Instagram has transcended its initial photo-sharing purpose and joins other social-media sites in serving as a search engine for users. Coupled with the rise in entrepreneurial endeavors in the Black community, the app has birthed a renaissance of young Black creators starting and running businesses their own way. Many Black hairstylists have found not only equity but varying levels of celebrity by bringing their talents to Instagram. Acting as an interactive portfolio of sorts, Instagram makes it easier for potential clients to find stylists around them and see pictures of their work within seconds. “I really respect the hustle,” says Jordan Triplett, an Atlanta native living in L.A. who has booked several appointments with stylists she found on Instagram. “You know these are some young entrepreneurial women that are taking control of something they’re great at and making a career out of it.”
A quick hashtag search of your city followed by keywords like braider or sew-ins will lead you to hundreds, if not thousands, of posts from independent stylists, most of whom have booking instructions in their bios. However, these bookings can come with a set of drawbacks. Traditionally, when you make an appointment at a salon, you can expect to have your hair properly prepped for whatever service you’re receiving; washing, conditioning, and blow-drying are more or less the standard. This is often not the case when booking a hair service through Instagram. Extensive lists of rules and policies are the norm, and you’re likely required to arrive at your appointment with your hair washed and blow-dried — and, in some instances, even pressed.
Then comes the dreaded “Hey, boo!” or “Hey, babe!” text — the precursor to an inconvenient modification or a complete cancellation of an appointment you booked and prepared for in advance. These texts usually come the day of your appointment, leaving you with few options to find another service provider given that most stylists book up weeks to months in advance. In short, if the stylist decides to cancel on you, you are up ish creek sans paddle.
Triplett knows this scenario all too well. Most recently, she had a stylist cancel on her after waking up at 6:30 a.m., driving an hour, and waiting 40 minutes outside the appointment’s location. (While stylists often implement fees when clients arrive late to an appointment, clients are almost never offered a discount when stylists are late.) Choosing not to engage in a back-and-forth with the stylist she booked, Triplett asked for her deposit back, plus the $20 late fee the stylist would have charged if she were late. “For me, it was just principle,” Triplett says. “I’ve driven out here and you have a laundry list of rules for me, but then there’s nothing for you canceling on me after I’ve wasted my time.” Since many independent stylists don’t work in a typical salon environment, the only standards they have to maintain are the ones they set themselves. “They have a lot of autonomy, and it’s unchecked,” Triplett continues, “so we, as the consumers, are very powerless. There just needs to be some balance so that as consumers, we feel valued.”
There is often little customers can do if they receive subpar treatment, aside from refusing to go back. However, since Instagram provides a steady influx of new customers eager to book, the stylists are not reliant on repeat customers. “A lot of stylists are doing it for quick money,” says Morgan Jackson, an independent hairstylist in Houston who specializes in braided styles. “They’re not really caring if that person is coming back because they know that they can get another client.”
Entrepreneurship is not an easy journey for anyone, and a lot of these stylists start out young. The level of talent they are displaying so early on is remarkable, but a lack of work and life experience outside hair could be fueling this client-consumer dissonance we are seeing. “If you were taught at a regular job how clients work and how people think, you would know that customer service goes a long way with your business,” says Jackson. Booking a hair appointment should not induce feelings of panic or anxiety, but trying new stylists found on Instagram does leave you vulnerable to cancellations and rescheduling.
So what can clients do? Jackson’s recommendation is simple and one that many already swear by: When you find a good stylist who does your hair well and respects your time, stick with them.