming up with tuition and spending 2,250 hours in barber school and passing four exams.

Brantley, an entrepreneur who runs a hair braiding school in Dallas, sued the state in 2013, citing the laws that pertained to hair braiding schools to be unreasonable. In the case of Brantley, she had spend thousands of dollars to first convert her small business into a fully equipped barber school that had at least 10 student chairs that reclined back and a sink behind ever work station before being allowed to teach hair braiding for a living.

The Institute for Justice filed the lawsuit in 2013 against the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and a federal court struck down the law in January 2015. Brantley and the Institute championed the unanimous passage of the new deregulation law, HB 2717, in the Texas Legislature.

[Related: Federal Judge Rules Law Against Texas Hair Braiders Unconstitutional]

“This marks a final victory for natural hair braiders across Texas,” Arif Panju, an attorney with the Institute for Justice’s Texas office released in a statement. “It also serves as recognition that occupational licensing has gone too far when 1 in 3 Texans are forced to obtain a government license to simply go to work each morning.” HB 2717 was authored by Representative Craig Goldman and the bill was sponsored in the Texas Senate by Senator Royce West.

Texas law finalizes recognizes that braiders aren’t barbers, and braiding instructors shouldn’t be forced to build barber schools or take classes from barbers. Brantley’s legal victory will not only impact entrepreneurs throughout the state, but could also have a ripple affect nationwide.