The Jamaican Dreadlocks
The Hairstyles & Its History

Jamaican Dreadlocks - by Rosemarie Gordon

I remember my mother telling us about the first time she saw someone wearing dreadlocks, this happened when she was about 10 years old.

She was so afraid she ran nonstop almost for a mile to get home. You see, the wearing of locks in those days was rather novel, so just think about bumping into someone with matted beard down to his chest and his locks all the way down pass his waist and looking rather ‘dread’ indeed.

Jamaican dreadlocks
Damion Crawford

That was then the novelty has long since worn off. Now a days it is almost impossible to stand anywhere in Jamaica for a minute without spotting someone sporting some rather attractive looking dreadlocks.

The wearing of dreadlocks started here in the early 1950s and became prominent with the popularity of Reggae music.

The reasons for wearing dreadlocks are many, but in Jamaica there are two main reasons, it is either worn as a fashion statement or for spiritual reasons.

More than ever though, dreadlock in Jamaica today is more “a la mode” than spiritual.

Dreads "A la mode"

For the most part these days the wearing of dreadlocks is more for style than anything else.

It has become the latest hair fad and has defused the preconceived notion that persons sporting dreadlocks smoked ganja, ate only ital food and chants.

Dreadlocks are formed if the hair is left uncombed, un-brushed or uncut, however depending on the hair texture locking may not be very easy and you might need to consult one of the many natural hairstylist for help.

Some popular methods used by these stylists to encourage and maintain locks are:

  • Backcombing- this method involves combing the hair towards the scalp which causes the hair to tangle and knot.
  • Freeform – allowing the hair to grow out on its own. This does not work for all hair texture
  • Interlocking – this is the use of a latch-hook to weave new growth for those persons sporting sister or brotherlocks

..but there are many more dreadlock styles.

Spiritual motivation

The wearing of locks for spiritual reasons is a practice for members of the Rastafarian movement. This movement was founded by Leonard P. Howell in the 1930s and has adopted a portion of the Nazarine vow as one of their fundamental principles.

This section of the vow speaks of refraining from combing or cutting ones hair hence the cultivation of locks.

Numbers 6: 5

“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.”

The word dread was added as a reminder of the hardship faced by Rastafarians. The movement is more than just the wearing of locks, it is more of a lifestyle of consuming little or no processed goods and embracing naturalness and simplicity.

So if you cannot or choose not to grow your own dreadlocks, rest assured that today you can buy some - whether from the solon or on the streets. In fact, my Jamaican Store might just have something for you :-)

There are dreadlocks tams done in the Rastafarian colors as well, and these is available in most gift shops here on the island.

A Jamaican Dreadlocks - A Rasta, Milton UncleA Jamaican Rastaman

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Originally Posted: 01/15/2012

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I enjoyed Rosemarie Gordon's article on the history of Jamaican dreadlocks . It brought back many poignant memories for me of my early life in Jamaica. …

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