You can’t mention wigs and weaves without eliciting a chorus of snickers from our readers, but the reality is black women wear them, love them and spend big money to own them. The business of hair extensions is a $9 billion (yes, billion) dollar industry with black women doing much of the spending and little of the selling.

The disparity is borne from the Korean monopoly on distribution. It’s not that black female sellers aren’t there, it’s that they’re systematically shut out from acquiring product to sell in their stores by Korean distributors, according to The Florida Courier.

“Getting hair is a huge hurdle, because the distributors are Korean and most times they will only sell to other Koreans. White said, “I have to buy hair through exchange. It is rough, but if I don’t increase my hair game, I won’t be in business next year. It is a cold business in terms of the hair game.

Johnson said that some Korean distributors say they will not sell to stores within so many miles from their other clients, but when she tried to have hair sent to her Aliquippa location, which has no other beauty supply stores, they still would not let her purchase it. She said one distributor also told her the hair she wanted was no longer being sold, but when she went to a local Korean beauty supply store, that same hair was there. When she inquired about it she was told that a local store had told the distributor that if he sold to her, he would no longer buy from him. She said she agrees with location rules, ‘but there needs to be regulations. One Korean store should not be able to dictate the entire industry in one area.”

Whether you personally choose to wear weaves or not, you can agree that every industry, especially a billion dollar one, should be regulated.

And it also makes sense that black women, who make up the majority of consumers, are represented on the other side of the counter.

White has a solution for the current state of the weave business, that reads as a call action to black business owners:

White said Koreans succeed in the industry because they support each other, but the Black community does not. “They (Koreans) have the relationships and work within, we laugh at them when they are living together, then they break through and have four stores in our community. But we won’t help each other out. It is a culture thing.” None of the other Black-owned beauty supply stores work together to pool their resources.

What are your thoughts, Clutchettes? Are Korean distributors unfairly shutting out black business owners? Is the solution for entrepreneurs of color to work together and pool their resources? Discuss.


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  • silkynaps

    It is a little disgusting how we have allowed Koreans to corner the market on beauty supply stores.

    And I probably shouldn’t care, but Koreans having a lock on that industry doesn’t disappoint me as much as Black women running around with Korean hair stapled to their heads in the first place. Why not take that money and invest in cultivating and rocking one’s own luxurious mane?

    If I went bald today, I’d wear a scarf on my head before I’d duct tape someone else’s hair to it. But that’s just me.

    • entro

      There was a time when the norm was our own hair pressed, permed or natural,with cuts and styles that were attractive and creative. We need to get back to those days for many reasons, this right here being one of them. The weaves have gotten so out of hand with many of them looking very fake and not becoming its almost laughable and I just don’t understand why we are buying into this

    • Sanura Hart

      I agree entro, I don’t what happened with black women not caring much for their real hair. How sad.

    • Gigi Young

      Er…black women (and white women for that matter) have always worn false hair. Flip through old issues of Ebony from the 50s and you’ll find wig ads. I have magazines from the 1910s–geared to white British women–full of ads for wigs and hair pieces. A sewing blogger I follow scanned photos of hair pieces in a black magazine from the early 1900s. So this whole “we wore our own hair back in the day” is a myth.

    • danielle brom

      Gigi Young thanks for tell people the truth

    • ?!?

      @Gigi Young- Yes women have always worn fake hair, but black women have taken it to a whole nother level. I see too many girls walking around with somebody else’s hair on their head, and it looks so obviously fake. I do see some girls with decent weaves, but there are way more women walking around with horrible weaves. It is laughable. I can remember when only black folks knew it was a weave. Now everyone knows it’s fake. I saw a girl yesterday with a waist length blonde weave. It was so hideous and fake.

      Too many black women cannot afford to get a good weave, and they should just wear their own hair whether that be permed or natural. And the majority of black women did wear their own hair back in the day. Now it seems like the majority of black women are wearing a weave. Celebrities wear fake hair a lot, but Beyonce can afford to get a nice weave. A lot of women can’t pay to get a weave that looks natural like that. Not only is it just putting the weave in, it’s maintaining it. Some of these girls won’t even take care of the weave that they put in their head!

    • Kacey

      I totally agree.

      The Koreans are getting rich off black women’s insecurities, and laughing at us at the same time. They don’t respect their customers at all, and view black people as inferior and disgraceful.

      I’m shocked by how prolific weaves and wigs are. It seems like if you were to randomly grab 10 black women off the street, 7 of them will be sporting a wig or a weave of some sort. Just check YouTube – the number of black so-called beauty “gurus” giving tips and promoting wigs and weaves is incredible.

      It’s so sad because we’ve bought into a beauty standard that makes many of us look ridiculous.

    • have you had a particular experience where a Korean store owner laughed at you, or disrespected you?

      if so, i don’t think blasting an entire ethnic group because of one jerk is the answer. i know a lot of Koreans who have had bad experiences with Black people, and they refuse to believe we are all like that. i think we should do the same.

    • Dami

      I have witnessed a Korean business owner call a black customer a monkey. I don’t know the specifics of what she did to get him angry but it does not warrant calling a patron such a name or if I might generalize that view of his to all his black customers.

    • joyce

      Just check YouTube – the number of black so-called beauty “gurus” giving tips and promoting wigs and weaves is incredible.I am beautiful woman and I love good man…..inter racial romance is my dream… so I joined —blackwhitеPlanet.С0M—–it’s where to- connect with beautiful and excellent people! My only hope is that we all get angry enough to put the Koreans out of business. Imagine what we could be with an extra 9 billion smartly invested?

