Dreadlocks and women have long been a staple in American culture. They are so much more than a trendy, hipster fashion statement. They have stood and continue to stand for freedom and empowerment among girls and women of all sorts.
Dreadlocks originally began with the Rastafarians of Jamaica, but also soon became prominent in Indian and yogi cultures as well. The dreadlocks were symbolic of letting go of all worldly possessions, even one’s comb, and rediscovering one’s spiritual side. However, we Americans were introduced to dreadlocks in an entirely different and unfortunately depressing manner—slavery.
Dreadlocks are the natural condition that hair lays when it has been free from any combing or hair relaxers of any kind. The hair begins to intertwine and wrap around itself in way that creates ropes or “locs.” Slaves developed this hairstyle whilst traveling the several month’s voyage from their homeland to America. This type of hairstyle was highly frowned upon and even considered “dreadful,” which is where the term dreadlocks actually came from. Upon arrival to America, these dreadlocks were chopped off because of their dreadful appearance.
This is why, for many African-Americans, dreadlocks can be a symbol of empowerment and self-respect, as well as a form of cultural identity. In addition to this, many African-Americans choose this particular style because their coarse hair can be difficult to style without using damaging chemicals like hair relaxers. Dreadlocks are much easier, just wash and your ready to go.
Now, this is where the question is raised, “is it okay for white women to have dreadlocks?” This is a very difficult question to answer. On one hand, we have come a long way since the time of slavery and we live in a much more racially neutral world now. However, with dreadlocks standing as a firm stance against white supremacy, it is highly offensive to the African-American culture.
In our culture, African-American women are constantly bombarded with campaigns and commercials offering up tips, tricks, and products that allow them to look more “put-together” or “respectable,” which ultimately just means: we want to make you look more white. This is a very toxic societal pressure that African-American women live with on an every-day basis and it can be very demeaning and discouraging.
Whenever, white people sport the dreadlock style it is often read as, “I can take this symbol of black culture and turn it into an exotic’ fashion trend, without recognizing the discrimination in which this hairstyle stands for.
Dreadlocks a Symbol
Now, to stray a bit away from black culture, there is a little bit more to say about the symbolism behind dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have also more recently become symbolic of the feminism movement. Women have been throwing away the daily beauty rituals that society has bestowed them and have been taking the natural rout instead. They have been growing out leg and armpit hair as well as letting their hair resort to a natural style. And, as previously stated, when hair has been uncombed for an extended period of time, the result is dreadlocks.
Dreadlocks role in the feminist movement has provided lots of women with the feelings of freedom and empowerment. Ignoring the societal pressure that American culture has placed on women, this feeling has allowed for many women to feel like they are just as powerful as any man. This has been achieved due to the fact that women can now place their value in other personal attributes, not just physical appearance.
Physical appearance had dominated our culture for far too long. It is so refreshing to see women taking a stand for themselves and recognizing their potential. The great thing about utilizing dreadlocks is that it makes a statement without even saying a word.
Dreadlocks for All?
Now, to address the previously asked question, “who can wear dreadlocks?” There really is no right or wrong answer to this question. However, if you are going to choose to wear dreadlocks, no matter what race you are, it is important to understand their background and role in American history.
I personally think it is awesome whenever I see women sporting their dreadlocks with pride. There are so many women that have used their beautiful locs to speak out for themselves and make a statement. It turns out that a hairstyle can be so much more than just a fashion statement; it can be empowerment.
Take, for instance, one very inspiring African-American model, Wahidah Fowler. Fowler proudly shows off her long locs wherever she goes, but this has not always been the easiest thing for her to do. In fact, many directors have refused to cast her just because of her dreadlocks. Despite this, Fowler has stood strong and has absolutely refused to alter her hair to appease anyone
Women who wear dreadlocks are unfortunately overlooked quite frequently. They are often looked at as second class or as naturalists. Again, this is due to society’s pressure on women to all look exactly the same and sport the same styles. However, Fowler is above this and is proud to say that she is different. Despite the adversity she has faced, Fowler has been very successful in her career.
Another great example of a woman who has been a great inspiration is the stunning actress, Zendaya Giuliana. Zendaya chose to utilize her dreadlocks in a statement that has reached young women all over the nation. The beloved former Disney star has made a proud proclamation that she is proud, not ashamed of her culture and she wants to show it.
This has inspired many girls, of all races, to embrace their culture and be proud of themselves. Zendaya has actually been so successful in her social statement, that Mattel actually came out with their first ever Barbie doll with dreadlocks.
Dreadlocks are a very important social stamp of the United States. They have long stood for cultural empowerment and pride. They’ve stood for revolution and freedom. They’re a cultural symbol that will always have great meaning for women of all races, but ultimately they are a reminder—Be proud of who you are. Be happy that you are you.