Dreadlock Soldier

By Falice Chin

People have been describing me as the “Asian girl with dreadlocks” for the last three years, but this statement is invalid now because I just cut off my dreads two weeks ago. Many people don’t understand the significance of such an act, in fact, most people don’t know anything about dreadlocks. There is a growing trend of people weaving their hair into dreadlocks, but it should not be just a fashion trend. Dreadlocks are a lifestyle, a statement, and to some they bear religious meaning.

Although many cultures have a history of people wearing dreadlocks, Africans are most often associated with it. This is due to the fact that African genetic “fro” hair dreads a lot easier than the hair of other races. It is an exclusive nappy trait of the race, and they often use it as a symbol of their culture. A few decades ago, many African Americans grew dreadlocks as a form of rebellion against white oppression. Dreadlocks are so widespread among the African race that it is often called the black hairstyle.

Unlike getting one’s hair permed or braided, dreadlocks do not happen over a few hours. Even for Africans whose hair dreads up naturally, it is a long process. Some salons offer to dread up your hair for you for the price of $200 and websites sell dreadwax and shampoo that promises to help form instant dreadlocks. But beware, these are all scams that thrive upon human wishful thinking. The truth is, messy knotted hair does not equal dreadlocks.

True dreadlocks are formed by tightly weaving hair together. They cannot be washed out, combed out or “undreaded.” Early dreads tend to look messy, fuzzy and dirty. This is because it takes the hair about half a year to adjust to the changes and learn to weave together naturally. Most dreadheads find it hard to bear the commitment for the sake of vanity and cut their dreads off within the first few months. Early dreadlocks also require intensive care otherwise they become disgusting and smelly. There are specific steps in washing and keeping the dreadlocks tidy, though many dreadheads fail to do this and therefore contribute to the stereotype that “dreadlocks are dirty.”

The nature of dreadlocks is so unique that it is a lifestyle. Growing beautiful dreads involves deep commitment, perseverance and faith. This statement may seem a bit exaggerated, but any true knotty head will confirm it. Dreadlocks are anything but vain as most people with dreadlocks go through months and sometimes years of ugly-looking hair before any real formation occurs. Beautiful dreadlocks are found only in those who truly love the discipline that comes with having it.

Bob Marley and other reggae artists have composed songs about Rastafarian (“Rasta”) hair. In no other culture are the dreadlocks placed in a higher social position of importance. All Rastafarians wear dreadlocks, and they view it as a covenant between Jah (God) and humans. Rastafarians do not cut their hair, so dreadlocks often serve as a sign of brotherhood. It is not uncommon that anyone with dreadlocks is mistaken as a Rastafarian, though many are not and do not follow Rastafari beliefs.

People with dreadlocks have long been misunderstood by those around them. Many knotty heads, including myself, faced ignorant stereotypes and judgements.

Some of these stereotypes say that dreadheads are lazy dirty stoned hippies. This is far from the truth as dreadlocks are not always associated with pot and the 60s. Furthermore, dreadlocks is not a “lazy” hairstyle, it is one that involves much hard work and patience. Mature dreadlocks are harder to find, but they are beautiful and tight, without any loose hair dangling on the sides.

Dreadlocks will remain a mystery to most people because only those who wore them can understand every aspect of the lifestyle. People grow dreads for different reasons, and most find individualism through the process.

How to start your own dreads:

This is the basic way to start. There are many other methods and further research should be done before you start dreading up your hair. Remember that knotted hair does not equal dreadlocks. Time is the key element and a lot of patience will be developed. I have a website that provides thorough information.

1. Wash hair thoroughly.

2. Divide hair into strands of desired thickness.

3. Use a flee comb to backcomb (comb
upwards towards scalp) the root of a strand.

4. Twist hair and keep backcombing,
twist to other directions and do the same.
Backcomb your way down until
the entire strand is knotted.

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