Dreadlocks, also locs, dreads, or in Sanskrit, Jaṭā, are rope-like strands of hair formed by locking or braiding hair.


In ancient Egypt, examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts. Mummified remains of Egyptians with locked wigs have also been recovered from archaeological sites. During the Bronze Age and Iron Age many peoples in the Near East, Asia Minor, Caucasus, East Mediterranean and North Africa such as the Sumerians, Elamites, and Ancient Egyptians were depicted in art with braided or plaited hair and beards. However, braids are not dreadlocks, and it is not always possible to tell from these images which are being depicted.


The history of the name "dreadlocks" is unclear. Some authors have speculated that the "dread" component could refer to the reaction of British soldiers upon encountering Mau Mau fighters who had this hairstyle. Dreadlocks are also worn by some Rastafarians, who believe they represent a biblical hair style worn as a symbol of devotion by the Nazirites, as described in .


The style was worn by Ancient Christian Ascetics in the Middle East and Mediterranean, and the Dervishes of Islam, among others. Some of the very earliest adherents of Christianity in the Middle East may have worn this hairstyle; there are descriptions of James the Just, first Bishop of Jerusalem, who is said to have worn 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 curl around itself. Bernal Diaz del Castillo records:
here were priests with long robes of black cloth ... The hair of these priests was very long and so knotted that it could not be separated or disentangled, and most of them had their ears scarified, and their hair was clotted with blood.
In Senegal, the Baye Fall, followers of the Mouride movement, a Sufi movement of Islam founded in 1887 AD by Shaykh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, are famous for growing dreadlocks and wearing multi-colored gowns. Cheikh Ibra Fall, founder of the Baye Fall school of the Mouride Brotherhood, popularized the style by adding a mystic touch to it. Warriors among the Fulani, Wolof and Serer in Mauritania, and Mandinka in Mali were known for centuries to have worn cornrows when young and dreadlocks when old. Larry Wolff in his book ''Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of Enlightenment'' mentions that in Poland, for about a thousand years, some people wore a knotted hairstyle similar to that of some Scythians. Zygmunt Gloger in his ''Encyklopedia staropolska'' mentions that the Polish plait (''plica polonica'') hairstyle was worn by some people of both genders in the Pinsk region and the Masovia region at the beginning of the 19th century. The Polish plait can vary between one large plait and multiple plaits that resemble dreadlocks.

By culture

Locks have been worn for various reasons in each culture. Their use has also been raised in debates about cultural appropriation.


Maasai warriors are known for their long, thin, red dreadlocks, dyed with red root extracts or red ochre. In Nigeria, some children are born with naturally locked hair and are called by the Yoruba word ''Dada'' in Nigerian English.


Some Indigenous Australians of North West and North Central Australia have historically worn their hair in a locked style, sometimes also having long beards that are fully or partially locked. Traditionally, some wear the dreadlocks loose, while others wrap the dreadlocks around their heads, or bind them at the back of the head. In North Central Australia, the tradition is for the dreadlocks to be greased with fat and coated with red ochre, which assists in their formation.


Within Tibetan Buddhism and other more esoteric forms of Buddhism, locks have occasionally been substituted for the more traditional shaved head. The most recognizable of these groups are known as the Ngagpas of Tibet. For Buddhists of these particular sects and degrees of initiation, their locked hair is not only a symbol of their vows but an embodiment of the particular powers they are sworn to carry. 1.4.15 of the Hevajra Tantra states that the practitioner of particular ceremonies "should arrange his piled up hair" as part of the ceremonial protocol.


The Polish plait was so endemic in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that it inspired the Latin name for it.


The practice of ''Jaṭā'' (dreadlocks) is practiced in modern day Hinduism, most notably by Sadhus who follow Śiva. The Kapalikas, first commonly referenced in the 6th century CE, were known to wear ''Jaṭā'' as a form of deity imitation of the deva Bhairava-Śiva. Shiva is often depicted with dreadlocks''.''


Rastafari movement dreadlocks are symbolic of the Lion of Judah which is sometimes centered on the Ethiopian flag. Rastafari hold that Haile Selassie is a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, through their son Menelik I. Their dreadlocks were inspired by the Nazarites of the Bible. Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. Many Jamaican Christian claimed that Selassie's coronation was evidence that he was the black messiah that they believed was prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Some street preachers such as Leonard Howell, Archibald Dunkley, Robert Hinds, and Joseph Hibbert began to claim the doctrine that "Haile Selassie was the returned Jesus". During 1930s Great Depression was coming, and the Rastafari message spread from Kingston to all Jamaica, especially among poor communities where Jamaican people lived. The cultivation of dreadlocks in the later Rastafari movement established a closer connection between with people. When reggae music espousing Rastafarian ideals gained popularity and mainstream acceptance in the 1970s thanks to Bob Marley's music and cultural influence, the dreadlocks (often called "dreads") became a notable fashion statement worldwide; they have been worn by prominent authors, actors, athletes and rappers.

