Dreadlocks also called locks or dreads, are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing sections of the hair, twisting or a process involving the weaving of the hair with a crochet hook to form knots.
Dreadlocks are associated most closely with the recent Rastafari movement, but people from many groups in history before them have worn dreadlocks, including the Hindu Shiva worshippers of India, historic African peoples,[vague] and the Sufis of Pakistan.
Dread has a positive connotation in Rastafarian dialect, and can be used as a noun, indicating a man who "fears the Lord."
The first known examples of dreadlocks date back to North Africa. In ancient dynastic Egypt examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with locks, as well as locked wigs, have also been recovered from archaeological sites.
The Hindu deity Shiva and his followers were described in the scriptures as wearing "jaTaa", meaning "twisted locks of hair", probably derived from the Dravidian word "caTai", which means to twist or to wrap. The Greeks, the Pacific Ocean peoples, the Naga people and several ascetic groups within various major religions have at times worn their hair in locks, including the monks of the Ethiopian Coptic Church, the Nazirites of Judaism, Qalandari Sufi's the Sadhus of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam among others. The very earliest Christians also may have worn this hairstyle. Particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, first Bishop of Jerusalem, who wore them to his ankles.
Pre-Columbian Aztec priests were described in Aztec codices (including the Durán Codex, the Codex Tudela and the Codex Mendoza) as wearing their hair untouched, allowing it to grow long and matted.
In Senegal, the Baye Fall, followers of the Mouride movement, a sect of Islam indigenous to the country which was founded in 1887 by Shaykh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, are famous for growing locks and wearing multi-colored gowns. Cheikh Ibra Fall, founder of the Baye Fall school of the Mouride Brotherhood, claims that he was "the first dread in West Africa".
A person with thick locks.
In Jamaica the term dreadlocks was first recorded in the 1950s as a term for the "Young Black Faith", an early sect of the Rastafari which began among the marginalized poor of Jamaica in the 1930s, when they ceased to copy the particular hair style of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and began to wear dreadlocks instead. It was said that the wearer lived a "dread" life or a life in which he feared God, which gave birth to the modern name 'dreadlocks' for this ancient style.
Most Rastafari still attribute their dreadlocks to Selassie as well as the three Nazarite vows, in the Book of Numbers, the fourth of the books of the Pentateuch.
All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
— Numbers 6:5, KJV
A dreadlocked Samson fights the dreadlocked lion in this drawing from a 15th century Icelandic manuscript.
There are many reasons among various cultures for wearing locks. Locks can be an expression of deep religious or spiritual convictions, a manifestation of ethnic pride, a political statement, or be simply a fashion preference. In response to the derogatory history of the term dreadlocks, alternative names for the style include locks and African Locks.
Africans and people of African descent are known to wear this hairstyle. Members of various African ethnicities wear locks and the styles may change from one group to another. The warriors of the Maasai nation of Kenya are famous for their long, thin, red dreadlocks. Many people dye their hair red with root extracts or red ochre. In various cultures what are known as Fetish priests, sangomas, or shamans, spiritual men or women who serve and speak to spirits or deities, often wear locks. In Benin the Yoruba priests of Olokun, the Orisha of the deep ocean, wear locks. The Himba people in the southeast of Congo-Kinshasa also dye their locks red, but their style is thicker than that of the Maasai. Other groups include the Fang people of Gabon, the Mende of Sierra Leone, and the Turkana people of Kenya.
Africans brought the hairstyle with them to the Americas during the African diaspora. As a result of this the style can still be seen on people of African descent in North America, South America and the Caribbean. Well-known Black artists who wear or have worn locks include musicians Bob Marley, George Clinton, Rosalind Cash, Bobby McFerrin, Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Eddy Grant, Lil Wayne, T-Pain and members of the band Living Colour; authors Alice Walker and Toni Morrison; and actors Whoopi Goldberg, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Keith Hamilton Cobb.
Throughout the diaspora, particularly in America, dreadlock styling and maintenance for Africans has grown and evolved to be increasingly stylistic. In the early 90's for instance, Dr. JoAnne Cornwell launched a more versatile hair care system that involved creating fine dreaded tresses called "Sisterlocks" or "Brotherlocks." The company Sisterlocks has regulated the spread of the techniques of sisterlocking since 1993.
The Rastafarians wear locks as an expression of inner spirituality and to emphasize their identity. Their religion states that they must remain "whole". Following Haile Selassie, cutting dreads is highly prohibited in the Rasta culture. Due to this, dreads knot naturally because their hair is not to be tampered with.
Another interpretation among the Rastafari is that "dread" refers to the fear that dreadlocked Mau Mau warriors inspired among the colonial British. The Mau Mau, a largely ethnic Kikuyu rebel group in Kenya fighting to overthrow their colonial British oppressors from 1952–1960, hid for many years in the forests, during which time their hair grew into long locks. The images of their rebellion, then broadcast around the world, are said to have inspired Jamaican Rastafari to wear locks.
Dreadlocks on a Rasta's head are symbolic of the Lion of Judah which is sometimes centered on the Ethiopian Flag. Rastas hold that Selassie is a direct descendant or reincarnated form of Christ. Rasta's also believe African people are the descendants of the Israelites' Tribe of Judah through the lineage of Kings of Israel David and Solomon, and that he is also the Lion of Judah mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
Sadhu with jata (long locks) twisted in a knot on top of the head.
