Tenn. legislature to consider combining barber, cosmetology licenses

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Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would change the way barbers and cosmetologists are certified, by combining licenses for the two crafts and eliminating the specialty concentration that is practiced in nearly every other state.

“It’s messing with our industry as a whole,” Charles Robinson, master barber instructor and owner of Hairforce Barber Shop and Beauty Salon, said. “Every barber strives to be a master barber and they take pride in what they do. For you to come in and try to combine the cosmetologists and the barbers, two different worlds, two different attitudes, as one, is crazy, and we want to know what’s the reason behind it.”

Currently, barbers and cosmetologists must complete 1,500 hours of training in order to earn a license in their respected track. Under this proposed bill, they would have to divide their time between the two fields, with students spending less time developing a mastery at their craft. It will also force those who already have a license in Tennessee to fulfill 300 additional hours of requirements for the other side, more than two months for a full-time student.

“It takes them out of the shop and it’s money out of your pocket,” Jerry Daugherty, owner of Jerry’s Barbershop in Fountain City, said. “I just feel like you shouldn’t mess with something that’s not broken. It’s an age-long profession and we’ve been doing it this way for a long time.”

The other concern barbers and cosmetologists have is not being able to transfer their license to other states, with a number of states saying that they would not honor a hybrid license. 

“Nobody will be able to move, and it will significantly deter people from moving here because their license won’t be good anywhere else,” Bianca Dyon, Master Academy of Barbering owner, said. 

Talk of the bill is not only worrying Tennessee barbers and barber shop owners, but also beauty school educators. 

“Combining the industry really kills the barber industry in this state,” Dyon said. “It takes away the uniqueness, the traditions that the barber industry has had. Me being one of the few barber school owners across the state, we would shut down, because for us to come into compliance with a cosmetology school, that’s $150,000 plus in remodeling.”

The bill would require barber schools and shops to purchase cosmetology tools and equipment, and cosmetology schools and salons to load up on the barbering items.

Robinson points out that these are changes that will be easier for larger salons to accommodate and benefit from and will only put a heavy burden and create more competition for the hundreds of mom and pop shops throughout the state. 

“For you to combine it to make it easier for all these big companies to come in and try to do what we do when they’re not even built to do what we do… there’s a difference between having the paperwork and being able to do what you say you can do,” Robinson said. “And all this bill is going to do is give them the paperwork to do what we’ve mastered, and it’s not right.”

Adam Brown, president of the Tennessee School of Beauty, also expressed opposition to the proposal.

“I wanted to reach out to you in hopes that you would oppose HB 1809,” Brown wrote in a letter to Tennessee Senator Richard Briggs. “I feel if this bill passes it will not only do great harm to our industry, but will be potentially dangerous/harmful to the consumer as well.”

The National Association of Barber Boards of America is also against the proposed legislation, saying that a Tennessee hybrid license would create unnecessary barriers for license holders.

““Barbers and cosmetologists are licenses separately in all states except New Jersey, which only offers a cosmetologist-hairstylist license,” the board wrote in a letter to the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee. “The proposed training of 1500 hours to be inclusive of both barbering and cosmetology education and training will not meet the licensing requirement for barbers in any state other than New York (600 hours, no chemicals), providing the New York Board accepts the curriculum and hours associated with the barber training portion in Tennessee.”

The house version of this bill, HB 1809, has already been passed on to the Finance, Ways and Means committee. 

One of the listed sponsors of this bill, Rep. David Hawk said he is not spearheading this legislation.

“This is an initiative presented to the Legislature at the request of Governor Haslam,” he wrote in an email.

The representative propelling the bill is Rep. Dawn White. She has yet to return a request for comment.

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