I stumbled across this salon at 4th and Mifflin in South Philly yesterday, and decided to check it out. For some reason the "Jamaican Style" on their sign led me to believe they may be able to work with my super kinky hair texture. I had just washed it and done a poor attempt at the chained braids my mom used to do, rushing to get out of the house.
"Watchoo need mami," said the morenita proprietress.
"Do you do this kind of hair?" I said, pointing at my head.
"Watchoo want done to it?"
"Two cornrows, french braids..."
"Just like it is?"
"Well yeah, except neat."
"Ok, I can do it."
"Ok," I said, trying not to look totally shocked.
I ran to the nearest ATM, which was broken of course, then went to another one and came back with $30. I could not have heard this sister right.
I sat for about 15 minutes listening to salsa and meregue as the ladies blew out varying degrees of curls into softly bumped "Oprah hair." Some hair types went straight into the styling chair, and the stylist got to work with a blow dryer and round brush. Others required washing, sitting under the dryer with giant rollers, then the blow dryer / round brush treatment. I watched the barber expertly trim a little boy's unusual hairline with an old school razor, making his hair a perfect replica of all the other little boys around the way.
As I sat, another sister came up to me and explained that blowing my hair out would make the cornrows look better. I asked her if she had to and she said no, but it will look better. Since I didn't really care if it "laid" as nicely as it might if blown out, and I'm afraid of the blow dryer anyway, I declined her well intentioned suggestion.
Finally, it was my turn in the chair. The sister I've decided is the owner, I'll call her Jessie, went to work. First she unravelled my braids. Without a hint of complaint or grunt of disapproval, she combed it out a bit and started cornrowing. With a bit of effort she made it through the first side. "Like that," she said. "Yup," I said. She was done with the second side even faster.
"You wann hairspray?" she asked. Thinking Isoplus, I asked which bottle she meant. She showed me a bottle of hairspray, you know, like the kind that holds your hair, like the kind that we used to make "stacks" and "waterfalls" and five inch high crimped bangs (or maybe that was just me) back in the day? I was feeling adventurous, and I couldn't recall at the moment what would be bad about it aside from the alcohol, so I agreed.
The product actually worked wonders. She sprayed a little on the sides, combed it up into the cornrow, held it and blowdried it for about two seconds. No more fuzziness. It laid down perfectly. Lovely. That was cool. When she sprayed my entire head, I presume to "finish" it, I was a little concerned.
Why we don't use hairspray
- It's drying
- It can get sticky, and aside from being gross attracts dirt
- It can have weird chemical reactions with other products, ie turning white
- It can flake/crumble which amounts to white stuff in your hair
Anyway, aside from a little bit of white hairspray crumblies, I'm happy with "Jessie's" handiwork. At her price - I did hear her right after all - I'll be back next week with a little bit more insight on what I want her to do - and not to do.
I'm not a big proponent of blowing out your hair with high heat - it can damage your hair and cause your hair to go permanently straight in sections (and not in a good way as you may be thinking!). But if you must, check out Jessie's - the staff is friendly, the energy is positive, it wasn't too crowded even on a Saturday afternoon, and you can even walk in and get in and out in less than an hour - assuming you want two cornrows. ;0)