Tap to Read ➤

History of Dreadlocks

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Dreadlocks, as a unique way of dressing one's hair, have been popular among various cultures since the remote past. Read on to learn about the history of these matted coils of hair.
You may frown upon the bad grooming habits of people, having hair twists, coils, and/or dreadlocks, but in reality, this hairstyle has religious associations in many cultures.
It is believed that the technique of forming dreadlocks was known to the ancient Egyptians, however, tracing the actual origins of this hairdo is a rather difficult task. This also makes it tough to trace its evolution. However, we have attempted to trace the journey of the dreadlocks over the ages, here.

Dreadlocks: A Historical Journey

There are different religions and cultures around the world that have had people, confidently and proudly, sporting dreadlocks.

The North African Origins

In North Africa, many tribes, ethnic groups, and cultures have known to sport dreadlocks. Even today, we find the warriors of Kenya wearing long, thin, and red dreadlocks. African priests are also said to wear dreadlocks.
The women from the Himba tribe, residing in the Namib desert, flaunt their dreadlocks in a very unique style. As the people of Africa moved around the world, they carried the culture along with them. Soon, different cultures started adopting dreadlocks, in their own, unique styles.

The Egyptian Connection

Egyptians had hairstyles according to age, gender and social standing. If you look at the bas-reliefs, statuary and related artifacts from ancient Egypt, you will see them with locked hairstyles and wigs. Mummified Egyptian pharaohs have been discovered wearing locked hair. It is thought that those who wore dreadlocks then, had a strong social standing.

The Hindu Roots

In Hindu religion, Lord Shiva is known to wear the 'Jataa'. The term 'Jataa' refers to 'twisted locks of hair'. The 'Naga Sadhus', the followers of Lord Shiva, also flaunt this hairdo.
They grow their hair in the form of long, snake-like matted locks, and conserve them to gain the highest manifestation. Similarly, the other holy men, also wear their dreadlocks in a twisted knot on top of the heads. This twisted knot is let down only on few special occasions, especially the holy days.

The Hebrew Manifestation

Dreadlocks are mentioned even in the Holy Bible. In the Book of Judges, Chapter 16, there is a wide reference to Samson, who was known for his incredible strength that originated from his seven dreads. Delilah cut off these seven tresses from his head, and thus, Samson lost all his strength. Other biblical characters are also known to wear dreadlocks.

The Islamic Contributions

Many Sufis, and fakirs of Pakistan are known to sport dreadlocks. The Qalandari sect is a Sufi group of people who neither cut their hair, nor comb it. They allow their hair to grow naturally, in form of dreadlocks.

The Rastafarian Reflection

The Rastafari movement helped bring this unique hairstyle on the center stage, or rather, revive it. The Rastafarians wore the dreadlocks, so they could look like the 'Lion of Judah', mentioned in the Bible.
In the 1970s, the popularity of Reggae music in the West, made dreadlocks a fashion statement. Dreadlocks came to symbolize the rejection of mass merchandising culture, and became a sign of rebellion.