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What Are Jamaican Dreadlocks?

Jamaican dreadlocks are more than just a hairstyle; they're a symbol of Rastafarian culture, representing a spiritual journey and a connection to African heritage. This unique, matted hair technique has deep roots in rebellion against oppression. Curious about how dreadlocks became a global phenomenon and what they signify today? Let's unravel the history and meaning behind this iconic style.
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

Jamaican dreadlocks, or rastafarian dreadlocks, are typically considered an integral part of the Rasta religion. Rastarfarians, or people who practice the Rasta religion, generally consider themselves to be Nazarites, like the figure Samson from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. By allowing their hair to grow naturally into dreadlocks, without cutting or combing it or using styling products, Rastafarians believe they are adhering to the Nazarite vow, as outlined in Leviticus 21:5: "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh." People who wear Jamaican dreadlocks generally believe that their hair is the source of their strength, and that cutting their hair could lead to weakness, as it does for Samson in the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah. The wearing of dreadlocks as a hair style does not originate in Jamaica, but it is said to have begun there shortly after the emancipation of slaves in that country, as a statement of defiance by former slaves towards their former owners.

Many people wear dreadlocks even though they may not practice, or even understand, the Rasta religion. There are many means of styling one's hair into dreadlocks, using techniques such as backcombing, and often with the assistance of styling products. Rastafarians who wear true Jamaican dreadlocks, however, are generally prohibited by their religious beliefs from interfering with the formation of the dreadlocks in any way. They are typically not permitted to cut, comb, or shape the hair during dreadlock formation. Nor are they generally permitted to use any styling products to assist the formation of dreadlocks. They are usually allowed only to wash the dreadlocks with clean water, and for some, the locks are considered so sacred that they must be kept hidden at all times.

Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.
Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.

Some believe that the Rastafarians have borrowed the dreadlocks hairstyle from the native Kenyans who wore it during their war for independence in the 1940s. Others have pointed out that the concept of dreadlocks as a form of spiritual expression did not originate with Jamaican dreadlocks, but that dreadlocks take on spiritual significance in several religious sects. The Jewish Nazarites, the Christian Coptics, the Hindu Sadhus, and the Muslim Dervishes have all been known to wear their hair in dreadlocks for religious reasons. The earliest appearance of the dreadlocks hairstyle in history is believed to be among the native Masai peoples of Kenya. Warriors of the Masai tribe may have been the first to wear their hair in the dreadlocks style, often using vegetable dyes to give the locks a red hue.

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Discussion Comments


It's very interesting how different cultural traditions can hold different meanings in different countries. Jamaican dreadlocks have a positive meaning for most people. It symbolizes the independence struggle of those people and their desire to follow God's orders.

In India for example, dreadlocks are associated with religious persons as well. But many people are also scared of certain sects that have dreadlocks. For example, the Aghoris don't just do the last rituals of the dead, they are also known for cannibalism. They also have many other practices that the general public find wrong and repulsive. That's probably why wearing dreadlocks has never been a part of popular culture in India. Because it is identified with religious sects such as these.


@ZipLine-- Appearance wise, dreadlocks may look similar. But actually, there are different ways of making dreadlocks. Some twist them, others, back-comb the hair to make the locks. And others use chemicals or other processes to make the dreadlocks.

Jamaican dreadlocks are made in a natural way. So there is no use of chemicals or perming. The hair is twisted by hand and a natural wax or plant substance is used to keep them in place. So we can say that dreadlocks made through other ways are not Jamaican dreadlocks.


I don't really understand the difference between Jamaican dreadlocks and other types of dreadlocks. I've understood after reading this article that Jamaican dreadlocks my have a spiritual significance for some. But aside from that, this hair style looks like any other type of dreadlocks style to me.

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    • Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.
      By: eldadcarin
      Visiting a loctician is recommended for those seeking to style their hair into dreadlocks.