Today, only nine states still require braiders to obtain a full cosmetology license, down from 29 states in 2005.
Braiders are regulated as hairstylists, hairdressers or cosmetologists, leading to extremely onerous course requirements. These range from a 1,000 hour hairstylist course in Wyoming to 2,000 hours needed to become a licensed cosmetologist in Idaho and Montana.
One in four American workers require a government license to work.
Occupational licensing laws in all 50 states restrict entry into hundreds of professions. In the 1950s, less than five percent of the workforce was required to obtain a government license to do their job. Today, that number is roughly one in four—a fivefold increase. There are now more than 1,100 different occupations that require a government license, registration or certification in at least one state.
The Fourteenth Amendment prevents the government from arbitrarily interfering with people’s ability to earn a living in their chosen occupation.
At a minimum, the government may only restrict braiders’ rights to run their businesses when there is some “rational basis” for that restriction. To demonstrate that rational basis, the government must show a reasonable connection between the restrictions in question and public health and safety. But there is no threat to public health or safety presented by braiding hair—and certainly not any threat that can justify hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of irrelevant cosmetology classes that can cost $20,000 or more.