I’ve had dreads for nearly a year now. Over the past year, my life has changed dramatically, and a big reason is due to my hair. The way others perceive me and treat me overall is unlike ever before. Some experiences are positive and some aren’t so much. I’ve had to get used to complete strangers coming up to me to comment on my hair. Sometimes they touch it unannounced. I’ve been turned down from jobs because of my locks. However, I’ve been granted more fitting and positive situations by people who accepted me and my 37 locks. Here’s 11 of the most common questions, comments and myths I encounter on a daily basis.
1. “Do you even wash your hair? And how?”
With soap. It’s crazy. I put it on my scalp, massage my roots and work up a small lather and rinse it out by working it through my ends. Sound familiar? Thats because the process is! The main difference is that I use shampoos that don’t leave behind a residue. My shampoo revolves around a base of essential oils. I also wash my hair pretty regularly, every 3-4 days. Every dread head has their own unique wash schedule and it’s a personal process that depends on how often you work up a sweat, how oily your scalp is and what environments you’re in. It’s truly amazing how when you wash your hair less, your scalp regulates the amount of oil it produces. My hair is actually less oily with dreads than without. We focus on getting our roots very clean and rinsing them thoroughly. I like to ring out my dreads in sections while the water runs over them. I wash my hair every 3-4 days because I’m outside a lot and I work nearly everyday so I like make sure my scalp is feeling fresh and light. More often than that and my scalp would be irritated. I notice that my dreads locked up extremely fast and that because I keep mine very clean. The cleaner the dreads are, the easier it is is for them to tighten up.
2.“Can I touch your hair?” *Touches hair without waiting*
Never just touch someone’s dreads. Don’t pull on them. Don’t play with them. We get enough people that do that without warning. Unless you are told specifically that a person is okay with you touching their hair, don’t assume it’s fine. Sometimes it will be okay and other times, maybe not. Always ask. Besides, when was the last time you washed your hands anyway?
3. “You got dreads because you stopped brushing your hair.”
Although I don’t have to brush my hair anymore, that isn’t how I got dreadlocks . I went to a salon and had my hair professionally sectioned. Each section was then backcombed and then a very small crochet hook (similar to the size of a needle) was used to crochet the dread. The point is not to pull hair into the dread and rip it out on the other side but rather to crochet the hair into the dread nice and tightly and then maneuver the hook out safely. Not every dread head uses this method, it all depends on the texture of the hair and the desired look. For skinnier dreads, you would get smaller sections and vice versa. Some dread heads don’t section their hair at all; these are called freeform locks. Either way, we all palm roll our sections and retwist the roots.
4. “I bet your hair has a lot of wax/product in it to make it look that way.”
I personally prefer not to use product in my hair. Like I said before, I wash my hair regularly and then I’ll blow dry my roots to get out the dampness. Thats it. There’s a lot of wax products and oil based sprays out there for dreads. However, I found that when I put a lot of product in my dreads, it weighed them down and made them feel like that had excess oil and gunk in them. The products would temporarily tame flyaway hairs but then after a wash, they would be back. I decided to put down the products after having my dreads for about a month and my locks tightened right up naturally. As said earlier, clean dreads lock up fast on their own.
5. “How long do you plan on having your hair that way?”
This question always kind of irks me because when I see someone with a new haircut or color, I compliment them. The last thing I would do is ask them “Well how long is it gonna be like that?” So the answer is, as long as I’d like.
6. “You’ll have to shave your head when you want to get rid of your dreads.”
That’s not true! Some salons offer dread removal as a service. It’s a very meticulous process. It includes soaking the dreadlocks and then using a needle-like pick to slowly comb the dread out. Or you can always do it on your own. Anything done in a salon for dreads can be done at home. I’ve seen people who had a full head of dreads go back to not having dreads anymore and they never once took out the clippers.
7. “What happens if you get lice?”
Although this has never happened to my while having my locks, I would assume it would be a horrendous thing to deal with. Isn’t lice always the worst? You can always remove the dreadlocks and treat treat the scalp. Now with that being said, lice need hair that they can move freely in. Lice can’t thrive in dense hairstyles. So it’s actually much more likely for someone without dreadlocks or braids to get lice than someone with them.
8. “White people that have dreads are appropriating a culture that isn’t theirs.”
