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Rasta man with thick, irregular dreadlocks

Dreadlocks, or simply dreads or locks, are ropy mats of hair that have been allowed to grow out over time. Sometimes, if hair is simply left uncombed or unbrushed for a long period of time — particularly if the hair is naturally coarse and kinky — dreadlocks will form by themselves. This is most commonly the case with the hair of peoples of indigenous African descent.

If left alone for a time, eventually dreadlocks will develop their own natural way of lying. Sometimes the hair naturally dreads in locks of relatively uniform size and shape. Often, however, this laissez faire approach results in irregular dreads. Locks, which tend to grow together over time, may be "ripped", or pulled apart, depending on personal preference. The coarser the hair, the more difficult this process may be. Because naturally kinky hair has a tighter curl and can be difficult to manage, once dreads have reached this point, it may be easier simply to cut them off and start afresh, to better effect.

There is, however, a more systematic and reliable means of obtaining neat, uniform dreads. For locks of fairly uniform size and shape, those with tightly curled hair may begin the process by sectioning and fashioning it into small braids or tightly twisted tufts. As the hair grows, wayward strands will appear around the sections, which must be twisted regularly to incorporate the new growth into the tufts, which become dreads as they lengthen. With many people of indigenous African descent, this process of acquiring dreadlocks, sometimes called letting the hair "lock", refers to the tightly coiled hair (known as "nappy" hair in American English) naturally turning in on and spiraling around itself.

Through the ages, people of various cultures have worn dreadlocks. Egyptian pharaohs fashioned voluminous, dreadlocked wigs from wool and human hair; and Celts sometimes sported dreadlocks, which they moulded with mud. It may be said to be one of the oldest hairstyles, as dreads develop naturally over time, especially with coarse, curly hair.


Meaning and popularity

The term dreadlocks originated in Jamaica and was first recorded in 1960, so called because of the consternation the hairstyle purportedly aroused in its beholders. For Rastafari, a religious sect begun among the marginalized poor of Jamaica in the 1930s, "dread" (1974) also refers to a "fear of the Lord", expressed in part as alienation from the decadence and other evils of contemporary society. The rise in popularity of reggae music in the 1980s and the worldwide fame of singer and songwriter Bob Marley prompted an interest in Rastafari, and the distinctive hairstyle of its adherents drew notice. The anti-establishment philosophy of Rastafari, echoed in much of the reggae of the time, had a particular resonance for left-leaning youth of all ethnicities — particularly and primarily among African-Americans and other blacks, but among counterculture whites, as well. It is among these groups that dreadlocks have become most popular.

Among blacks

There are many reasons for wearing dreadlocks. For some, specifically the Rastafarians, dreadlocks are sacred, their formation a religious ritual. For other peoples of African descent, locks are a statement of racial or ethnic pride. Like the afro, locks also can have political implications. Some see them as as a repudiation of Eurocentric values represented by straightened hairstyles, which mimic Caucasian hair, and as an affirmation of black physical beauty. Still others wear dreads as a manifestation of their black nationalist or pan-Africanist political beliefs. In much the same way that dreads are regarded among many black Rastafari, they view locks as symbolic of black unity and a rejection of oppression, racism and imperialism. Many blacks who attach strong racial and political meaning to dreads look upon nonblacks — and particularly whites — who adopt the style, often through extraordinary measures (see "Among other ethnicities" below), with disfavor or scorn, viewing such practice as a form of cultural appropriation. For others, however, dreadlocks are merely a fashion.

Among other ethnicities

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White man with thin dreadlocks
As with many blacks, dreadlocks also have become a common hairstyle in predominantly white youth counterculture, for example amongst groups such as the "anti-globalisation" movement and environmental activists (such as Swampy, well-known in the 1990s). One issue of SchNEWS, an English environmental action newsletter, described the coming together of striking dockworkers and green protestors as "Docks and dreadlocks come together". [1] (http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news93.htm) Among whites, too, however, dreads can be simply a hairstyle.

Nonblacks, who generally have straighter, finer, and usually oily hair, first may have to backcomb, tease or "rat" their hair. In order to help consolidate the hair into locks, wax is often used. Other means are also employed to more closely approximate the volume, appearance and texture of black dreadlocks, which is the fashion. Sometimes wisps of hair are actually sewn in, using thread or wool to wrap the locks, sealing in the shorter hairs. A crochet hook also can be a very useful tool in the creation and tidying up of dreadlocks, twisting sections of hair between the fingers, then hooking and pulling them through the dreadlock. With straight hair, this technique also can be used at the ends of dreadlocks to make them more rounded and prevent them from unraveling. Curly Caucasian hair can mat and twist into dreadlocks without backcombing or the use of products, aided only by twisting and rubbing the curls with one's fingers.

See also

External links


fr:Dreadlocks sv:Dreadlocks


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