There are a lot of misconceptions about dreadlocks and locs. So, let’s set the record straight.
Dreadlocks vs locs: What’s the difference?
If you ask someone the difference is between dreadlocks and locs, you might get a couple of different answers. Some will probably say “nothing, they are the same thing.” And other might respond that dreads are made from hair that has been twisted and knotted together, while locs are created when your hair naturally grows in a coil pattern. But there is more to it than that.
The differences between these two styles go beyond just how they are created. Both dreadlocks and locs require commitment from their wearers — but it’s not just about having long hair, as some people think. The way you care for your hair will be different depending on whether you have dreadlocks or locs and which phase of growth you are in.
Many cultures today wear dreadlocks because of their religious, cultural, political, or spiritual beliefs. Many even wear dreadlocks to make a fashion statement. So, let’s take a closer look at how these styles differ.
What are dreadlocks?
Dreadlocks are a hairstyle where when the hair is left alone, over time it will tangle and separate into free-formed sections. The resulting twisted locks can be formed using a variety of techniques, including backcombing and braiding. There is a common misconception that dreadlocks are dirty. In reality, they are not dirty at all.
Dreadlocks are essentially just like any other type of hairstyle—they require good hygiene practices to keep them clean and healthy. Because the scalp is a self-cleaning organ, and dreadlocks allow it to function in its natural state. Because dreadlocks encase the hair, they keep other things from getting into them—like hair products and dirt.
Where did dreadlocks originate?
Dreadlocks date back to ancient times, but the exact origin of them is difficult to pinpoint. It’s believed that they were first worn by ancient Egyptians, who wore their hair in this style to keep it away from their faces when working. According to Roman accounts, Germanic tribesmen, Greeks, and Vikings also all had ‘hair like snakes’ which has been interpreted to mean dreadlocks.
They were also seen in India, Africa and the Middle East, where they were worn by spiritual leaders, royalty, and warriors. There are even suggestions early Christians were said to wear their hair in dreadlocks as a tribute to Samson, who had superhuman strength because of his seven locks of hair. They also became part of various religions and traditions such as Hinduism and Rastafarianism.
The Rastafarian movement was founded in 1930s Jamaica and it was here that dreadlocks came into fashion among the general population. A key figure in this movement was Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia, who was often referred to as “His Imperial Majesty” by his followers.
Selassi was forced into exile during an invasion and his guerrilla warriors swore to not cut their hair. The Rastafarians believed Selassie was a messiah and they often wore their hair in dreadlocks as a sign of their devotion to him.
In Western culture, dreadlocks were popularized in the 1960s by Bob Marley and other reggae musicians. Today, many people today wear dreadlocks because of their religious, cultural, political, or spiritual beliefs.
What are locs?
Locs are made by coiling, braiding, twisting, or palm-rolling hair into clean evenly segmented sections of hair.
The journey to locs is a long process that includes 5 different phases: the starter phase, the budding phase, the teenage phase, the adult phase, and the rooted phase.
From the starter phase to the long, thick, and shiny locs you desire in the rooted phase can take anywhere from 18-24 months.
Where did they originate from?
Although dreadlocks have a painful history due to their association with slavery, locs have the opposite connotation. Now, locs are more than just a hairstyle; they’re a cultural icon that symbolizes strength and pride.
Locs have been worn by people of Nubian and African descent for centuries as a grooming technique. They believed that their hair was a symbol of strength and pride, but this has also been adopted by other cultures as well.
Locs are seen by many as a way to express heritage, individuality, and freedom from societal norms. Their history is rooted in pride—not oppression or slavery. Many even wear locs to make a fashion statement.
In fact, many tribes in Africa wear locks as part of their ceremonial dress! While the cultural significance of locs is well-known and widely accepted, there are still people who have negative connotations regarding this hairstyle.
Dreadlocks vs Locs: What’s the Difference?
Similarly, dreadlocks and locs are both unique, long-lasting hairstyles that can say a lot about an individual or group’s style, status, values, religion, or beauty standards. The way they are formed helps regulate your body temperature, prevents your hair from losing moisture, and provides a buffer against unwanted foreign objects in your hair.
Both are formed with methods, such as braids and crochet. Dreadlocks and locs don’t discriminate; no matter what your hair type is or how fast it grows, you can grow dreadlocks or locs. The process of growing dreadlocks and locs can be very demanding and requires patience and dedication.
Although both the dreadlocks and locs are created by sculpting one’s hair into ropes, there are some differences. The major distinguishing factor between dreadlocks and locs is that one is that locs are considered a hairstyle while dreadlocks are a lifestyle.
Dreadlocks are formed naturally and locs are started by manually coiling, braiding, rolling, or twisting hair. When compared to dreadlocks, locs tend to have more defined roots, even sections, and often appear to be well-kept and tidy.
Dreadlocks may have a matte look whereas locs may be shinier.
Is the term “dreadlock” offensive?
The dreadlocks of the Rastafarians were thought to be frightening and dreadful. That is why the term dread came into existence, later turing into dreadlock. The term also came into use after slave owners considered the coiled hair of their African slaves as dreadful during the slave trade.
The terms dreads and locs used interchangeably as dreadlocks. But there is a difference between the two in matters of personal expression. Dreads may be used as a reminder of the painful history of African people sold in the slave trade.
Some people do not like their locs to be called dreads because of the negative connotation of the word. According to history, the colonists found the coiled hair dreadful which led to the term dreadlocks. That is why many people simply prefer to use the term locs.
A lot of people think that the term “dreadlock” is offensive, but this isn’t really how the word was meant to be used. In fact, in many places around the world, “dreadlocks” are worn as a sign of respect for a spiritual leader or healer in their community—so you might say that the word itself is actually a sign of respect!
Are dreadlocks cultural appropriation?
In this day and age, it seems like we’re constantly having to look at words and phrases that have been used to marginalize or dehumanize others and then decide whether or not to keep using them. There are a lot of arguments on both sides of this issue.
Dreadlocks are a hairstyle that has been worn by people of many different ethnicities for thousands of years. It’s important to remember that dreadlocks are not exclusive to any one culture or race!
More than anything, dreadlocks are about self-expression. They’re a way for people to express themselves through their hair and show what they care about—what’s important to them—by the way they wear their hair. In this way, dreadlocks can be seen as a political statement (or at least an artistic one).
It is not unheard of for people to use dreadlocks and locs interchangeably in conversation. Locs and dreadlocks are actually pretty similar. But there are some key differences between the two styles that are worth noting.
While dreadlocks and locs are both forms of hair styling, the little nuances that separate them from each other make them both their own unique entity in the world of personal grooming.
The thing is: dreadlocks aren’t just for African-Americans or Nubians anymore—they can be worn by anyone who wants to express themselves through their hair! The bottom line is that dreadlocks are beautiful and can be worn by anyone who wants to wear them.