That was then. Alabama barbers worked largely without regulation since the 1980s, until recently.
Under a new law, barbers have until Feb. 28 to become licensed by the state Board of Cosmetology and Barbering. State officials say there’s no penalty if they don’t, however, and other regulations in the new law will take time to implement.
The legislation, approved by the Legislature last May, puts barbering under the control of the board, requires barbers and barber shops to be licensed and calls for inspections to ensure shops are sanitary.
“It’s something that’s been long overdue,” Jackson said Wednesday.
Jackson, owner of Jackson's Unisex Barber Shop on West 15th Street, was appointed to the seven-member Board of Cosmetology and Barbering by Gov. Robert Bentley last year.
The 62-year-old barber said he can recall when barbering was deregulated in the 1980s, and shops popped up everywhere, many with untrained people wielding scissors.
Changes to state law in 1999 broadened the definition of barbering to include things such as chemical hair treatments and coloring, services typically only offered by trained and licensed cosmetologists.
Requiring licensure will help put the public at ease, he said, knowing any given barber shop meets state standards.
“It’s not to run anybody out of business, but bring more people into the business. Back like it should be. More professional,” Jackson said.
The regulations took effect Sept. 1, 2013. Shops were to be licensed by Dec. 31, and individual barbers have until Feb. 28.
Barbers practicing prior to the law taking effect are exempt from new training requirements. New barbers must now complete one year of schooling or spend two years apprenticing under a licensed barber.
The new law also requires extra licensing. Every barber in the state must purchase an $80, two-year license, and every barber shop in Alabama must buy a two-year license for $150.
Bobbie Green, owner of Green’s Barber Shop in Anniston, worries that the changes are too burdensome, and the licensing fees unnecessary.
“We’re going to try to abolish it,” Green said by phone Wednesday, speaking of barbers who oppose the new law.
The inspections will be intrusive, he said, and could prevent others from entering the business.
Green, 78, started cutting hair at the age of 13. His shop doesn’t offer chemical hair treatments or coloring — services offered by some barbers that spurred state officials to craft the new legislation.
Those changes suit many cosmetologists just fine, however, said David Martin, co-owner of Beauty Enterprise, a cosmetology school on Noble Street.
“It’s a good thing,” Martin said, adding that requiring barbers to meet the same standards as cosmetologists evens the playing field.
Without the regulation, Martin said, anyone could buy a business license to become a barber and offer the services of a cosmetologist — coloring and chemical hair treatments.
“What that could mean for the public is bad chemical services, bad haircuts and bad sanitation,” Martin said.
Martin said his students approve of the new regulations because it means their approximately $4,000 tuition for the school’s year-long course won’t be wasted.
“One of their main concerns was, ‘Why do we have to pay all this money for tuition when they (barbers) don’t have to?’ ” Martin said.
“That’s what we’ve heard for many years, and you can’t argue with that,” said Bob McKee, executive director of Board of Cosmetology and Barbering. “I don’t particularly like regulation, but in this business personal service is important.”
McKee said state officials were concerned over customer complaints about barbers performing services they weren’t trained for, and the new law fixes that.
And that’s just fine with Jackson.
“This is my passion,” Jackson said. “I’m glad to see young men and women in the business know they can be granted their license. That they can make a living doing it.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.