In sports

Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle among professional athletes. In professional American football, the number of players with dreadlocks has increased ever since Al Harris and Ricky Williams first wore the style during the 1990s. In 2012, about 180 National Football League players wore dreadlocks. A significant number of these players are defensive backs, who are less likely to be tackled than offensive players. In the NBA there has been controversy over the Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American who garnered mild controversy over his choice of dreadlocks. Former NBA player Kenyon Martin accused Lin of appropriating African-American culture in a since-deleted social media post, after which Lin pointed out that Martin has multiple Chinese letters tattooed on his body.

In Western fashion

On July 3, 2019, California became the first US state to prohibit discrimination over natural hair. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the CROWN Act into law, banning employers and schools from discriminating against hairstyles such as dreadlocks, braids, afros, and twists. Likewise, later in 2019, Assembly Bill 07797 became law in New York state; it "prohibits race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles".

Methods of making dreadlocks

A variety of other starter methods have been developed to offer greater control over the general appearance of dreadlocks. They can be formed through a technique called "twist and rip", as well as backcombing interlocking and palm rolling. Together, these alternative techniques are more commonly referred to as "salon" or "manicured" dreadlocks. Using beeswax to make dreads can cause problems because it does not wash out, due to the high melting point of natural wax. Because wax is a hydrocarbon, water alone, no matter how hot, will not be able to remove wax. This is often where problems like mold and dread rot come from, the wax clogs inside the length of the dread meaning water can't run out easily. Having wet dreads for long periods of time helps mildew set in, this combined with the wax and every dirt/dust/fluff particle that has stuck to the wax can result in moldy, slimy dreads. As with the organic and freeform method, the salon methods rely on hair naturally knotting over a period of months to gradually form locs. The difference is in the initial technique by which loose hair is encouraged to form a rope-like shape. Whereas freeform locs can be created by simply refraining from combing or brushing hair and occasionally separating knotted sections, salon dreadlocks use tool techniques to form the basis of the starter, immature set of dreadlocks. A "matured" set of salon dreadlocks won't look the same as a set of dreadlocks that have been started with neglect or freeform. For African hair types, salon dreadlocks can be formed by evenly sectioning and styling the loose hair into braids, coils, twists, or using a procedure called dread perming specifically used for straight hair. For European, Indigenous American, East Asian, and Indian hair types, backcombing and twist and rip are some of the more popular methods of achieving starter dreadlocks. Regardless of hair type or texture and starter method used, dreadlocks require time before they are fully matured. The process hair goes through as it develops into matured dreadlocks is continuous. There is also the ability to adopt different types of fake dreadlocks that may make the hair look as real as possible. This process is called synthetic dreadlocks. There are two different types of synthetic dreadlocks. The first is dread extensions, in which other hair can be infused with the wearer's own hair. The second is dreadfalls, in which one dread is tied into another with either elastic or lace. Both of these methods are used to make dreads look better and more appealing, and to achieve the desired effect of longer hair.

''Guinness Book of World Records''

On December 10, 2010, the ''Guinness Book of World Records'' rested its "longest dreadlocks" category after investigation of its first and only female title holder, Asha Mandela, with this official statement:
Following a review of our guidelines for the longest dreadlock, we have taken expert advice and made the decision to rest this category. The reason for this is that it is difficult, and in many cases impossible, to measure the authenticity of the locks due to expert methods employed in the attachment of hair extensions/re-attachment of broken off dreadlocks. Effectively the dreadlock can become an extension and therefore impossible to adjudicate accurately. It is for this reason Guinness World Records has decided to rest the category and will no longer be monitoring the category for longest dreadlock.

See also

* Box braids * Bob Marley * Elflock * Cornrows * French braid * Polish plait



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External links

Dreadlocks Story – Documentary by Linda Aïnouche

* {{Rastafari Category:1970s fashion Category:1980s fashion Category:1990s fashion Category:2000s fashion Category:2010s fashion Category:African-American hair Category:Gothic fashion Category:Hairstyles Category:Jamaican culture Category:Rastafari