What Does Dreadlocks Mean

Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle choice in recent years, but have you ever wondered what they actually mean? Well, let me enlighten you. Dreadlocks, also known as “locs,” are a hairstyle characterized by matted or coiled strands of hair. They hold deep cultural and historical significance, representing a variety of things depending on the individual and their cultural background. From spirituality and rebellion to a celebration of natural hair, dreadlocks are more than just a hairstyle – they are a powerful symbol of self-expression and identity.

What Does Dreadlocks Mean

Dreadlocks commonly refer to the hairstyle achieved by allowing the hair to mat and form into long, ropelike strands. The term “dreadlocks” can have different meanings, depending on the context and cultural significance attached to them. In this article, we will explore the various definitions, origins, cultural and religious significances, popular culture references, hairstyling processes, maintenance and care, types, and address misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding dreadlocks.

Definition of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks, also known as “locs,” are a hairstyle where the hair strands naturally or deliberately mat and form into long, thick, and twisted strands. The term “dreadlocks” originated from the Rastafarian culture in Jamaica and evolved from the belief that the hair would become dreadful, or “dreadful locks,” if left untouched and allowed to grow naturally.

Origin of Dreadlocks

The origin of dreadlocks dates back to ancient times, where they can be traced in several cultures worldwide. Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Aztecs were known to have worn dreadlocks as a symbol of wisdom, spirituality, and social status. The mummified remains of Egyptian pharaohs have been discovered with well-preserved dreadlocks, indicating their deep-rooted historical significance.

Cultural Significance of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks in Ancient Times

In ancient times, dreadlocks held significant cultural and spiritual meaning. They symbolized the connection between humans and the divine, representing a person’s unique spiritual journey and growth. In many cultures, dreadlocks were reserved for spiritual leaders, warriors, and esteemed members of the community.

Dreadlocks in African Culture

In African culture, dreadlocks are deeply rooted in history and continue to hold great cultural significance. They represent a connection to one’s African heritage, African spirituality, and ancestral power. Dreadlocks in African culture are seen as a way to embrace and express natural beauty, black identity, and resistance against societal norms.

Dreadlocks in Rastafarianism

In Rastafarianism, a religious and cultural movement developed in Jamaica during the 1930s, dreadlocks have profound spiritual and symbolic meaning. Rastafarians believe that growing and wearing dreadlocks is a way to embody the biblical Nazarite vow, signifying separation from Babylonian oppression and adherence to a spiritual way of life. Dreadlocks in Rastafarianism also serve as a visible sign of African pride, resistance, and unity.

Religious and Spiritual Significance of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks in Hinduism

In Hinduism, dreadlocks are associated with Lord Shiva, one of the major gods. Shiva is often depicted with matted hair, known as “jatas” or “jatakas,” representing the ascetic aspect of his character. Dreadlocks among Hindu sadhus (holy men) and yogis thus symbolize renunciation, spiritual devotion, and union with divine consciousness.

Dreadlocks in Buddhism

In some Buddhist traditions, dreadlocks are observed as a symbol of detachment from worldly desires and attachment to spiritual practice. Some Buddhist monks and nuns opt for dreadlocks as a way to simplify their lives and focus on their spiritual path.

Dreadlocks in Christianity

While dreadlocks are not explicitly mentioned in Christian scriptures, some Christian individuals choose to wear dreadlocks as an expression of their faith. For these individuals, dreadlocks represent a personal commitment to a simpler, more spiritual way of life, aligned with biblical teachings on humility and inner transformation.

Dreadlocks in Popular Culture

Dreadlocks in Music and Entertainment

Dreadlocks have made a significant impact on popular culture, particularly in music and entertainment. Musicians like Bob Marley, who popularized reggae music and Rastafarian culture, played a pivotal role in bringing dreadlocks into the mainstream. From rock to hip-hop, artists have embraced dreadlocks as a form of self-expression, individuality, and rebellion against societal norms.

