Going to the salon to have your hair braided, relaxed or straightened into a sky-scraping bun is a common experience for many black women. It’s a space full of lively, boisterous storytelling that could produce laughter and tears – ideally both at the same time. Admiring the other hairstyles in the room, you feel connected to the other black women and girls present with you.
Black barbershops can function as a mini vendor market, nail salon, and community hub all at the same time. Naturally, they have evolved over the years to cater to specific textures and techniques. You can find salons that specialize in installing wigs, extensions, natural hair, etc.
Even though the options have increased, there are still black women who struggle to find a stylist for one reason or another. Sometimes they live in a hair desert, where access to a qualified stylist is limited or non-existent. And even when there is is someone around, you may encounter a whole different set of problems. Getting appointments, rising service costs, fees or policies that stylists can arbitrarily add, long waits – that’s a lot.
In many cases, you may find yourself volunteering all day when you make an appointment. “If I’m not in New York, I have to get a [hair] date, and I’m gonna be there all day,” shares Dana White, founder of Detroit-based salon Paralee Boyd. “And I don’t have time for that.” White’s salon specializes in blowouts for textured hair, promising a much less stressful experience.
Much like traditional salons like Drybar do, these black-owned salons offer just one service: a blow-dry or a silk press. White will be sure to point out that Paralee Boyd is a silk press-specific institution. “As black women, we’ve invented a process of our own, but there’s no box for it yet,” White says.
A silk press typically involves using a hot comb or flat iron after blow-drying to “press” textured hair into a silky smooth style. Brushing is done with a hair dryer and a round brush. “You can call it a rash bar if you want, but we’re a silk press parlor,” said Bronx native Ebony Knight, owner of Textured Press. “There is a difference between [the two]. That’s what I want women to understand – it’s not the same and it’s intentional.”