This article is an analysis of a recent US court case involving dreadlocks, race, racial identity and identification, and hiring practices. Another here.
In 2010 in Mobile AL, USA, Chastity Jones interviewed successfully for a position at Catastrophe Management Systems but ran into a snag at the end of the hiring process, being told she needed to cut or remove her dreadlocks. The interviewer reportedly said, “they tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.”
Yeah, that’s not inflammatory at all.
On 15th September the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, while recognizing the validity of the historical arguments presented, ruled against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (who had sued on Ms Jones’ behalf) finding that dreadlocks are not an immutable part of a person, and thus not a racial characteristic.
According to the ruling (link below) courts have consistently rejected legal arguments for hairstyles as a racial characteristic.
So, there you have it folks. Dreds aren’t legal exactly…but, then, they’re not illegal, either, are they?
Would we want them to be the subject of legal rulings, though? Imagine – calipers to measure them (max thickness 1 inch) and maximum loc counts (no more than 75 per head!) and blood quantum papers and – ick.
Better, maybe, to let them stretch into the wilder borderlands.
Get a group of women in the room for any length of time and one thing is certain – at some point hair will be a topic of conversation.
Hair style, hair color, hair processing, hair weaves; straight hair, nappy hair, long hair, short hair, braids twists or locks. Although this is certainly true of all women, it is especially true of black women. Why? Because many women of African ancestry have tightly curled or kinky hair and, sadly, from the time we are school-aged girls we are taught – both at home and by society – that our hair is something that needs to be changed, tamed or conformed to a more desirable (i.e. straighter) texture. Black society has (both men and women) bought into this “lock stock and barrel,” and per capita black women spend more money on products to alter the texture of their hair – relaxers, texturizers, permanent waves (i.e. jheri curls) – and store bought hair (real and synthetic) than any other race. With so much societal pressure to look a certain way and so many options available to achieve that look, it’s understandable that so many black women choose to change the natural texture of their hair to something that conforms more to social norms. Still, most of us know that the constant frying, dying and weaving comes at a cost. Over the years we see our hair becoming more and more thin, dry, broken and damaged and eventually it looks so bad that many of give up on it totally and resort to wearing wigs.
On a positive note, more black women are choosing to embrace their natural hair proudly and society is taking notice.
Fashion magazines, celebrities and professional women are rocking ‘fros, twists, twist-outs, locks and TWAs more than ever and beautiful natural hair is once again becoming a standard of beauty versus something that has to be covered up to be acceptable. So, how does one move from years or decades of relaxing and weaving to au natural? As a black woman who has made the transition twice, and 8 years ago for the last time, I offer this advice: give your hair a chance. I know this may sound like an oversimplification, but it is the absolute best advice. Believe me I know it is not easy to allow your shoulder length relaxed hair to slowly grow out nappy from the roots. I know it’s not easy to cut off 8 inches or more of hair to a nappy or curly TWA. But you simple cannot base your decision whether or not to wear your hair natural on a half inch of new growth. I can’t tell you how many sisters I’ve spoken with who say “I want to try to go natural;” then two months without a relaxer and a half-inch of natural hair they say: “it’s too nappy; I can’t deal with it.” Ladies, your natural hair is nothing to be ashamed of and it is not bad and it is not a mistake, but if you have never styled or cared for your hair in its natural state, it will be an adjustment.
Just give it a chance. Wear braids or twist extensions for a year to allow it to grow out and then get a professional to cut off the relaxer, get a good shampoo and conditioner, try out different products for your hair type, and give it a chance.
Forget the naysayers and haters who will try to convince you to go back to ruining your natural hair for the sake of conformance.
There are many styles you can wear, including a TWA or twists, a twist out or an afro puff. You can rod or straw set it or even press, curl or flat iron it. Manicured dreadlocks are stunning on many women and a beautiful head of Sisterlocks always turns heads. If your heart and mind tells you to wear your hair natural; if you have been contemplating it over and over; don’t be afraid. Remember, it’s only natural. You will love the freedom and the beauty once you get the hang of it. Wear it proudly and remember to just give it chance.
Free spirited and easy going, Lyn enjoys fitness, playing piano, gourmet cooking and eating. Natural hair care for black women is a passion. Visit her on http://www.mysisterlocks.com for pictures, videos and product recommendations.
Whether or not you choose to use dreadlock wax on your new, or mature, dreadlocks is entirely a personal choice. There is no ‘right’, no ’wrong’ – only what works best for you and your hair type. The most important things to decide are:
– how much do you care about how your dreadlocks will look?
– how much time and effort you would like to put into their development?
If you have the time, and prefer more “natural” dreads where they form into random sizes and shapes with wispy sections and loose ends, you may easily opt to use no dreadlock wax or products for starting and maintaining your locks. Your hair will still dread; it will simply take more time and you will have less control over the end result. Palm rolling (rubbing locks from the root to the tip swiftly between the blades of your palms) greatly helps to shape them, as does regular washings with a no-conditioner, additive-free shampoo which strips natural oils, allowing knots to form more easily.
