OAKLAND, Calif. - Beginning January 1, a new California law takes effect banning discrimination based on having a natural hairstyle.
It's known as the Crown Act, and was passed this summer.
At Charles Blades Barber Spa in Oakland, there's a buzz in the room and it's not from the clippers. It's about California's new law banning discrimination based on natural hairstyles.
“It's good and gives women and people of color, not just African-Americans, but people of color, the opportunity just to express their culture.”
California Senator Holly Mitchell -- who sports a natural hairstyle -- introduced the legislation, which was supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
For years, people of color, primarily black women, say they've felt forced to adopt a more European hairstyle in order to get job opportunities.
“Growing up in an age of women's lib and strong women do your thing, there was still always that ‘but,’ your image needs to be very clean in that your hair has to be a certain neat way, i.e. straighten it,” said Karen Barnes.
And hairstyle conformity also comes with a potential cost to one’s health.
“I was reading in the news recently that there are studies that hair lye and hair straighteners are not just damaging to your hair, because we always knew that, but that it could cause other types of immunity deficiencies,” said Barnes.
Stylists say they've had clients over the years who've made certain stylistic choices to fit into the corporate mold.
“Oh yeah, yeah, I deal with that all the time. I deal with that all the time. But it's changing though, it's changing,” said Blades.
The new law means people with twists, locks, braids and the like can no longer be discriminated against based on their hairstyle.
In barber shops and salons throughout California it means more clients will have more options to express who they are, and be their authentic selves.
“I don't expect to see because of this law a lot of women necessarily busting out of the accepted norms, but I think that it's something that at least we're starting to admit that we want this to be accepted,” said Barnes.
California may have been the first state to pass such a law, but New York quickly followed suit.
And the two states likely won’t be the last.
Twelve other states are considering similar legislation.