ST. PETERSBURG — Black women have been trendsetters of creative hairstyles for years. From the invention of the hair straightening comb to the conscious statement of the Afro in the 1960s and 70s, to chemical perms, to the slick pompadours and intricate African hair braiding, black women have been innovators.
However, to obtain those styles many of us have sacrificed the idea of healthy hair. James Hires, stylist and proprietor of Hires Hairstyling salon, specializes in improving the condition of damaged hair and providing treatments that he feels promotes healthy hair and growth.
“Chemicals cause hair to break,” Hires stated. “The hairline is the weakest part of the hair. Braiding too tight can damage the hair follicles.”
He explained that there are also medical reasons that can inhibit the natural growth such as blood pressure, stress and an improper diet.
“Eat more vegetable if you want healthy hair,” Hires explained. “Try feasting more on whole grains, root vegetables, green, red, and yellow vegetables, chicken, turkey and fish, broiled or baked—not fried.”
Hires also said there are still urban myths that exist in the black community regarding our lack of obtaining healthy hair. “Some people say only a man [stylist] can get your hair to grow, he said laughingly. “Or only cut your hair on the full moon.”
Hires is originally from Hastings, Fla., and completed Jackson Barber College in 1971. His interest in hair was born from a nightly ritual with his grandmother.
“My grandmother used to pay me a dime to scratch her head with a small metal comb at night,” he remembered. “She always said that I had the right touch in my hands.”
When he was in the eighth grade, Hires would wash his mother’s wigs, roll them up on sponge rollers and hang them on the clothesline until they dried. He then moved on to his schoolmates’ hair.
“I was in middle and high school when I cut some fellows hair using a comb with a razor blade. I would simply lay the blade on the comb and comb through the hair until I achieved the desired length. Then I would use the blade to edge up their head,” he related.
In 1973, Hires arrived in St. Petersburg with only $50 in his pocket and a dream of success in his heart. He began his craft at local shops until one day a local hairstylist, William “Frogue” Bennett, requested he come to visit him at his shop.
“When I arrived at his shop he was busy so I had a seat and after he finished I introduced myself and what happened next was amazing,” stated Hires. “After a short introduction he offered me a job working in his upscale unisex hair salon. I was thrilled but I didn’t want to act too excited. I immediately accepted. He was so good at styling hair until I thought he was a hair engineer and designer all rolled into one.”
Hires also credits the founder of The Weekly Challenger, the late Cleveland Johnson, who he said was a special friend to him. “He once told me, ‘We must remember to reach back and help someone in our life. No individual, civilization or nation ever made it without a push or helping hand.’”
Hires is now a mentor in the 5000 Role Model program and has written two books entitled “Maximize Your Potential,” a motivational book and “Love After All,” a steamy romance novel.
He feels that his greatest honor is serving others. “When it comes to the hair profession, something important has been lost such as punctuality, integrity and honesty. I believe in high quality service, and everybody who sits in my chair is my boss.”
For the past 33 years Hires has been happily married to his high school sweetheart Dr. Barbara Hires, assistant superintendent of Pinellas County School Region 5. “Words cannot begin to express my gratitude for my wonderful life, he concluded. “I am living my dreams. Every day I pinch myself and tell myself, I’m the most blessed man on earth.”
If you’re in the market for a hairstylist who promotes healthy hair, check out Hires Hairstyling at 3427 11th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, or give him a call at 727-642-7475. Hours of operation are 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tues.-Fri.