Michigan Barbers Bob, Weave Around Punishing Regulations

by | Nov 27, 2023 | Opinion

By Jarrett Skorup

State licensing laws require a person to perform hundreds of hours of training, pay fees and pass a test just to cut, style, wash, braid or do other services with hair in Michigan.

Barbers need 1,800 hours of training, while cosmetologists need 1,500. (State lawmakers apparently value men’s hair more than women’s.) The total number of hours needed to cut hair legally in Michigan is more than the total educational hours required for lawyers.

Prior to 2020, these hours needed to take place in one of Michigan’s few barber colleges. That is, students mostly sat and learned barbering by traveling to a physical college. This law was changed in 2021, and student barbers became free to learn their skills either through college or as an apprentice in a shop under the supervision of a licensed barber. Cosmetologists have a similar apprenticeship-type program.

The change in the law made it much easier for people to become barbers and cosmetologists. It allowed students to gain skills and earn money rather than wracking up student debt. As those who have worked in the skilled trades know, there is only so much that can be learned in a classroom. People need to go into the field and do the job in order to gain skills.

The current law is still quite limited. It only allows barber and cosmetology shops to have one or two apprenticeships at a time. The newly proposed Senate Bill 673 would raise that to 10.

Currently, Michigan laws for those cutting hair are widely violated. More Michiganders make a living by cutting and styling hair than the number the state reports as properly licensed. In fact, the licensing laws are so strict that nearly everyone in Michigan has likely violated them. (Cutting or braiding hair, even for free, is illegal without a license.)

Michigan should ask whether its current barber and cosmetology licensing law makes sense. Michigan stands out as placing one of the highest burdens in the country on barbers: Our state requires more than six times the training and hundreds of dollars more than the state of New York. And cosmetologists in the Great Lakes State need 50% more hours than those in larger states like California and Texas.

It’s very unlikely citizens are being protected from anything because of mandates this stringent. Regularly reviewing occupational licensing laws should be the norm in Michigan, just as it is in other states.

Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.

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