Similarly, among some Sadhus and Sadhvis, Indian holy men and women, locks are sacred, considered to be a religious practice and an expression of their disregard for profane vanity, as well as a symbol of their spiritual understanding that physical appearances are unimportant. The public symbol of matted hair is re-created each time an individual goes through these unique experiences. In almost all myths about Shiva and his flowing locks, there is a continual interplay of extreme asceticism and virile potency, which link the elements of destruction and creation, whereas the full head of matted hair symbolizes the control of power.
Gangadhara Shiva captures and controls the river Ganges with his locks, whose descent from the heavens would have deluged the world. The river is released through the locks of his hair, which prevents the river from destroying earth. As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, which is the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and resolved. Shiva's long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a kind of pyramid, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.
Locks in India are reserved nearly exclusively for holy people. According to the 'Hymn of the longhaired sage' in the ancient Vedas, long jatas express a spiritual significance which implies the wearer has special relations with spirits, is an immortal traveller between two worlds and the master over fire:
The long-haired one endures fire, the long-haired one endures poison, the long-haired one endures both worlds. The long-haired one is said to gaze full on heaven, the long-haired one is said to be that light ... Of us, you mortals, only our bodies do you behold. ...For him has the Lord of life churned and pounded the unbendable, when the long-haired one, in Rudra’s company, drank from the poison cup (The Keshin Hymn, Rig-veda 10.136)
The Shaiva Nagas, ascetics of India, wear their jata (long hair) in a twisted knot or bundle on top of the head and let them down only for special occasions and rituals. The strands are then rubbed with ashes and cowdung, considered both sacred and purifying, then scented and adorned with flowers.
Certain sufi groups such as the Qalandari sects don't cut their hair and don't comb it. This leads to natural formation of dreadlocks. However, some of them will be very thick and other thin or untwisted because the actual making of dreadlocks and giving it a regular look is frowned upon.This process of dreadlock formation takes many years.
When reggae music gained popularity and mainstream acceptance in the 1970s, the locks (often called “dreads”) became a notable fashion statement; they were worn by prominent authors, actors, athletes and rappers, and were even portrayed as part and parcel of gang culture in such movies as Marked for Death.
With the Rasta style in vogue, the fashion and beauty industries capitalized on the trend. A completely new line of hair care products and services in salons catered to a white clientele, offering all sorts of dreadlocks hair care items such as wax (considered unnecessary and even harmful by some), shampoo, and jewelry. Hairstylists created a wide variety of modified locks, including multi-colored synthetic lock hair extensions and "dread perms", where chemicals are used to treat the hair.
Locked models appeared at fashion shows, and Rasta clothing with a Jamaican-style reggae look were sold. Even exclusive fashion brands like Christian Dior created whole Rasta-inspired collections worn by models with a variety of lock hairstyles.
In the West, dreadlocks have gained particular popularity among certain subcultures. Examples of these are the New Age Traveller, hippie, crust punk, hyphy and gothic subcultures. Also it has gained popularity as a style among youth of both Black African and European descent. Members of the cybergoth sub-culture often wear blatantly artificial "dreadfalls" made of synthetic hair, fabric or plastic tubing.
Ways to make dreadlocks
Traditionally, it was believed that in order to create dreadlocks, an individual had to refrain from using conditioners, brushing and/or combing. This method created dreadlocks that varied greatly in size, width, shape, length, and texture. The method has come to be known as "Organic," "Neglect," or "Patience". Similarly, "Freeform" dreadlocks are created by allowing the hair to weave naturally together into locks of varying sizes. However, freeform locks are patterned to a degree, as the hair is pried (not parted, just pulled apart in "chunks") into fairly determined sections after washing, as opposed to organic dreadlocks that tend to bifurcate and coalesce haphazardly.
Salon dreadlocks created with two-strand twists.
Further, a variety of other methods have been developed throughout stylistic evolution to offer greater control over the appearance and required shampooing frequency of dreadlocks. Together, these alternate techniques are more commonly referred to as "salon" or "manicured" dreadlocks or locs.
As with the organic and freeform method, the salon methods rely on one's hair matting over a period of months to gradually form dreadlocks. The difference, however, is in the initial technique or procedure by which loose hair is encouraged to form a rope-like shape. Whereas freeform dreadlocks can be created by simply refraining from combing one's hair and occasionally separating matted sections, salon dreadlocks use one of a variety of established hairstyles or tool techniques to form the basis of the dreadlocks.
Salon dreadlocks can be formed by evenly sectioning and styling the loose hair into braids, coils, twists, or using a procedure called dread perming. Backcombing, twist-and-rip, and twist-and-pin are also some of the more popular methods of achieving dreadlocks. One can also utilize tool techniques such as a latch-hook (also known as interlocks).
"Sisterlocks" and "brotherlocks" are a particular genus of dreadlocks that are created in Afro-textured hair that are installed in needle-thin twists to create very fine locks. "Sisterlocks" or "brotherlocks" are maintained exclusively by tightening the roots, or "new growth" with the latch-hook tool as the tension created by twisting encourages locks to thin and potentially break off.
Finally regardless of hair type or texture and method used dread locks require time before they are fully matured.