Christine McLean, top, braids a client's hair at her shop in Little Rock, Ark., June 17, 2014 -- one of several states challenging state cosmetology licensing requirements as part of a coordinated legal campaign that opposes increased government regulation of small businesses.
AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Texas judge sides with hair braiders over state rules

Are hair braiders barbers? Not according to a federal judge in Texas.

Earlier this week, a federal judge struck down a set of laws mandating that braiding shops that seek to teach hair braiding meet the extensive state requirements to become full-fledged barber colleges in order to provide students the classroom hours needed to qualify for state-mandated licenses.

Under the state laws, shops that teach braiding needed to meet requirements that have little to do with braiding itself, like setting up a 2,000 square foot barber college equipped with 10 sinks, short-haired mannequins and reclining barber chairs, all of which would likely go unused in a shop solely dedicated to hair braiding.

Isis Brantley, a Dallas-based hair stylist, teamed up with the nonprofit legal firm Institute for Justice to file a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas to fight the requirements. According to a statement from the Institute, if Brantley wanted to teach hair braiding in her Dallas shop, she needed to “spend 2,250 hours in barber school, pass four exams, and spend thousands of dollars on tuition and a fully-equipped barber college she doesn’t need, all to teach a 35-hour hair-braiding curriculum.”

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks sided with Brantley on Monday, finding that requirements for hair braiding shops were unconstitutional. He also found that the law made it prohibitively difficult for a hair braiding school to enter the market in hair braiding instruction.”  

“This ruling is a resounding victory for Isis Brantley and entrepreneurs like her across Texas,” Arif Panju, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, said in a statement. “It is unconstitutional to require people to do useless things. By doing so, Texas was not only preventing African hair braiding schools from even opening, but it was also violating the 14th Amendment.”

“I fought for my economic liberty because I believe there is a lot of hope for young people who seek to earn an honest living,” Brantley said in a statement. “This decision means that I will now be able to teach the next generation of African hair braiders at my own school.”

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation told the Associated Press that the department “respects Judge Sparks’ decision.”