One thing legislators in Maryland can apparently agree on: The importance of blow-dries.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 830, colloquially known as the Drybar Blowout License Bill, creating the first “blowout-only” cosmetology license in the country.
Drybar, the chain of blow-dry-only salons cropping up around the region, helped shepherd the bill through the Maryland legislature, where it passed 133 to 4 in the House and 44 to 2 in the Senate.
Under the new rules, which take effect Oct. 1, Maryland will offer limited licenses to applicants who have completed 350 hours of cosmetology training — compared with the 1,500 hours required for a full cosmetology license.
This is the second time Drybar, which was founded in 2010 in Newport Beach, Calif., has ushered in legislation in Maryland. Two years ago, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 137, otherwise known as “the Drybar bill,” allowing salons in Montgomery County to serve wine or beer by the glass.
Both pieces of legislation were introduced by Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), a regular at Drybar’s Bethesda location, which opened in 2012. The company now has five local stores, including outposts in Dupont Circle and at the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall.
Kelly says legislators were generally happy to support the measure — in part, because they’d dealt with Drybar before.
“With the first bill, people kind of chuckled. It was like, ‘Why on earth would you need a glass of wine while you’re getting your hair done?’ Well, the men chuckled. The women understood completely,” Kelly said.
“But by the time the second bill came around, it was obvious that this was a company we want to be able to support,” she added. “This is about jobs. It’s an economic issue.”
Drybar executives say they plan to lobby for similar measures in Virginia and the District, as well as in Massachusetts and California. Founder Alli Webb recently talked with The Washington Post about the company’s license in Maryland and its plans for the future.
How did Drybar come up with the idea for the blowout-only license?
We have been dreaming of a bill like this forever. As you can imagine, because we’re open seven days a week and 12 hours a day, we need a lot of stylists — on average, between 50 and 80, in each shop. We have 60 shops around the country and about 3,000 stylists.
You have to be a licensed cosmetologist to work at Drybar, and for many people, that’s a very expensive and time-consuming commitment. I’ve met so many people who are on the fence about going to cosmetology school or are really talented at hair but don’t want to necessarily make the commitment to a full year of cosmetology school. This bill opens up so much opportunity for them — and for us.
How long did it take to get the legislation drafted and passed?
The idea of this has been in the works for a long time, but it took about a year from start to finish.
What would this new license look like?
There is still some gray area in how the law will be written, but the idea is that you can go to beauty school for a limited time and obtain this blowout license.
In terms of curriculum, that’s the next step for us. We have great relationships with so many beauty schools, and we’re hoping to get them behind us to help us do this as well. We’ll know more in the coming weeks.
After you’ve completed those 350 hours, then you can basically test through the state — of course now just in Maryland, but eventually in more states — to get your blowout license.
And of course, anybody who has that license will still have to go through our rigorous, weeks-long training to do it the Drybar way.
Who is the target demographic? Who are you hoping will apply for this license?
I think there is a niche for people who don’t necessarily want to go through the whole thing. I hear it from my stylists all the time, that they’re just not interested in cut and color. And I certainly understand that because blowouts and styling and finishing were always what I really identified with most as a hair stylist. Through Drybar, I have found there are a lot of other stylists out there who really love that side of the business. My hope is that we’ll be able to tap into even more of that talent.
Do you see the flip side of that? Is it difficult to recruit stylists at Drybar because they want to do much more than just blowouts?
Definitely. It goes both ways. We have a lot of stylists — probably about half of them — who work for us and also work for a full-service cut-and-color salon, so they’re keeping one foot in both doors. But then I hear from other stylists how much they love working at Drybar because it’s fun because it’s a little less pressure.
Why did you start in Maryland?
Courtney Barfield, our national field manager, used to be our store manager in Bethesda, so she has a lot of relationships in Maryland. So many delegates and lobbyists have been coming to Drybar for blowouts, and Courtney has made friends with many of them. Two of them — Ashlie Bagwell [a lobbyist for Harris Jones & Malone] and Ariana Kelly have been really helpful.
These women have loved Drybar, and that’s really helped.
Do you plan to lobby for similar rules in other states and jurisdictions?
We are. That’s something we’re working on now.
This isn’t the first time you’ve lobbied for — and gotten — a bill to pass into law in Maryland. Could you talk a little bit about your first bill, which allowed salons in Montgomery County to serve wine and beer, and how that came about?
Similar to this, we felt strongly that women should be able to enjoy a glass of champagne or white wine while getting their hair done, just like what you’d see at a high-end retail store. Thousands and thousands of stores do this. It’s not anything new, and we’ve done it in most of our shops.
But is a little bit of a gray area in terms of the law across the country.
Everyone enjoys sipping a glass of wine while they’re getting their hair done, so we worked with Ariana Kelly to get this through the legislature. Similar to [this time around], Gov. O’Malley signed the bill into law and designated July 1 “Buttercup Day” (named after the shade of yellow of Drybar’s blow-dryers).
What’s your signature blowout style?
It’s a mix between messy and beachy. I like messy hair.