Dreadlocks 101

Contrary to myth, dreadlocks are usually created by intent and not by neglect—at least, the kind of dreads that are fashionable on African-American hair these days. Of course, there’s the organic or patience method of creating locs, which is letting locs form by not touching the hair ever.

So, what are they? They are long strands of matted hair—tangled, coiled, uncombed spirals—that are alternately a fashion, religious or political statement. African-American hair is easier to work with when making dreads. The tight curls in African-American hair naturally and quickly form knotted dreads without any help. Straight hair can also be fashioned into locs but it’ll take some time and a lot of effort to do than kinky natural hair.

A Little Dreadlocks History

Dreadlocks/locs

The dread locks hairstyle has been around for a while. In Tanzania and Kenya in Africa, Maasai men say that they’ve been wearing them for as long as their people existed. The bible also had Nazirites—men who took holy vows, which involved leaving hair until the locks on their head grew.

In recent times, the dreads were identified with the Rastafari, a spiritual ideology from Jamaica whose followers worshiped Haile Selassie I. When reggae entered mainstream music, the dread locks became the fashion in African-American hair. Unfortunately, dreadlocks were also associated with gang culture.

In the 90s, dreads were the signature of the counterculture movement—a symbol denouncing government control, materialism and the tendency to want to fit in with a particular crowd or people. These days, locs are more for style and not just for African-American hair, with celebrities and personalities sporting it on stage and in everyday life.

Do-It-Yourself

Can you create locs at home? Certainly.

The best way to start is to wash hair first and then work through it one section at a time. Coat hair strands with wax or water (some use cream) and start twisting hair clockwise until the strands have tangled and coiled into each other. You don’t need to have African-American hair to get one.

Locs need washing, at least twice a week, to keep it clean. Clean hair locks more easily and quickly than dirty hair. Be sure to use shampoos (or soaps) that don’t leave residues as they’ll prevent proper hair locking.

The good news about locs is that the hairstyle is hair healthy—welcome news for African-American hair. You don’t need any chemicals to maintain it. The iffy news is you may have to cut your hair to within two inches from the scalp to change hairstyles.

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