The author, Jessika Ward

The author, Jessika Ward

I am often reminded how powerful Black hair is through my experiences with my own hair. My hair, like a tree, goes through seasons of change—transforming from my natural fro to a twist-out to knotless braids to cornrows to sew-ins to a wash-'n'-go to straight and back to my natural fro. Every time I schedule an appointment with my stylist (who has now become my homegirl), go to the hair store to buy packs of hair that will be sewn into my real hair, or surf the web to order hair bundles that inevitably cost more than $300, I'm doing it for beauty—but I'm not doing it without thought.

For me, each hairstyle enhances my look. Most women feel the same way about their own hairstyles. However, while sitting in my stylist’s chair and enduring the pain of each braid that is at the base of any hairstyle I choose, I am also thinking about what white people are going to think of me, since I need to maintain my livelihood.

White female coworkers sometimes feel they must give me a compliment, then follow up with a question.“I love your hair. How long did it take? How did they do that? Can I touch it?”

Yes, women often compliment one another on hair, makeup and clothes. Still, this attention to Black hair feels awkward and inappropriate, although I do believe their remarks usually come from a good place. But when white women and white men have control over my professional success and my paycheck, it’s not just about inappropriate comments. I have had my TV journalism goals derailed (hopefully temporarily) partly because of biases about my kinks and curls.

I want people to know that being Black is a rich cultural experience, but also a constant battle in which I must think about each decision I make—from how I behave when I leave the house to the way I decide to wear my hair. I’d like to encourage people who don’t have Black hair to become more accepting of hair that is different, and to think before speaking about the curls, “locs” and textures in front of you.

It’s been a challenge for me—and for many Black people—to find the perfect hairstylist in Sarasota and Manatee because we have a small Black population. I fear the idea of anyone who doesn’t have my hair texture putting a comb, brush or any other styling tool in my hair.

So here are a few salons that people in Sarasota and Bradenton often recommend to people who have my type of hair. These Black stylists not only service Black clients, but also take care of men and women of all races and hair textures. They are powerful in my world and tasked with the difficult job of making Black folks feel culturally appropriate while at the same time reflecting how we want to show up in the world.

Moreland's Hair Cafe Salon & Spa

4911 14th St. W., Suite 104, Bradenton, (941) 448-0437

Cindy Moreland has been styling women’s hair in Sarasota and Bradenton since she was 12 years old, starting as an assistant to her mother, Audrey Moreland. She washed and shampooed clients and helped her mother prep customers for their services. Her mother passed away last year, and Moreland, now an award-winning stylist herself, has taken over Moreland’s Hair Cafe Salon & Spa in Bradenton.

“I was well-groomed at a very young age in this high-demand profession, which has allowed me to embrace my passion. I love the beauty industry,” says Moreland. “I’ve had the opportunity to encourage many young ladies to attend beauty school to receive their cosmetology licenses. Most of the ladies that I encourage are now very successful.”

Moreland has a diverse clientele and styles all hair textures—"curly, straight, kinky, wavy,” she says. She also specializes in signature style cutting, dreadlocks, chemical relaxers, perms, hair care treatments, hair color and natural hair services.

The salon also offers waxing services, eyelash extensions and relaxation spa services. Moreland runs her business off the basic principle that “image is everything.” It’s important that clients “always love their hair,” she says.

Sweetest Little Salon

437 Cortez Road West, Bradenton, (941) 212-0096, Instagram: @sweetestlittlesalon

The Sweetest Little Salon is a full-service, boutique beauty salon located in Bradenton. Owned and operated by Ashley Briggs, a 2009 Aveda Institute graduate who has been styling hair for 12 years, the salon specializes in blowouts, silk presses, braids, weaves, deep conditioning, hair repair, relaxers and Olaplex treatments. Clients are welcomed with a clean, open space with chic decor.

“Every stylist commits to giving each client an enjoyable experience from start to finish. No matter the service, we are dedicated to enhancing the beauty in you,” says Briggs. “Our goal is healthy hair for all who enter the salon. We are continuously serving not only our clients, but our community. Throughout the year, we give back to Manatee and Sarasota counties through a number of different volunteer and not-for-profit events.”

Mankind Barbershop

1274 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 343-2565

Dennis "Hootie" Ford does a deep-conditioning treatment on Cliffany Johnson

Image: Gigi Ortwein

 

Mankind Barbershop opened its doors in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, but owner Dennis Ford—also knows as Hootie—says business has been great.

