Dreadlocks are ropes of hair. This style is also known as Jata, Sanskrit, dreads, or locs, which all use different methods to encourage the formation of the locs such as rolling, braiding, and backcombing.
On the surface, dreadlocks are “free formed” locs of hair.
There is a common misconception that dreadlocks are dirty. In reality, they are not dirty at all. The process of keeping the hair clean and in good condition is important to have healthy dreadlocks.
Dreadlocks also have a deep affiliation with the African and Rastafarian religion and lifestyle.
Note, that just as straight, curly, and short styles vary among the mass population, dreadlocks are no different. The way that a person chooses to wear their hair is a personal choice.
The Cultural Significance of Dreadlocks
Several different cultures have commonly worn locs. In some cultures, locs are an expression of religious beliefs. In other cultures, dreadlocks are a representation of ethnic pride or simply fashionable.
Several different African ethnic groups wear dreadlocks. Although, the significance could change from group to group.
The Maasai warriors are easily recognized by their long, red, thin dreadlocks. Some people, familiar with the thin dreads worn by Maasai warriors, will dye their hair with red ochre or root extracts to get the desired look.
This Maasai Warrior has very long, thin, red dreadlocks. Kenya and Tanzania have significant populations of Maasai people.
In different cultures, Shamans wear dreadlocks. These are the women or men that claim to speak and serve deities and spirits.
Children in Nigeria-born with naturally locked hair are called Dada. Priests in Yoruba also wear the dreadlocks. Turkana people of Kenya and the Akomofoo priests wear their hair in locs.
Dreadlock styles were adopted by the Rastafarians, with roots that date back to when slaves were traded in Jamaica.
The Rastafari dreadlocks symbolize the Lion of Judah, many times located in the center of the Ethiopian flag.
The Rastafari believe the Haile Selassie are direct descendants of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba by way of their son Menelik.
Some people think that Nazarites of the Bible inspired the dreadlocks that Rastafarians wear.
The Revival of Dreadlocks
Once reggae music was widely accepted in the 1970s, dreadlocks or dreads became a modern fashion statement.
This newly fashionable hairstyle was being worn by musicians, athletes, actors, rappers. People began wearing dreadlocks more for style than cultural or religious reasons.
Young Rasta man playing the drum
When the Rasta style gained in popularity, beauty and fashion industries jumped on the bandwagon. These industries were hoping to capitalize financially.
Suddenly new lines of hair care products were developed for use in salons. Many of these salons catered almost only to white clientele.
These upscale salons offered their customers a variety of hair care products for dreadlocks. These products range from shampoo, wax, and jewelry.
The hair stylists, working at these salons, started creating a variety of different modified or artificial locs, including extensions, multi-colored synthetic locs, and dread perms that utilized certain chemicals to treat the hair.
The pictured handbag is from the Christian Dior Rasta-inspired clothing line.
Models began wearing dreadlocks and appeared in numerous fashion shows. Stores began promoting Rasta clothing that had a unique Jamaican look.
Brands like Christian Dior designed a Rasta-inspired line. It was worn at many fashion shows by models sporting their new dreadlocks.
Dreadlocks gained popularity in the West among the Hippies, (1990 to today). Locs were also popular with New Age Travelers, Crust Punks, Goths, and members of the Rainbow Family.
People from these unique cultures wore dreadlocks for very similar reasons, mass-merchandising, rejection of their government, or just to fit in with a crowd.
Different members of the cyber-goth culture wore artificial dreadlocks made of fiber, plastic, or synthetic hair. These locs, often referred to as faux locs, are still very popular.
During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, dreadlocks became a popular trend down in southern states, like Louisiana and Alabama.
Different elements were incorporated in the hairstyles like flat-twists, where sections of the hair are rolled barreled to look like cornrows, or simply braiding the dreadlocks.
Different examples of these variations included the flat-twisted Mohawk style, flat-twisted half-back style, braid-outs, and braided buns.