This is always a tough one for me. Hair is something so special and unique. The politics that relate to textured hair and dreadlocks go back to what is seen as acceptable by a superficial society that places so much value on having straight hair. There are still plenty of work places that won’t allow dreadlocks. I’ve been turned down from waitressing jobs because of my hair. It’s an unacceptable rule that excludes people that could be just as capable if not more talented depending on the job. Dreadlocks shouldn’t be a reason to deny anyone anything.Fortunately, many generations of dreadlocks have been worn and they are accepted more now than in the past.
With that being said, I’ve always loved dreadlocks. I’ve loved them so much that I dreaded my own hair. I can only speak for myself; I did it out of my love for the hairstyle. I’ve always had long knotty hair and I would cry after every hair cut. I hated brushing my tangled hair. I hated styling it. I didn’t like the process of maintaining my hair to look a certain way everyday. With dreads, I am able to live a more carefree and flexible lifestyle. Although I do not come from a long line of people that wear dreadlocks, I appreciate those that do.
By definition, cultural appropriation is borrowing something from a culture to exploit the culture itself and bring harm to the culture. I feel that each dread head should be considered individually, since we are all individuals. Because of freedom of expression, cultural appropriation is inevitable on some level. I’m not saying that it is right or wrong; I’m simply saying that it is. However, I’d like to note that cultural appropriation is only a relevant accusation when a cultural aspect is fetishized and stereotyped.
There is such a thing as benign borrowing and cultural appreciation. These are a more positive approach to the sharing of cultural aspects and for example, dreads. The world we live in is kind of like a melting pot, that’s what makes us all so beautiful. By wearing dreads, I am never claiming to be anything other than my authentic creative self. Again, I can’t say that I speak for anyone other than myself when it comes to dreadlocks. I love my dreadlocks, and that is why I have them. I have them for me and nobody else. They are not to impress anyone or to be liked by others. But if others like them, then that’s great! Maintaining my locks and growing them has been a journey unlike any other. I understand why at first glance, it can seem like I am taking something from someone else. But I think that’s a way of separating people. Many cultures ranging from the Celtics to the Ancient Greek to Indigenous Australians to Tibetan Buddhists to Rastafarians have had dreadlocks. Dreadlocks are even discussed in the Bible for Christ’s sake; and yes, pun intended! Dreads have been around forever and they’ll continue to have a presence among all walks of life.
9. “You probably save so much money by having dreads.”
This is kind of funny. I feel like I do save money because I don’t have to buy products and straighteners or get hair cuts and color treatments. Although most dread heads don’t, there are dread heads out there that enjoy trimming their locks when they get too heavy or coloring them for fun. I don’t really do any of that so I can only speak on my experience. I will say that my shampoo isn’t cheap. One bottle runs around $20 but it lasts me about 6 months. Again, I really don’t encourage using products in dreadlocks, even if they claim to be water soluble but some people like to use them. Products can be pricey as well. Getting maintenance on dreadlocks is another expense in itself, and it’s painful. Luckily, I go to an awesome chick who only charges $70 an hour and typically takes about 60-90 minutes. However, I know there are salons out there that charge upwards of $150-$200 an hour. I get maintenance done about every 3-4 months. Some dread heads go longer, some get maintenance done more often. It’s all about personal preference but it can cost a pretty penny.
10. “You’ve ruined your natural hair by getting it dreaded.”
This one is so silly to me. Again, I’ve seen the hair of those that have removed their dreads and it’s actually softer than ever. That’s because when the hair is dreaded, it isn’t being damaged by chemicals and heated hair tools. And if you’re a dread head that chooses not to color their hair or uses a particularly natural dye then the hair will be affected accordingly. When the dreadlocks are removed, the hair may be of varying lengths but the texture isn’t damaged. The hair will be strong and healthy!
11. “You’ll never get a job with that hairstyle.”
Maybe I won’t get certain jobs because of my hair, but I don’t believe that all places will turn me down. Despite all the hate out there for millenials, I’m lucky to be one in a pretty progressive world. Unfortunately we live with stereotypes and biases everywhere, but we have to work past those stagnant opinions. Any place that doesn’t want me because of my hair, isn’t a place I’d like to work anyways. Hair is hair and all styles are beautiful.
I hope this was an enlightening glimpse into the world of dreadlocks. The knowledge is endless and I’m still learning as I go. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself and my own experience with my dreadlocks. In no way am I assuming that any one experience is the same as another. However, I wanted to offer a insight for anyone who has ever asked these questions, said these things or wondered about them. Sometimes it can be tough to understand something different, but all it takes is a little tolerance and education.