Dreadlocks in Fashion

Dreadlocks have become a fashion statement, transcending cultural and racial boundaries. People from various backgrounds now choose to wear dreadlocks as a symbol of personal style, creativity, and non-conformity. Dreadlocks in fashion reflect a celebration of diversity and the beauty of embracing natural hair textures.

Dreadlocks in Cultural Appropriation

It is essential to acknowledge that the popularity of dreadlocks in popular culture has also led to instances of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation occurs when elements of one culture are adopted without proper understanding or respect for their cultural significance. Wearing dreadlocks without an understanding of their historical, spiritual, and cultural importance can perpetuate stereotypes and diminish the experiences of those for whom dreadlocks hold deep meaning.

Hairstyling Process of Dreadlocks

Natural Dreadlocks

Natural dreadlocks, also known as neglect or freeform locs, involve allowing the hair to grow and naturally mat without any intentional manipulation. This method requires patience as the hair gradually forms into sections, and the strands interlock over time.

Twist and Rip Method

The twist and rip method is a technique used to create and shape dreadlocks. It involves sectioning the hair and twisting individual strands before pulling them apart, allowing the hair to knot and form into dreadlocks. This method provides more control and consistency in the dreadlock formation process.

Backcombing Method

The backcombing method involves teasing the hair strands backward to create volume and tangle the hair, forming knots that eventually develop into dreadlocks. This technique is commonly used to create dense and well-defined dreadlocks.

Maintenance and Care of Dreadlocks

Washing and Conditioning

Contrary to popular belief, dreadlocks require regular washing and conditioning to maintain cleanliness and promote healthy hair growth. Special care must be taken to ensure that the hair is thoroughly rinsed, and residue-free products are used to prevent build-up and mold formation.

Interlocking Technique

The interlocking technique is a method used to maintain and tighten the roots of the dreadlocks. It involves using a tool to weave or pull the hair through the roots, minimizing unraveling and maintaining the overall structure of the dreadlocks.

Retwisting and Palm Rolling

Retwisting and palm rolling are techniques used to maintain the shape and tightness of the dreadlocks. Retwisting involves twisting the hair at the roots in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, while palm rolling involves rolling the dreadlocks between the palms to smoothen and tighten the strands.

Different Types of Dreadlocks

Freeform Locs

Freeform locs, as mentioned earlier, are natural dreadlocks that form without any intentional manipulation. This type of dreadlocks embraces the texture and movement of the hair, resulting in a unique and organic appearance.


Sisterlocks are a thin variation of traditional dreadlocks. They are created using a specific technique that requires the hair to be divided into small, precise sections using a special tool. Sisterlocks offer versatility and manageability due to their smaller size and lightweight nature.

Interlocked Locs

Interlocked locs, also known as “interlocs,” are created by weaving or interlocking the hair strands together using a specific tool. This method helps to create more uniform and neater dreadlocks, reducing the risk of unraveling and maintaining a consistent appearance.

Misconceptions and Stereotypes about Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks and Unprofessionalism

One common misconception surrounding dreadlocks is the assumption that they are unprofessional. This stereotype stems from biases and discriminatory practices against natural hair textures. However, dreadlocks can be maintained, styled, and presented in a professional manner, challenging the notion that they are inherently unprofessional.

Dreadlocks and Hygiene

Another misconception associated with dreadlocks is the belief that they are unhygienic. However, proper maintenance, regular washing, and appropriate care can ensure that dreadlocks remain clean and healthy. Like any other hairstyle, cleanliness and hygiene are essential aspects of maintaining dreadlocks.


Dreadlocks carry different meanings, ranging from cultural and spiritual significance to fashion statements and individuality. They have been present throughout history and continue to evolve and hold importance in various communities worldwide. It is crucial to appreciate and respect the cultural contexts in which dreadlocks originated while also recognizing their impact and representation in popular culture. By understanding the processes, maintenance, and varieties of dreadlocks, we can debunk misconceptions and stereotypes, fostering a more inclusive, educated, and accepting society.

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