This to me I find to be a more fascinating question apart from asking the history of dreadlocks. The history of dreadlocks accesses the explanation from the starting point and that migration to present day. However, when you ask the question: Where did dreadlocks originate … you’re specifically asking about the starting point. You want to know about the origin.
There are two approaches to this question and I will attempt to answer both. The first approach is trying to discover the distinct origin of dreadlocks and the second is uncovering the origin of dreadlocks as we view them today.
Lets go Waaay Back – Back in Time
Dreadlocks are the matting and twisting of one’s hair until such hair is ‘locked’ . This is a continuous process as the hair continues to grow. Now, most people believe this process is the natural inevitability of hair when left completely unattended. So, because of this conclusion pointing to a distinct origin can be difficult.
I say we use two factors to try and determine origin.
Factor 1 – written account
Factor 2 – physical evidence
After many searches and much reading, it appears the first written existence of dreadlocks or ‘matted hair’ was attributed to Shiva. Who is Shiva? Well I won’t bore you with the excruciating details, but basically he is a Hindu god. The interesting aspect about this written account is the fact that Shiva is a deity. So one might say of this story to be bogus because you may not believe that Shiva even existed.
However, even if I or anyone doesn’t believe that Shiva ever walked the earth the reference to his hair being matted is significant. The fact that it is written leads me to believe other humans within that culture (during the time of the writing) also had matted hair similar to what we know as dreadlocks.
Now, lets jump to the physical evidence (PE). The PE of dreadlocks points to no other than Egypt. We should all thank the Egyptians for mummifying their corpses because there is no better way to preserve a body for thousands of years.
Anthropologist have been studying the hair from Egyptian mummies and the results are quite fascinating. A somewhat controversial article about hair on Egyptian mummies being Caucasian or Negroid does state the appearance of dreadlocks and braided matted hair.
The question about the origin of dreadlocks can be narrowed down to two cultures and two time periods. It is the best we can do with the information we have. So based on the facts, we surmise dreadlocks (in the ancient sense) originated in India and Africa – specifically Egypt.
Dreadlocks as We know them Today
Now that we have come to some sort of an agreement about the distinct origin of dreadlocks. Lets tackle the origin of dreadlocks as we think of them today. At the current pulse, majority of society looks at dreadlocks as a particular style. People mostly wear them for that purpose. Although there is a rich history from many different cultures and angles – most folk just like the way they look. I believe that within the process of attaining dreadlocks is where a spiritual or deeper connection may come into play.
If you talk about dreadlocks in more modern terms you can’t leave out the influence of Mr. Marley aka Bob Marley. He was a definite influence of the introduction of dreadlocks to ‘popular culture’. He is responsible for the introduction because of him fame and notoriety, but people today mostly don’t wear dreadlocks for the same reason Bob Marley wore them.
I think a lot of people want to have dreadlocks for a lot of the reasons Bob Marley wore them, but it is just to hard to relate. You would have to be immersed in that culture, in that mindset in order to have the same connections to the reasons dreadlocks became a common theme among Jamaicans and more specifically Rastafarians.
Even as a kid growing up and also into my young adulthood – dreadlocks were not the phenomenon they seem to be now. As a young black male, braids and corn-rolls were more stylish and appealing than dreadlocks. It was all about the ‘hang time’ your braids had that established accomplishment and ultimate style.
So honestly, it is very difficult to point to one singular event that spring-boarded dreadlocks as we view them today. More people from all different races and believes are sporting dreadlocks. As said before Bob Marley is responsible for the introduction, but as far as taking dreadlocks to today’s implementation is a whole other discussion. All I can say is that we are influenced by what we see and our surroundings. I put the final encumbrance on A-listers, sports legends, and influential voices for making dreadlocks what they are today.