Tops African Hair Braiding Center

328 W. 125th St.
New York, NY 10027
212-665-0996
When I was little my sister would sit me on our porch, grease in hand, and tug my tender-headed coif into sleek, pre-Alicia Keys rows. Nowadays, every other celeb has the look, which is also a practical way to keep tresses of sweat-soaked hair off the neck while frolicking in the sun. But the price of looking like the stars (for those without hair-braiding kin) is wallet damagingauntil you get to 125th Street, where women bombard you with business cards in the subway station. At Tops African Hair Braiding Center, a small shop lined with tattered chairs and strewn with wisps of synthetic hair. I look around at dusty mirrors, a knotted selection of fake hair exhibiting braid sizes, and a binder of Polaroid styles slumped in my lap. An hour later, I have wake-up-and-go rows that last weeks. The challenge is haggling (prices can range from $25 to $35 if you're good) and kicking myself for not combing out my hair beforehand.

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