People who wanted to share ideas about their unique hairstyle hit the internet via video blogs, social media, forums, and YouTube. Some people even started new beauty blogs dedicated to sharing their dreadlock journey.
These people were able to share styling tips, create tutorials for braiding the hair, and show pictures of their hair.
Dreadlock Shampoos & Soap: Dreadlocks are a common hairstyle in the natural hair community; however, many large hair care product manufacturers aren’t actively developing products for dreadlocks.
As a result, the majority of natural shampoos and soaps on the market today leave behind undesirable fragrances or product build-up in the hair.
To combat this potential issue, we recommend using residue-free soaps and shampoos. These shampoos actively wash in-between hair strands removing most, if not all the residue. Overall, this gives the scalp and the dreadlocks a much cleaner presentation.
Dread Combs: Dread combs have sturdy, metal bristles that are specifically designed for using the backcombing method. Plastic combs, on the other hand, are a poor substitute because the bristles bend or snap while using them.
You could go through several plastic variations to achieve the same results with a single metal dread comb. An investment in a proper dread comb will save you valuable time and money long term.
- Dread Comb by Dread Head HQ
- Knotty Boy Professional Metal Dread Comb
Beads: There are many creative ways you can decorate dreads. Beads are one of them. Not only are they stylish, but they’re also inexpensive and easy to put on and take off. It gives your hair an entirely new look without changing the hairstyle. Similar to fitting a ring on your finger, beads are easy to slip right on.
- Beads Golden Metal Cuffs
- Mixed Gold and Silver Plated Beads
Tams: Made for keeping dreadlocks in place, tams are crocheted beanies or knitted caps that not only hold a functional purpose, but they’re also cool to wear.
- Latest assortment of tams, caps, hats & beanies
1. Neat Skinny Ombré Dreadlocks
When it comes to male dreadlocks, you can opt for thinner or thicker locks, bundle them into a ponytail, braid them, or simply let them hang loose. In most cases, the skinny dreads look seems more appealing due to its clean and more manageable nature. If you want to complete the look, you can have a connecting beard.
2. Classic Dreadlocks
The thing about thick dreadlocks is that they don’t need any sort of extra frills. This means that allowing them to hang free with an understated middle part will work wonders for you and not even the new curly growth will be able to spoil them. If you want, you can add a bit of flavor to your dreads with different kinds of adornments and accessories.
3. Chic Dreadlocks
One of the unique things about dreadlocks is that they have managed to transcend demographics, cultures and hair types. The fact is that dreadlocks will always differ from person to person. Certain textures will only allow the hair to partially lock, creating a unique dreadlocks hairstyle.
4. Short Natural Dreads
Some textures of hair tend to twist and lock more easily and naturally than others. The following is a great example of natural short dreads. With the curl pattern, the dreads appear slightly twisted, framing the face, and providing a more defined jawline.
7. Free, Long Dreads on Type 1 Hair
Depending on your hair type, growing dreads may be more of a challenge. As you can see with these dreads, even if you have mostly straight hair, with some effort you can grow dreadlocks or opt for faux locs.
9 Critical Dreadlock Tips
- To make a nice secure twist that will not unravel, be sure to twist each piece of hair tautly around the other by using your fingertips. Attempt to get as many revolutions as possible. Also, ensure that ample holding product is applied as well. Use metal clips to secure the twist at the base.
- Twisting on dry hair can cause hairs to snap.
- Once you reach the end of the twist and wrap it around your finger to secure the ends. Next, if you are unable to create a coil on the end, try creating a pin swirl with your fingers and secure it with a metal clip.
- Using conditioner is taboo when it comes to dreadlocks; however, it is a needed product to help keep the hair strands in their best condition. Also, keep in mind, that the ends of the hair are the oldest and need the most care. Using creamy conditioners in locs, especially starter locs, is not recommended; however, the ends of the hair must be taken care of. Try using a finishing rinse on the ends. This will help keep the oldest part of your hair conditioned. We recommend using Aubrey Organics Green Tea Finishing Rinse.
