There are hairstyles that never gain mass popularity, yet are a familiar sight to just about everybody.
Such is the case with dreadlocks, a hairstyle in a world of its own, not understood by most people but, of course, that doesn’t matter. One cannot help but notice how people who wear “dreads” are totally comfortable with their chosen look.
For most people, dreadlocks are most closely associated with Bob Marley. The singer/songwriter/musician from Jamaica was the undisputed king of reggae, has remained so since his passing in 1981, and will still have the title generations from now.
In essence, dreadlocks are formed when hair (not just that of people of African descent) is allowed to grow with no outside interference, so to speak. The hair first mats into coils and eventually forms dreadlocks.
There is some debate as to how the term “dreadlocks” came to be. Some believe it is rooted in the dialect of the followers of Rastafarianism, a Jamaican religious movement. For them the word is applicable to men who believe in that religion and fear the Lord.
Although the word “dreadlocks” was not heard — at least not in this country — until the early 1960s, wearing hair in twisted locks can be traced to ancient times in several countries.
The term was well known in Jamaica, West Indies, in the 1950s, and perhaps earlier. Rastafarians developed in the 1930s. They view Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930, as a messenger from God, a deity.
Dreadlocks are also worn among some people in Africa, as well as some in India and a few other countries.
In Western culture, the wearing of dreadlocks is, in most cases, more of a fashion statement than an outward expression of one’s religious or spiritual beliefs.
Its popularity grew in direct proportion to the popularity of reggae music.
Not surprisingly, entertainers have had much to do with the ever-growing visibility of dreadlocks. That includes everyone from comedienne/actress Whoopi Goldberg, author Alice Walker, singer Maxi Priest and jazz singer/musician Cassandra Wilson to reggae star Eddy Grant, rapper Lil Wayne, singer/musicians Lenny Kravitz and Bobby McFerrin and singer Billy Ocean.
Of course, the foremost influence was Bob Marley, and today four of his sons are carrying on the tradition, both in terms of the music and the dreads. They are Ziggy, Kymani, Damian and Stephen Marley.
Dreadlocks are now so firmly entrenched in our culture — although on the fringe — that there are several websites devoted to its history, caring for it, etc.
No doubt, Bob Marley would be pleased.