Why Dreads Are a Popular Hairstyle

A hairstyle can say a lot about a person’s demeanor. Dreadlock is one such style that speaks volumes about the wearer. Unlike other hairstyles that come and go, it has existed since time immemorial and is not likely to fade away any time soon.
Young girl with dreadlocks outdoors
Young stylish girl with dreadlocks outdoors

Despite the controversies surrounding it, it has managed to spread all over the world and gain acceptance among most people. Perhaps this can be attributed to reggae artists such as Bob Marley and Lucky Dube who sort of advocated for it through their music. 

They united people of different races from all corners of the world. Today, regardless of whether they are synthetic dreads or natural, dreadlocks are being worn by everyone who prefers the style. To fully understand why dreads are so popular, we need to start from the beginning.

Where Did It Come From?

Different groups of people have different beliefs about its origin. Some believe that it emerged as a result of the Rastafari movement that was started by Marcus Garvey in Jamaica. Others date it back to the Old Testament times in the story of Samson whose strength lied in his uncut hair. 

As such, there are no established written facts that clearly describe how dreadlocks came into being. Though, all the evidence points back to ancient times which shows that it’s not just another hairstyle but has deeper roots. Some exhumed mummies in Egypt have been found to have dreadlocks. 

In India, it was mainly worn by religious leaders and was considered sacred. It was also popular among warriors in various communities such as Vikings, Samburu of Kenya, and even gladiators. Nowadays, it is most common among Rastafarians.

How Did It Gain Popularity?

In Africa, this happened during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie, also known as Ras Tafari Makonnen. There are those who believed in him as the savior and they came to be known as Rastafarians. 

When he was exiled, they vowed never to cut off their hair till he returned. Thus they grew dreadlocks. This was further championed by reggae music artists mainly from Ethiopia, Jamaica, and South Africa. They recognized Haile Selassie as their leader and had dreads. Bob Marley and the wailers revolutionized the reggae genre and used it to spread messages of peace and love which unified people worldwide.

This saw the spread of dreads to western cultures. It was associated with the Rasta movement which represented a lot of things such as freedom, peace, and rebellion against oppressive regimes. Thus it was hated by the oppressors but readily accepted by the oppressed.

Nowadays, it can be worn by anyone though some people discriminate against it due to its controversial nature. See this link to read more about the hairstyle https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/twisted-locks-fraught-with-meaning/2015/06/10/72949b8c-f595-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html.

What Are the Controversies Facing It?

A lot of Rastafarians advocate for the use of marijuana which is frowned upon in most societies today. Thus those who have dreadlocks are usually suspected to be users. In addition, those who like their dreads the natural way rarely wash them during the formation process. 

This is to let them combine into locks. During this process, the hair might get dirty if not maintained well and raise more suspicions. The other issue arises from what it stands for. As mentioned earlier, among the things that it can represent are freedom and rebellion. 

In some schools and workplaces, wearing dreads is seen as an act of rebellion hence is not allowed. It is also considered untidy. These controversies arise from differences of opinion in that some people consider it an ill-mannerism while to others it’s just a hairstyle.

How Is It Different From Other Hairstyles?

One of the reasons why it is famous is its uniqueness. If you wear it well you’ll definitely stand out from the crowd. It is different in the following ways:

  • It is highly versatile

It is flexible enough to suit different occasions. As opposed to other styles that will require you to go to the barber or salon every time you need something new, all you need to do is change how you wear it a little bit. You can wrap it up using a headscarf, bundle it up into buns or customize it any way you like. Therefore, you can portray your style and personality easily.

  • It is easy to maintain

Natural dreadlocks don’t require a lot of maintenance. It can be washed once a week using generic shampoos or even lemon water. No chemicals are required to keep it in good condition.

  • They have a rich cultural background

To the Rastafarians for instance, it symbolizes their belief in nature and religion. There are a lot of cultural facts about it hence it can be used as a means of upholding the cultures.

What Are the Benefits of Having Dreads?

  • They are fashionable

Among the youth, they are widely accepted for both males and females. Musicians, athletes, and other artists are at the forefront in popularizing the hairstyle.

  • They spread peace, love, and harmony

This is so since they are associated with Rastafarians who live by the code of promoting peace, love, and harmony at all times.

  • They symbolize freedom

In a society full of standards and expectations they encourage one to be their true self and stand for what they believe is right. They challenge the oppressive beliefs and opinions in society.

  • They allow free growth of hair

Some styles require a lot of chemicals that end up inhibiting growth or causing hair loss. Dreads on the other hand allows them to grow freely.


Although dreads are controversial, they are liked by many people around the globe. Their history, uniqueness, and all that they represent play a major role in their popularity. The fact that they can be purely natural also puts them at the top. It entails a rich cultural heritage suggesting that it is more than just a hairstyle. Not only is it fashionable but it also advocates for freedom, truth, justice, peace, equality, and unity in the society. Having dreads requires that one be patient enough to let them grow properly and be able to maintain them well to keep them neat.

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