What happens in South Carolina when someone gets their hair braided free of charge? Apart from a new 'do, not much.
If someone gets paid for weaving the braids, though, that's a different story. And that's the story behind the new South Carolina law expected to be signed by Gov. Mark Sanford.
The bill on the governor's desk would require anyone in South Carolina who is paid for braiding hair to undergo 60 hours of cosmetology training. After the training, the braider is registered with the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
If the state had a Department of Overregulation, this silly measure should be relegated to it. Does the state really need this level of oversight on a practice that is done as much at slumber parties than in beauty salons?
It's all about competition, plain and simple. A big reason - the biggest reason, some say - for enacting business-license requirements in the first place is to restrict what is viewed as unfair competition. Few things make a business owner sweat more than competition. If two guys are selling apples on a street, they'll almost assuredly join forces to see that a third apple-seller doesn't set up shop on the corner.
Sure, some cosmetologists who support the licensing measure point out that regulating braiders is a safety issue. A trained braider, they say, will be able to identify and possibly help customers avoid scalp infections and diseases.
But how many cosmetologists stand up to champion health issues for braiders who do it for free? A girl giving her younger sister a set of cornrows can't expect a friendly visit in their home from the Cosmetology Police for a brief tutorial on how to sterilize combs.
It boils down to money. The braiders working out of their homes are making money off of a service that infringes on cosmetologists who spent money getting trained and spent money to rent or buy a shop. More money for home braiders means less money for the people who likely lobbied to push the licensing bill through.
Licensing in the name of quality and public health is welcomed. We all want our doctors and dentists to be duly licensed, right? But to offer up the same standard to something as comparatively innocuous as braiding cornrows is - well, splitting hairs.