Dreading the Truth: on the Cultural Appropriation of Dreadlocks

A natural hairstyle that consists of intentionally or unintentionally matted sculpts of roped sections of hair, dreadlocks have seemingly been around since the beginning of time. All the rage in this day and age, while dreadlocks are widely considered an Afrocentric style with profound roots steeped in culture and religion, they have also become a trendy style for people of all races and backgrounds. Nevertheless, where does cultural appropriation, come into play? That is an excellent question.

The History of Dreadlocks

A history that is still writing itself, the true origin of dreadlocks can be a bit hard to pinpoint. However, many historians assert that they have been around since as long ago as 2,500 BCE and were practiced by an array of cultures and religions. While many credit ancient Egypt with their creation, others assert that the first physical evidence of dreadlocks exists in India’s Vedic scriptures in which the deity, Shiva, is depicted sporting the style. In addition to that, dreadlocks have long since been tied to Egyptian culture as anthropologists have discovered numerous mummies with their lovely locks still intact. Either way, no matter which narrative you choose to believe, I think we can all agree that the origin of dreadlocks is ancient, indigenous, and even spiritual.

Dreadlocks in Religion


Although most people immediately think of Rastafarians as the only religion that sees dreadlocks as spiritual, this is far from the whole truth. In fact, some use textual support from the Bible, Hindu teachings, Buddhism, and much more. Either way, for many people all over the world, dreadlocks are a symbol of African heritage, resistance to oppression, and promotes the notion that hair is sacred and serves a purpose far more important than those tied to vanity-related concerns.

The New Age, Pop Culture, and Dreadlocks

Despite the initial meaning of dreadlocks, the new age has completely redefined who rocks dreadlocks as well as why. More of a fashion statement than anything else, dreadlocks are still considered anti-establishment, but that view seems to be changing as well. They are worn by people of all cultures, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and are even accompanied by partial haircuts, sharp edge-ups, and other creative styling options. Very much a popular style, those who rock dreadlocks enjoy being an individual and making a statement. Moreover, many of them aren’t even real. In addition to the yarn method, they have legit dreadlock extensions on the market. That’s right! Faux locks are a legit thing now. So, some of those locks you’re admiring might actually be fake. Indeed, at this point, literally anyone can get dreadlocks in a matter of hours. Just ask Fetty Wap.

Cultural Appropriation of Dreadlocks


Nevertheless, cultural appropriation of dreadlocks is real. How can this be? Well, given that corporate America has spent many decades trying to keep those who wear styles such as dreadlocks out of the boardrooms and positions of power, only to turn around and make exceptions when the style became popular amongst other races is infuriating to many. No, I personally am not mad at Justin Bieber anymore than I am angry at Fetty Wap. Both used to style as a quick way to switch up their look and garner attention. However, it is important to note, one of the main reasons it’s seen as cultural appropriation in Beiber’s case, if that he has often been accused of appropriating black culture in his music and has faced backlash for an old video in which a young Bieber uses the “N-Word”…complete with a hard “-ER” at the end. Nevertheless, the people I am most upset with are those who have spent many years referring to dreadlocks as “unprofessional”, “unkempt” and any other un they could utter, only to refer to them as “cool” or “edgy” when Bieber tries the style. In short, if dreadlocks are, officially, like, an American thing… I’m gonna need more Black and Brown people with dreadlocks to stop being referred to as slackers, racially profiled, and denied higher paying jobs… to start. I’m gonna need for Zendaya to not be told she “looks like she smells like weed” for rocking them on red carpets and for the world to take notice of their ancient origin and true meaning behind them.

Dreadlock Tutorials


Now that we got that out of the way, dreads are awesome! An ancient style with a new age twist, dreadlocks are officially more relevant than ever. Thinking of starting some of your own? Check out these awesome tutorials!