Those who sit in one of Ford’s chairs can expect to leave the shop with the hairstyle of their choice, but most importantly a crisp edge and a buttery fade. The barbershop specializes in haircuts, beard trims, shaves and children's haircuts. Ford picked up his clippers for the first time when he was a kid. He began by cutting and styling his own hair and the hair of family and friends. He obtained his professional license 13 years ago and cuts all types of hair.

While Ford doesn’t like to brag, if you visit Mankind Barbershop’s Facebook page, you will see great reviews from customers who say, “I love this place. This is the only place I’ll go. The prices are affordable, and the cuts are always top-notch. Highly recommend.”

Ethnic Hair 

7614 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, (941) 355-5771

Owned and operated by Rosalind Massie, Ethnic Hair has been in business for 25 years. Massie began as a shampoo girl at the well-known Jetson’s Unisex Hair Salon in Newtown at the age of 25, and later learned how to cut and style under the mentorship of April Thomas, who worked at Jetson’s and was Massie’s hairstylist at the time. It’s been a 30-year career for Massie.

 “I later attended cosmetology school, where I learned the foundations of hair care. I worked at Lou’s Hair Designers [a salon that specializes in haircuts] in Palmetto for several years,” Massie says. “That's where I mastered my craft. At 33 years of age, I successfully opened my own hair salon, Ethnic Hair, where I've been providing service to my clients for the last 25 years.”

Ethnic Hair salon is staffed with a diverse group of stylists who are able to provide services for all types of hair, but it specializes in “ethnic hair”—more specifically, short hairstyles and cutting. Massie prides herself on providing healthy hair care and exceptional customer service to her clients.

“God has kept me throughout my journey as a hairstylist and I’m thankful that I really haven’t had many challenges along the way,” said Massie.

Jetson’s Unisex Hair Salon

2741 N. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 351-6561

Jetson Grimes with a client

Image: Jenny Acheson

At some point, most little boys in Newtown will sit in Jetson Grimes' chair for a haircut and a Newtown community history lesson. Grimes, the owner of Jetson’s Unisex Hair Salon, is well known as a community organizer and leader, and his business serves as more than a salon and barbershop.

Most people who know Grimes don’t have to make an appointment to come by. The barbershop is a community gathering spot, where folks in the neighborhood stop by to talk about current events, sell food, drop off gifts and catch up on Newtown news and friends.

But don’t ignore Grimes' haircuts. This neighborhood barbershop is a full-service salon for men, women and children. The business opened its doors more than 40 years ago. The salon, which provides hair care services for the Black community, specializes in haircuts, braids, natural hair styling and more.

Luxury Barber Lounge

5527 Manatee Ave. West, Bradenton, (941) 932-6288, Instagram: @luxbarberlounge

Luxury Barber Lounge is owned by Jeremy Colston, also known as “Kapish the Barber.” Colston opened the doors to his salon in December 2020—just two days before Christmas and during the pandemic. He says he was able to keep going by having a great marketing team, faithful clientele and "the desperate need to remain freshly groomed."

“We prevailed with the mindset that if we could open the doors under such extreme circumstances, there would be no reason for this business not to flourish,” says Colston. “We soft opened two days before Christmas 2020. We have yet to host a grand opening. However, we look forward to launching our grand opening on our one-year anniversary.”

Colston has been serving the Sarasota and Bradenton area for nine years as a professional barber but also specializes in adult haircuts, children's haircuts, facial hair trims, female haircuts, male haircuts, dye, bleaching, color deposits, haircut designs, and more.

Colston believes good hair is important to everyone. When you want to impress at an event, or just want precision hairstyling that keeps you looking fresh, it’s hard to be your best when your hair is a mess, he says.

“When you’re in our chair, you’ll always be treated like a VIP. Our team will be there to provide a keen eye and a steady hand during every professional service,” he says.

Von Hartsfield Salon

1268 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 228-6572

Latrynna Brown shampoos a client

Latrynna Brown shampoos a client

Image: Gigi Ortwein

Just down the street from Mankind Barbershop is Von Hartsfield Salon. Open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., the salon is best-known for owner Latrynna Brown’s expertise in dreadlocks. Brown, named as a reputable loc stylist by Dreadlock Artist Collective, also specializes in dyes, sew-ins, natural hair and more.

Locs are not an easy style to learn or perform. Per the Dreadlock Artist Collective site: “It is imperative that you do your research, ask questions, and trust your intuition when choosing a dreadlock artist or salon."

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