xDreadlocks are ropelike strands of hair formed by matting or braiding. Its origins can be traced back to the mummies of ancient Egypt, the Indian deity, Shiva, as well as in Bible passages in the character of Sampson whose strength comes from his seven locks of hair. But the term “dreadlocks” itself emerged from the religious movement called Rastafarianism. Dreadlocks for Rastafarians served as their identity as well as a symbol of spiritual resistance from an imperialist structure that had a history of oppressing people of color. They gained popularity among the black Jamaican community and had a major role in popularizing the look in western culture. Bob Marley, as we all know, also contributed to the popularity of the style.
Dreadlocks have been appropriated over the years as a fashion trend, neglecting its historical significance for a marginalized group. Basing from its diverse origins, no one truly owns the style but nevertheless, I believe adopting the look as a trend while carrying power and privilege and putting it into another context is damaging.
The first point I’ll present is an irony. There are black people who get called out for leaving their locs be while there are these white people being praised for having “trendy” dreadlocks. The thing is, blacks needed to straighten their hair because they were told it didn’t look clean and were less beautiful, while there are others who make effort to get these locs for fashion. It seems like a small argument but hair isn’t something small, it’s part of their lifestyles and the impact it has on people is so significant.
A better view on this point is an incident with the Fashion police and Zendaya, a half-black American star. Zendaya wore her hair on locs on the Oscars red carpet and got criticized for it with an insult saying she looked like she smells of “patchouli oil or weed”. She responded to this with maturity by saying successful people like Ava Duvernay (director of Oscar-nominated film Selma), Ledisi (9 time Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and actress) and many more people of all races have dreadlocks and “none of which smell of marijuana”.
She further stressed that her gesture of coming to the red carpet in locs was to showcase African-american hair in a positive light, reminding the community that “their hair is good enough”. This is just to show that whites get to claim locs and be praised for it while blacks get so much criticism for something natural of them.
Another case is how black people have to compromise their hair in order to look professional. Most women need to do this to increase their chances of getting employed because dreadlocks weren’t appropriate for the workplace. This is a case black women still encounter today. It’s actually reasonable when you think about what the norms are because the mentality today is textured hair is messy and it only seems appropriate to fix it up. But, it’s unfair when these dreadlocks are natural for black women and they exert more effort than just tying up one’s hair to a bun to look professional.
Dread for fashion becomes so visible when there is cultural appropriation, and in the fashion industry it has happened a lot. The dreadlocks, bindis, hijab, traditional geisha and many more have been adapted in the runway receiving so much controversy. I think it is better when there is cultural exchange which prioritizes respectful permission from different cultures. Fashion definitely sets a cultural identity, and although I support self-expression I hate seeing it root in privilege and ignorance.