After seeing their own husbands struggle with hair-braiding, two mothers launched BYOB (Braid Your Own Braids), a class for dads to learn braiding techniques.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Six men sitting at a table outside an 1890s home — with bodyless heads and styling spray at hand — weren’t plotting to fight off demons and ghosts but were there to become braid masters who wouldn’t be to blame for their daughters’ bad hair day. 

Class was in session, organized by mothers and Bayport residents Bonnie Chavious, 39, and Lauren Weber Hackett, 37. They launched the BYOB (Braid Your Own Braids) Class in early May on Facebook and Instagram after seeing their own husbands struggle with hair braiding, and to teach dads how to perfect three styles: a traditional braid, braided pigtails and French braids. 

Under the guidance of Weber, a traveling hairstylist, the men fastidiously braided their mannequin’s hair during a 90-minute session,  perfecting the styles they plan to replicate on their daughters. After a trial class with friends and family, the May 26 session was the first hosted by Weber and Chavious and showed them the class wasn’t a hare-brained idea after all. They received such interest they plan to host more six-person classes for $50 per participant, including a session for moms.

One of the inaugural students was Pat Flaherty, 37, of Holbrook, seeking a thumbs-up from his daughter, Dottie, who is 5 and has few options beyond the ponytail or “wonky” pigtails her father has often sent her out the door with. Flaherty, who is divorced and has custody of his daughter twice a week, was eager to reveal his new skills. 

“Especially after ‘Frozen’ came out, I can’t do anything with hair,” he said, referring to the Disney movie where the title sister characters sport braids. “I saw the [Facebook] post, and thought, ‘I need to do something, especially coming into summer.’ ”

Jeremy Radino, 45, of Blue Point, can relate. He gets daughter Natalia, 5, ready in the mornings. He said he saw the class advertised on Facebook and attended with the encouragement of his wife, Natalie. 

Radino said Natalia is “constantly asking for braids, and I’m unable to accomplish that.” He said his typical go-to hairstyle is a ponytail and that he thought adding the braid style to his arsenal would thrill her. He was right.

“I felt like a princess,” Natalia said after Radino styled her hair. Natalia added that she was excited to have “Frozen”-style braids, thanks to her dad. 

More hair duty for dads 

Weber and Chavious both work and share child care duties with their husbands, who handle school drop-off and pickup. Chavious works in human resources and joked that her husband, Gregg, typically opts for George Washington-style hair for their daughter, Tierney, 5, which she described with a laugh as an “unattractive low-ponytail.”

As the makeup of families has changed and evolved, so too have some of the traditional roles within households.

“We’re in 2022, things are a lot different than they were,” Weber said. “It’s not like the old days.” 

Fathers are more involved in their children’s upbringing than ever before, research shows. Information from the Washington-D.C.-based Pew Research Center shows that nearly 1-in-5 stay-at-home-parents in 2016 were dads. Fathers’ roles in child care have been steadily changing over the past three decades, said Teresa Grella-Hillebrand, director of Hofstra University’s counseling and mental health professions clinic. 

“I’ve definitely seen a shift in the time that I’ve been working with families in terms of fathers really changing from the traditional role, moving beyond the provider and protector role,” she said, adding that children do better “cognitively, socially and academically” when their fathers are involved. 

Flaherty said many of his friends who are dads are “gung-ho” about child care duties, including hair, which gives them an opportunity to dispel stigmas surrounding what’s typically expected of fathers. Grella-Hillebrand said more working moms and the emergence of “nontraditional” families have given men an opportunity to explore new roles, shift from rigid gender norms and take on more child care, like hair. 

“The fact that this class exists … [shows] we’re moving in a direction where people are going to do more and share more,” she said. 

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