Growing up in Senegal, Farma Fallou would not have guessed that an everyday activity — braiding hair in the local style — would become the foundation of an American life for herself and the family she would one day have. But since her arrival in the U.S. in 2001, she has built a braiding company that has sent two daughters to college and earned her a respected place in Malden’s business community.
Today, the owner of Fallou’s African Braiding Salon in Malden, Massachusetts sees a dozen or more clients each week and employs her daughters, a niece, and other skilled hair braiders part-time.
“I am very grateful, and bless God every day,” says Fallou.
The salon at 14 Irving Street, just off Main Street in Malden Square, is a long room with four chairs for customers and more for family members and friends to keep customers company. It is common for customers to bring a husband, mother, or friend along, as most braided hair styles take several hours to complete. Every chair has a sight line to the television where, usually, a Nigerian drama (in English) entertains customers and braiders alike. One wall of the salon is lined with mirrors while the other displays racks of hair care products, accessories, packages of hair extensions for braiding and weaves, and African cultural merchandise. The selection of colors, textures, and lengths for hair extensions continues along the corridor all the way to the rear of the shop.
Fallou’s customers are African American, Haitian American, Latin American, and more, including immigrants from a variety of countries and sometimes white or Asian customers who want to try locs, an African braided style, or a weave. Being in Malden, it is important that the salon offer a variety of services and styles: box braids, micro braids, cornrows, and more, in addition to the traditional Senegalese twist.
Most customers come to Fallou to lengthen their hair with braided extensions. Fallou will ask what style they want and help them select a color and texture of synthetic hair to braid into their own hair. The synthetic hair is knotted to the customer’s own hair, at the scalp. The trick is to gather all the tiny, fine hairs at the scalp to start a neat, secure braid.
A braided hair style can be kept as long as two months, sometimes longer, depending on how thick or thin the braids are, how fast the person’s hair grows, and how well the person cares for their style over time. Fallou suggests oiling the scalp and not over-washing the hair to keep a braided style fresh.
Fallou’s salon is open by appointment every day except Mondays and some holidays. Call for more information: 781.338.9800.