RCNQ, based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, are offering free protective styling for afro hair and 50% off braiding every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for the month of June, in support of diversifying the skills and staffing in hair salons. They champion a change in hiring practices and training to incorporate more skillsets into salons. The free styling includes two strand twists, flat twists, bantu knots and more.
10% of profits from all appointments in June are being donated to the Black United Representation Network (BURN). The organisation strives to create systematic change by advising black-owned businesses in Greater Manchester, and increasing the number of black leaders in senior decision-making roles. They focus on levelling up black-owned businesses in the region and have teamed up with Be The Business to offer the Advisory Board programme, where a board of highly experienced advisors offer support to Black-Led businesses, over a 12 month period free of charge.
The disparity between communities and the ability for the hair industry to accommodate their needs is staggering. A study by Habia found there are more than 35,000 hair salons in the UK, but only 302 cater to afro hair.
Rob Czlapka, the head stylist and owner of Manchester-based RCNQ, has this to say:
“There are four hair types you can be trained to work with during hairdressing training, but you’re only given the option to work with three of these. In my experience, white students were encouraged to disregard afro style hair by lecturers as this isn’t a hair type often worked with in predominantly white salons. They instead focused on straight, wavy, and curly hair types.
“In 2015, hairdressing academies added black hair styling to the course in an attempt to solve this issue, but only dedicated 12 weeks of a two-year NVQ Level 2 hairdressing course to afro hair. There are now talks of all four hair types becoming integrated into the course, which would be a huge step towards challenging the issue of racism within the hairdressing industry.
“There’s a huge divide between the diversity and skill sets available in salons, which results in different hair types going to different salons. Black hairdressers typically have the skillset to cater to all hair types, whereas white hairdressers don’t learn how to work with afro hair. Predominantly white salons should be able to provide hair services to all people, regardless of race.
“We’re currently pushing for change in the hairdressing industry. We’ve been hiring people with the skill sets to work with and style afro hair across all levels of seniority in the business, and are investing in training so that all of our stylists are fully equipped to work with all hair types.
“We’re also investing in anti-racism training, to further ensure our salon is a safe space for people of colour. This has been followed up with training to ensure best practice stays in place, and micro-aggression management so individuals know how to handle situations.
“Within the next year, I want a completely mixed background of collaborators at RCNQ with the full skills to cater to any person’s needs. We’re striving to include anyone in the experience that we offer, and other salons need to do the same.”