It is well-known that the job situation for Black Americans is gloomy and there may not be any light at the end of any tunnel any time soon. But even for those Blacks who have not recently been displaced from the workforce, image or appearance is still key. Managing the perception is just a way many people hide the fact that they are barely making ends meet. Yet and still, keeping up appearances enhances one’s self esteem – making one ready when opportunity knocks.
In an effort to fight depression or any type of malaise, there are two areas of the body that are rarely neglected. For the Black male and Black woman, the hair is a necessity for maintaining mobility. The Black male finds himself keeping up with the latest fads like images cut into the hair of his favorite basketball team or player, popular logos, or even names. By maintaining this type of profile in the Black community, the Black male retains a feeling of social relevance or worthiness. The Black woman, on the other hand, has many options available to her that do come at a hefty price. From the customary or standard wash and set, there is the wash and perm or relaxer. The relaxer is usually a product that includes lye which, with a hot comb or straightening comb, makes the Black person’s hair limp and more manageable to comb through. Many in the Black community see a woman or young lady with a perm as one who cares for her well-being. While there are those who like being catered to, there are those who like to do the catering. Dudley’s Hair Care Products is one of the few African-American family owned hair companies remaining in the United States. Over 40 years ago, Joe L. Dudley Sr. and Eunice M. Dudley co-founded this ethnic hair care and cosmetics company. Dudley’s motto is: “In Partnership with the Professional Cosmetologist.” Many Blacks, both men and women, though predominately women, have attended the Dudley Cosmetology University in Kernersville, North Carolina to learn the Dudley technique of sustaining life and growth to the Black hair. A for-profit school, Dudley University educates many students within a two-year timeframe. Another option for the Black woman or young lady is the use of extensions or hair- weave. Both extensions and weave add length and volume to the modest or mediocre head of hair. For many students of cosmetology, participation in hair shows is a way to get their name across to business shop owners and other students. Dudley’s knows that for the Black professional or even the ones who want to be perceived as upwardly mobile, the hair is a hot commodity. Cosmetology schools are popping up all over the place. But most do not study the Black scalp or head of hair the way the Dudley’s school does.
The Dudley Beauty College located in Chicago, Illinois, provides a wider range of courses than the Dudley Cosmetology University. At the Beauty College, one learns: hair, nails, skin, and instructing. The Beauty College’s mission is to: “develop professional Cosmetologists, Estheticians, Nail Technicians and Instructors for the 21st century. DBS understands the necessity of providing quality training to all of its students.” Nails is the second area that is most in demand for the Black woman. Ask just about any Black woman and she will tell you that she would go without eating just to get her hair done or did. Appearance is everything…and so is image. In the Black community, when the appearance is right, no one has to know there’s not a dime in one’s pocket.
So, whatever the craving, there are those who teach and those who play. Just as there is a need to have services rendered, there must be someone to provide the services. No matter how down-and-out the economy is, the people of the Black community will find a way to keep their spirits high by getting their hair and nails done. While many manicure and pedicure shops are owned and operated by members of the Asian dissent, for a Black person owning his or her own beauty parlor or barbershop could be big business.