Although the exact origin of dreadlocks remains unknown and highly debated, some of the earliest examples of this hairstyle are religious in their orientation. The Biblical book of Judges makes note of Samson's "seven locks of hair". Gnarled and separated hair is also sometimes attributed to a Hindu association with the God Shiva. Additionally, it is believed that this unique style originated in Kemet, Africa, as a mark of spiritual status amongst tribal priests. Certain Egyptian mummies were found to be suited with dreadlocks as well, including that of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Some early Christians and religious monks are also cited as having adopted this hairstyle.
Several spiritualist sects such as the Yogis and the Nazarites have incorporated this hairdo into their lifestyles. Currently, the wearing of dreadlocks is now coupled with a disregard for the vanity of earthly goods and physical appearances. Some go so far as to claim that when the hair is knotted and held firmly together, the energy remains rooted to one's body, therefore promoting a stronger, healthier individual.
Dreadlocks and Rastafarian Culture
The twisting of the hair has also achieved more modern significance through its association with the Rastafarian movement. This political stance took flight in the 1930's when the position of Ethiopian emperor was granted to Ras Tafari, who was later thrown into exile during an invasion. As a result, many of his warriors took an oath not to cut their hair until the emperor's reinstatement. Later, this movement developed more religious and ideological undertones until it became a hallmark for socialism, nationalism, and black power. Because Rastafarians supported the use of marijuana, due to its effects of well-being, those who wear dreadlocks today are sometimes affiliated with the cannabis culture.
Modern culture witnessed a huge promotion of dreadlocks with the introduction of reggae musician Bob Marley who wore his hair in this style. Marley was reportedly a proponent of both Rastafarian culture and antiestablishment philosophies. His music and lifestyle prompted a youth following that espoused both Marley's political views and his gnarled hairstyle.
How to Achieve This Look
There are several methods to achieving dreadlocks. These include allowing dreads to form naturally over time, as well as:
- Dread perms: A chemical process that creates the look of dreadlocks.
- Twisting: This results in more uniform dreadlocks that many prefer.
- Backcombing: The hair is separated into small sections and teased towards the root.
Contrary to its founding philosophy of ease, the modern take on this hairstyle requires special care. A balanced maintenance routine consists of:
The locks are very delicate during the first few weeks and should be washed only every five days. After a month, washing can be increased to approximately every two to three days, though it is advised that only residue-free shampoos be used. Detergent residues can weigh down the hair and prevent the incoming growth from locking up into the dreads. Residue can also build up in the hair, causing mildew to form within the locks. The hair should be kept dry as often as possible in order to prevent the formation of molds. This is why it is additionally important, when exiting the shower, to immediately place a towel on one's head.
Some people use small amounts of wax on their locks to keep them moist. Waxing is a good measure taken toward the prevention of breakage and is best applied one day after the hair has been washed. Wax should always be rubbed into the hair with the fingers using a clockwise motion.
Many people will experience the unfortunate presence of loose hair at the end of their dreads. The fix for this is a simple process called rolling. Rolling is achieved when the hair is grasped in a single hand in such a way that the end folds over your index finger. Using your thumb, roll the hair against the horizontal position of your index finger. Attempt to roll these loose strands into a small tangled ball that can be stuck into the bottom of the dread.
Written by Ann Parkinson.