Hair braiders free to practice in Wisconsin

New law makes it clear natural braiders don’t need state license

July 9, 2021

Hair braiders in Wisconsin can finally practice their craft without acquiring hundreds of hours of expensive, unrelated education or secure state permission. Gov. Tony Evers yesterday signed a bipartisan bill clarifying that natural hair braiders do not need to obtain an occupational license to practice in Wisconsin. The Badger Institute has advocated for this change for years and submitted written testimony to Senate and Assembly Committees earlier this year.

The bill was authored by Rep. Sheila Stubbs (D-Madison), Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) and Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma).

“This new law removes unnecessary barriers to entry for natural hair braiders who want to practice oropen a business in Wisconsin,” said Julie Grace, policy analyst at the Badger Institute. “Hair braiding is a safe practice. Requiring a government-issued license – and hundreds of hours of costly training and education requirements – is simply unnecessary and overly burdensome.”

According to the Institute for Justice (IJ), 30 other states exempt hair braiders from licensure. But the requirements in Wisconsin have been ambiguous, and aspiring or practicing hair braiders were sometimes told they must complete 1,500 hours of training from a licensed cosmetology school, a requirement that takes at least 10 months and costs thousands of dollars. The new law states that such requirements are unnecessary.

A review by IJ also found that customer complaints against hair braiders are extremely rare. They examined nine states and Washington, D.C., and found only six consumer complaints against hair braiders over a seven-year period. None of these were verified by a licensing board.

“Occupational licensing requirements are too often used to fence people out of professions,” said Grace. “The number of licensed occupations over the past few decades have exploded, and people with fewer resources are hardest hit. We’re encouraged by this bipartisan measure that will have a real impact on many women who are simply trying to make a living in their desired field. We encourage the Legislature to continue to eliminate or revise other unnecessary and confusing regulations.”

Read more about the Badger Institute’s work on occupational licensing and regulation here.