Forget that Pinterest “bubble braid.” these sisters perfected a weaving technique so spectacular-looking, it has Allure editors stopping them on the street.
Before the three-month waitlists and clients from both coasts, there were just the five Smith sisters, who moved from Guyana to Kansas City. That was over 25 years ago, and the oldest, Glynnis, was beginning to play with a new form of braiding hair. A bubble braid, she’d call it. Her brother’s girlfriend begged her to braid her hair in the same style, and demand zipped through the neighborhood. Glynnis soon found herself braiding for 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, and still had to turn away clients. In 2006, she opened Braid Heaven, a five-chair salon on Kansas City’s Lloyd Street.
Glynnis Smith has only ever shared her bubble-braiding technique with her four sisters (one of whom sees clients out of her Dallas home) and one niece; they remain the salon’s only employees. So what exactly is this family secret?
Instead of just pulling their clients’ natural hair into braids, the Smiths braid human or synthetic extensions into the hair in such a way that the natural hair rests, protected, underneath the braids. If you don’t totally follow, it’s OK — we don’t, either. But the secret wouldn’t be much of a secret if they gave us any more information. What we can totally grasp: The technique lets women toss their braided hair up into a ponytail or switch the part without revealing tracks or wefts. It also allows the bubble-braiders to work with hair that has different curl patterns.
“With natural black hair, there is no uniformity on a single head,” says Shelly Smith. “With our technique, we can add in several different textures of hair, and that inconsistency makes it look real.” Bubble-braiding, very simply, creates the illusion of a full, fluffy head of natural hair. It’s so dramatic that if you were this Allure editor, you’d have to stop a woman in a restaurant to find out where she got her hair done. (And during your two-minute conversation, another stranger would interrupt to ask the same thing.) There’s word of mouth, and then there’s full-on phenomenon.
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Allure. To get your copy, head to newsstands or subscribe now.
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