Read on to learn how to easily create wax-free dreadlocks!
How to Make No Wax Dreads for All Hair Types – Natural / Neglect Method
Development: 1-3 years
1. Simply wash hair regularly with a no-conditioner, additive-free shampoo, or stop washing hair completely (natural oil buildup will make dreadlock creation take longer). Do not comb or style your hair. Works best in hair that is longer than 12”.
2. As locks form, they can be ripped apart to separate, or be allowed to mat randomly.
Here’s an excellent video that shows how natural dreadlocks look after 2 years.
How to Make No Wax Dreads for All Hair Types – Backcombing Method
Development: 6mo-2 years
1. Using a strong, fine-tooth comb, divide your hair into even sections, depending on how large or small you want your locks to be, and hold sections in place using elastics/clips. For a less even look, simply grab similar sized sections randomly as you work.
2. Starting at the nape of the neck, comb each section backward, starting close to the scalp and working toward the ends, to create a tight rats-nest of hair. Pull the mat of hair out a bit and re-backcomb toward the scalp once again, leaving only a tail of unlocked hair at the tip. For Afro hair, always backcomb gently and carefully to minimize breakage.
3. Take your semi-formed lock between the blades of your hands, and starting at the root, palm roll your new lock swiftly back and forth to create a tighter, more uniform lock.
4. Repeat until all sections are done.
5. Wash scalp, not locks, only after waiting as long as you can stand, minimum 2 weeks but ideally after 4 weeks. While locks are still soft and immature, wash the scalp only every few weeks, as gently as possible with a no-conditioner, additive-free shampoo and always allow to dry completely before wearing a hat or covering. After they begin maturing, regular washing once a week can begin. For Afro hair, wash with a natural shampoo less frequently to avoid over-stripping, and simply twist locks regularly to train the hair into natural dreads.
6. Regular palm rolling will be the best way to continue tightening and maintaining your no-wax dreads.
If it is important to you that your locks form more quickly, all be a similar size, have a groomed appearance and/or be washed frequently, starting and maintaining new locks with the use of dreadlock wax will help ensure your success. Dreadlock waxes, particularly natural ones, can help greatly in speeding up the natural locking process, help tame loose hair and untidiness and are completely safe for hair and scalp when used in sparing amounts, dissolving out of locks over several washings. Rest assured: any build-up that occurs usually has very little to do with products used, and much more to do with how often and well locks are washed. However, overuse of any dreadlocking product can lead to buildup and damage, and be sure to read ingredients carefully. Waxes containing petroleum-based ingredients will not be as safe or effective in locking your hair as all-natural ones.
For easy to follow instructions for creating dreadlocks using wax, watch Knotty Boy’s excellent 2 part How to Make Dreadlocks Tutorial. Note: the amount of wax that is shown used in the models hair is in this video is far too much – use less!
In conclusion: Please beware of any site, forum or person that tries to bully you into believing one method of locking hair is right, or that another is wrong. As long as you make informed choices, hair is resilient and there are very few ways one can really ‘screw up’ dreadlocks. It is a naturally occurring, organic process that can be accelerated and tidied with careful use of natural products, or let grow wild and free of it’s own true will – whichever your heart desires.
Newsflash! Clean dreadlocks are NOT dirty or smelly! Watch Kris at The Dreadquarters in beautiful Vancouver, Canada show us that with the right technique and a little Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo, it’s super easy to keep your locks clean, fresh and sweet smelling.
Great video, good to see more and more people promoting the idea that dreads are CLEAN!
There are so many great dread hats to buy online, but for the DIYers out there – here is an awesome tutorial video for learning how to knit a hat of your own.
The Knitty By Nature website is becoming really popular because it is a daily video website that only features the best knitting tutorial videos! So cool. I for one have bookmarked it! You can also vote and comment on the videos too.
Have fun, and comment below with your own dread DIY projects!
Here is a great video showing some detail of the crochet hook method. The crochet method is becoming very popular for quick maintenance, especially as lots of videos like these show up – making it not so hard to learn.
Comment below with your experiences with crochet maitenance.
In a couple of years, you’ll be calling him Dr. Elizeu, once he’s finished up his freakin’ PhD in science! Yeah, dude. I so wish that Becca had been here so that Theoretical Science (her true calling) and real, actual science could go head-to-head in a battle to the death! (I’d bet on Becca – she fights dirty. No offense. )
Here’s the handsome (soonish) Dr. after six hours and sixty three dreadlocks. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a spike in Computer Science enrollment at the university level in the next couple days! We spent all day chatting back and forth about all kinds of stuff – even though I brought up the inevitability of the computers rising up to kill us all a la Terminator. (He was very nice about it.) Now I head home, and totally not worry about my GPS trying to kill me.
Cross Post from: Scissor Ninja. A specialist in dreadlocks, synthetic dreads, and hair extensions, Kris spends her days rocking out killer hair from behind the chair at the The Dreadquarters.