Self-esteemed specialist. Healer, moving into a mentor phase. These are the words that world-renowned natural hair stylist Thando Kafele uses to describe himself. Loctician and loc artist, Kafele has been creating styles that turn heads for the past 20 years. At his shop, Locks-N-Chops in Brooklyn, he is one of an elite few elevating the practice of styling natural hair into—what else—an artform.
How long have you been styling locs? Twenty years. There’s a lot that have filled in those years. I am Senior Stylist at Locs–N-Chops, one of the best-known institutions for natural hair and natural hair training. I got tired of working for others. I wanted to offer a service for our community to show them how to love their God-given hair.
I’ve watched the process of my hair being twisted. People said it was good, but I saw what the possibilities were as a natural hairstylist. Now, I am a locstar. I am one of the most awarded, one of the most published in the U.S. magazines. I have traveled abroad, I am a spokestylist for the Jane Carter Solutions product line, and started the first-ever natural hair team, Team B.L.A.C.K., standing for Beauty, Love, Art, Cuts, and Kinks.
Tell me more about Team B.L.A.C.K. Team B.L.A.C.K. consists of 5 stylists trying to make a difference in the natural hair community. Vidal Sassoon and other product companies talk a good game, but it’s hard to find two stylists that are called friends and can work as a team. Black people are powerful. I see my team as my own network. I do my own events, create my own buzz, and we’re excited about the future.
How long have you been wearing locs? I’ve been wearing them for 20 years.
How did you decide on locs? My mom had locs. Sons have an admiration of them moms, and it was an acknowledgement of my Blackness, an acknowledgement of the whole establishment, and recognizing my roots.
What do you see in your clients from the loctician’s chair? Clients need to choose a professional. Just because [a loctician] does locs, it doesn’t mean they are a professional. Most stylists that went to beauty school have no knowledge of loc maintenance, and natural hair. Clients also don’t do a good job in choosing a professional consultation.
Mitchell: I agree. When I first started my locs, my loctician gave me no consultation whatsoever. She just gave me a two-strand twist with synthetic hair. It wasn’t what I wanted, and she kept me guessing about what was next. What she failed to tell me was that she was growing the new growth out and starting from there, gradually. Had I known, I would have done something different. I eventually took out the synthetic hair and started the whole process over again with my own.
Kafele: A consultation is an interview of the stylist. You will know their expectations and their desires and can fulfill these. We want people to stop getting their information from YouTube and Facebook. They need to ask Team B.L.A.C.K.
What’s most important in choosing a loctician? A good loctician creates imagery, makes people believe the hype. We are the first product. Products don’t work unless we make them work.
What loc tips can you pass on? The best tip: moisture is key for our hair. The biggest misconception for most people is what moisture is. Sometimes it’s in the form of shea butter or water. Most clients don’t understand, so most locs lack life. That’s why I am interested in the Jane Carter Solution line of products. For me, it wasn’t just an ethnic hair line but a product line for humanity.
What are some of your go-to-styles? I try not to follow trends as a professional and from my previous experience. I try to be creative, and try to create how I want my clients to look, to create a certain amount of trust, so if they see something that I don’t see, I try to let them be part of the process.
What are some of the most frequent styles coming out of the chair? The unexpected. I think my clients come to me because they trust me, trust my knowledge of hair care and want the cutting edge. They want a specialty product.
What are the latest color trends? I have been doing a lot of accessorizing—rhinestones, glitter, and spray colors. Color is great, but too “what’s next”. People spend so much time keeping up. Once they have, they don’t come out of their comfort zone and experiment what is possible.
What’s one last piece of key advice you can give? A professional should guide you, even if you have a personal relationship with your hair. You need to have a conversation. A seasoned professional can give you what you don’t have yourself. The key to the process is patience. Locs are the first hairstyle, and I predict it will be the last. It is an acknowledgement of your natural hair in its utmost state.
Locks-N-Chops is located at 365 W. 34th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001, 212-244-2306. B.T.W.—The lady in the main picture is Chrisandra Wells, one of Thando’s clients, Miss Curve 2011, and was just named The Face of ‘Fro Fashion Week 2013. Watch for her interview in an upcoming post. Next week: Moses Stone!
‘Till next time,
Loc’d Life Magazine