- Never use beeswax or grease (petroleum jelly) on your locks. These ingredients cause buildup and they attract lint and dirt.
- When washing your hair, wear a stocking cap- this will help maintain the integrity of your starter locks.
- Reduce lint in locs after washing by using a dark colored microfiber towel. This way, the lint will be black or dark colored and not white, which is more visible.
- Twisting too tight and/or to frequently can thin or weaken the base of the lock. You will need to experiment to find the right length of time that you are able to go between each retightening session. If you find that you have signs of distressed hair, you will need to evaluate your method and technique that will preserve your delicate tress.
- During the teenage/middle stage of your loc journey, where your hair may not be willing to cooperate, tie your hair down at night and/or where an updo whenever possible.
Dreading Process Using Beeswax
- The first step is to cease the use of shampoo and conditioner for at least a day before beginning the process. This will help to keep the hair from becoming too slick to dread. Tangling the hair is more difficult when it has recently been conditioned.
- When one is ready to style the hair, he should begin by separating the hair into individual sections sized based on the size of the finished dreadlocks he desires. Most start with sections about an inch in size. Placing a rubber band at the base of each section will help to keep the hair separated and provide a starting point for the styling process.
- Beginning at the back of the head, one should take one section and coat it with beeswax from root to tip. Next, roll the hair between the palms of the hair, always working it in the same direction. Continue to roll the hair together from the root to the tip.
- Next, using a metal toothed comb, one should begin to backcomb the hair. Start about an inch out from the scalp and comb back toward the head to tease the hair into tangles. Move out another inch and repeat this process until the entire length of the hair has been done.
- Coat the hair with beeswax again to hold it in place before moving on to the next section. The wax will help to hold the hair in place while the dreadlock sets in place. It is also a good idea to add another rubber band near the tips of each lock for the first few days.
- One should avoid washing the hair for at least a week to allow the dreads to set solidly. During this time, he should re-twist the hair in the same direction as originally followed at every opportunity. This can be done while watching television or other activities that leave the hands free.
Knowing how to dread hair using beeswax will make it easier to get the hair to take this popular style. It will help to reduce the amount of labor needed to create the style and will provide the necessary hold to allow the dreads to set in place and become permanent.
3. What product should I use to twist me hair?
That are a plethora of products used for maintaining locs. Carol’s Daughter has some good products, Jamaican Mango & Lime have popular products as well. The one thing you want to avoid at all cost is beeswax. Beeswax is a huge NO NO. Beeswax doesn’t wash out properly which means it sits in your hair cause residue to collect for lint or dirt or any other particles floating around. Ultimately that residue can cause your locs to smell and trust you don’t want that.
4. I don’t want to go through that ugly period.
I hear this all the time from people. It is kind of unavoidable. And the truth is everyone has a different experience with the “ugly stage” also known as the budding stage. It’s sort of like a rights of passage, your hair is starting to figure itself out. It’s starting the loc’ing process. Some people have horrible budding stage. While others breeze through those few months. Some go through it for two months and others may go through it for six months. I have a few friends that during their first year of loc’ing it was like their hair could not get it together. But for me my budding stage wasn’t bad. If you really don’t want to show your budding stage invest in wigs and head wraps.
9. What is the difference between Sister Locs & Regular locs?
Sisters locs are very very tiny almost resembles unloc’d hair. The process of maintaining them is very expensive and requires someone who is trained in the process of maintaining sister locs. “Regular” locs are much more low maintenance. You can do them yourself or you can go to a salon and have them done.
I hope this helped anyone who is thinking about loc’ing their hair. Your loc journey will be one of patience and learning. You will experiment with your hair, with products and styles. Just like those who don’t have locs, you have to take care of your hair, wash it, keep it hydrated, and growth will come in due time. Be patient and love your hair even when you don’t want to. You will love it in the long run, especially when you get to look back at old pictures from the beginning.
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