  • Picabo

    Messages like this need to be broadcast far and wide among black women. I know everyone likes what they like but we have to little to be spending so much. My only hope is that we all get angry enough to put the Koreans out of business. Imagine what we could be with an extra 9 billion smartly invested?

  • LKJ

    I quit shopping at the Korean hair stores in my area a couple of years ago when Michael Baisden started talking about how the hair game is set up to exclude black entrepreneurs. Unfortunately in my area that means no more beauty supply stores, all my stuff now has to come from Target, or Walmart but I do buy black owned.

    • Yeah, I try to stay out of Asian-owned beauty supply stores. I’ve tried to find black-owned beauty supply stores in Chicago but I can’t find any.

    • omfg

      is it really that hard to avoid their stores? seriously.

    • leelah

      I think one of the factors is that there is only 3 popular businesses n the black community, and they’re usually owned by foreigners. we only see bodegas, liquor stores, or beauty supply stores. When talking about this issue we have to talk about how being stuck in the hood with the fear of crime is not part of the american dream for black people. crime killed our entrepeneurial spirit

  • jamesfrmphilly

    wear your hair nappy and keep your money……

    • Echi

      I hear you but alot of black beauty products, especially black owned hair products are sold in Korean beauty supply stores. It is only as of recent that you can now find a wider variety of brands made by Black companies in Walmart and Target. I guess buying online is another option, but I find that to be an inconvenience. I loc my hair and yeah, I could go the homemade berry juice and kumbahyah route, but it’s just not for me and my busy lifestyle. When I was an undergrad, the African American Cultural Center gave students discounts for patronizing the one black owned beauty shop in our neighborhood. However, the Korean shop literally across the street had a wider variety, was cheaper, and had longer hours of operation, which for me was the deal breaker.

    • Val

      “However, the Korean shop literally across the street had a wider variety, was cheaper, and had longer hours of operation, which for me was the deal breaker.”

      I’m not attacking you but, maybe the reason that the Black store didn’t have the variety, longer hours of operation or cheaper prices was because everyone was going to the Korean place which brought in enough revenue for them to be able to offer all of that. And the Black store never had a chance to compete.

    • jamesfrmphilly

      so when is it that we stop making excuses and do for self?

    • omfg

      with regard to prices, you know what sometimes happens?

      sometimes a business will lower prices just to drive the competition out of business and then raise them once they are the only game in town.

      i wouldn’t be surprised if there was price-fixing going on between the korean beauty supply places. they believe in working together to help each other get over.

  • Kam

    I learned about 10 years ago when I went natural. I personally didn’t like the way I was treated at the local Korean beauty supply store and this just made me stop going there finally. My mother still goes. They’ve gotten much better in their behavior and even carry some brands made by Black people but my hair doesn’t need all that product. For a brief moment a Black owned beauty supplier opened up in my neighborhood. They had good products too, but she soon went out of business. Her store carried better quality hair products, but in a neighborhood where Blue Magic grease reigned I guess she couldn’t last.

    There used to be an organization called BOBSA (Black owned beauty supply association), but when I tried to find their videos for this comment I couldn’t find them anymore. I guess they are defunct. I did find a info about a man named Devin Robinson who owns the Beauty Supply Institute, an organization that helps Blacks open beauty supply stores.

    I’m really happy though that Black women have taken to online media and created their own lines and products. I think this gives them a lot more control.

    • Fit_MissC

      I was thinking about BOBSA as I read this article and know of the video you are speaking about. A few years ago I worked at a natural hair store and the owner introduced me to BOBSA. I was shocked to see how the American beauty supply industry is run by Koreans. In Toronto, where I live, the store I frequented for extensions was black-owned and that was all I knew throughout high school. About 2 years ago Asian-owned (not sure if they’re Korean) stores sprang up and not just small mom and pop stores, huge warehouse style stores. When I went into one nearby I was disappointed to see that it was OK for the black girls to be on the floor selling and serving but not OK for them to be behind the register. It pisses me off so much that they hire the people that use the product to sell it but don’t trust them enough to cash out their customers. There’s only one store that I see that has black girls behind the counter but I think they are an anomaly. That black-owned hair store I went to in my younger years sadly closed around the same time also. The issues the industry is experiencing in the States are sadly being imported into Canada.

    • Candi83

      Same here Fit_MissC!! I was in a beauty supply store in Pickering and I was kind of shocked to see that it was Koreans running the store. I’m thinking to myself, say if I ask question about the products or have they tried a product in the store, they won’t be able to answer my questions. I’m not racist but we need to take back the black hair market.

    • Eyes Wide Shut

      When I was in D.C., I went into a Korean BBS. A black main came into to the store with damaged relaxed hair. He asked the Korean lady what should he use to repair his hair. She recommended a no-lye relaxer! As a chemistry major, lye and no-lye are the same basic caustic agents, it’s just that one uses sodium hydroxide (lye) while the other may use another hydroxide like Potassium hydroxide.Potassium and sodium are the same group on the periodic table of elements, so therefore they share the same properties. I politely told the man the best way to treat his damaged permed hair was to cut off and start from scratch with no chemicals. He rolled his eyes at me and took the “No-lye” relaxer that the Korean lady recommended!

      The problem is not only the racist Koreans that have locked out blacks from owning beauty supply stores, it’s also that many blacks do not know how to take care of what God gave them on their head!!!!

      The more blacks that are educated about natural hair care (or just proper hair care overall), there will be a HUGE step in economic independence from Asians, Arabs, and other ethnic groups that economically rape black communities!

    • Sanura Hart

      same thing happening in Mississauga and Brampton. What a shame