Locs

Dreadlocks and Locs: What’s the Difference?



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Often times you will hear people say I have locs because I refuse to call my hair “dreadful”. It also has been said that dreadlocks has a demeaning connotation which roots are derived from Jamaica. While many people may think dreadlocks originated in Jamaica this is incorrect. Before Jamaicans, many cultures have worn dreadlocks such as the Yogis of India and Egyptians

The style came in contact with Jamaican culture through the slavery of Indians. Though it is said that the idea of dreads originated from the Bible.

Even today you can find modern day Yogis in India with their hair in Dreadlocks. Dreadlocks to these people are more than just a hairstyle. It is a denial of one’s own personal needs and it is a part of the quest to connect with the divine.


Now where are people getting this negative feeling from the word dreadlock?

I was curious about this feeling, when I had dreadlocks or locs I had no problem calling them either or and I wonder about the negativity behind the term. So I decided to ask my father who was born and raised in Jamaica. Through this conversation I discovered Jamaicans use the term “dread” as a term of respect, just like you would use “Sir” to address someone you are not familiar with and would like to show respect to.

Jamaican Patois Definitions of Dread

  • A person who has dreadlocks
  • Greeting to friend
  • Expression of a good idea
  • Awe or astonishment

Now here is where the confusion sets in?

dreadful power of the holy”

Now this Jamaican Patois definition is derived from the religious roots that dreadlocks have. People feared and respected those who wore dreadlocks. Those who were associated with dreadlocks were thought of as holy and powerful. They were thought to have this spiritual connectedness with the divine that separated them from the others. If you were to even speak with a present day Yogi they would tell you that their journey separates them from the world around them.

Now does this make “dreadlock” a negative term because it is associated with being “dreadful”, well it all depends on your perspective, as no two people will agree I am sure. However, before you just accept that the term “dreadlock” has a negative meaning please do your own research and then you determine for yourself, don’t just follow the lead of all the conflicting sources of information out there.

Sources: http://www.dreadlocks.org/the-history-of-dreadlocks/

                  http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/28443

                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/rastafari/customs/customs_1.shtml

                  http://forum.dancehallreggae.com/showthread.php/231731-Sadhu-mystical-influence-on-the-Rastafari-Movement

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Ariane (Editor-in-Chief)

I am Ariane, full-time curly crusader, wife and mom. On this website we offer natural hair products, FREE natural hair tips, style ideas and support. More about my hair journey can be found here.

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28 Comments

  1. I, for one, refuse to call my beautiful locks of hair “dreadlocks.” I’ve heard two stories about the origination of the term. One was that a group of fierce, African warriors — who wore their hair locked — were so feared that when they went into battle people would say, “Those dreaded, locked people are coming!” Thus, the name was shortened to dreadlocks. The other story is that when Europeans saw the locks of West Indians, because the Europeans disapproved of anything not like them (e.g., kinky hair, afros, dark skin, thick lips), they referred to the indigenous people’s hair as “dreadful.” Hence, dreadlocks became popular. For me, neither story leaves me with a happy-happy, feel good feeling. The definition of “lock” is a piece (or pieces) of hair, and it has nothing to do with whether it’s rolled, latched, matted, or anything else. Regardless of how anyone tries to dress it up, I agree with the person who said that the word “dread” or “dreadful” has a negative connotation (and denotation) in and of itself. That having been said, no matter the story or the origin of who began to wear a certain style, there is nothing DREADFUL about my locks — meaning simply hair — whether it be rolled, twisted, loose, matted, or any other style.

    1. Sonya says:

      I couldn’t have said it better!

  2. sketch says:

    I once read that the Rastas reason for wearing DREAD locks was because the world is dreadful place place, so they adopt a dreadful appearance. When the world is free of war and oppression, they will cut off their dreadlocks. I’ve had dreads for 33 years, still waiting.

  3. Charles Kirnon says:

    Thank you for the well thought out article, mutch love. I am no expert however I have done a lot of reading on the subject of Black hair and What I have concluded is that locs are of Africa however, one must remember that all humanity is of Africa therfore in truth locs are Universal. I do not appreciate the high amount of disrespect toward this article oh, it is totally understandable that people would disagree but to the name call Over a disagreement? is uncalled for. Peace

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