The wearing of dreadlocks is very closely associated with the movement, though not universal among (or exclusive to) its adherents. Rastas believe dreadlocks to be supported by 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 the flesh.”) and the Nazarite vow in Numbers 6.5-6. Part of the reason the hairstyle was adopted was to contrast the kinky long hair of black men with the straighter hair of whites.
It is believed that the first Rasta dreadlocks were copied from Kenya in the 1940s, when during the independence struggle the feared maumau freedom fighters grew their “dreaded locks” while hiding in the mountains. However, there are ascetic groups within nearly every major religion that have at times worn their hair in this fashion. In addition to the Nazirites of Judaism and the Sadhus of Hinduism, there are the Dervishes of Islam and the Coptic Monks of Christianity, among others. The very earliest Christians may also have worn this hairstyle; particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, “brother of Jesus” and first Bishop of Jerusalem, who wore them to his ankles.
Dreadlocks have also come to symbolize the Lion of Judah and rebellion against Babylon. In the United States, several public schools and workplaces have lost lawsuits as the result of banning dreadlocks. Safeway is an early example, and the victory of eight children in a suit against their Lafayette, Louisiana school was a landmark decision in favor of Rastafari rights.
Rastafari associate dreadlocks with a spiritual journey that one takes in the process of locking their hair (growing dreadlocks). It is taught that patience is the key to growing dreadlocks, a journey of the mind, soul and spirituality. Its spiritual pattern is aligned with the Rastafarian religion. People who do not understand the process sometimes mock the dreadlock style and make comments about the cleanliness of the locked hair. The way to form natural dreadlocks is to allow hair to grow in its natural pattern, without cutting, combing or brushing, but simply to wash it with pure water.
Many non-Rastafari of black African descent have also adopted dreads as an expression of pride in their ethnic identity, or simply as a hairstyle, and take a
less purist approach to developing and grooming them, adding various substances such as beeswax in an attempt to assist the locking process. The wearing of dreads also has spread among people of other ethnicities whose hair is not naturally suited to the style, and who sometimes go to great lengths to affect the look.
The word dread comes from Rasta terminology. For the Rastas the razor, the scissors and the comb are the three Babylonian or Roman inventions. So close is the association between dreadlocks and Rastafari, that the two are sometimes used synonymously. In reggae music, a follower of Rastafari may be referred to simply as a dreadlocks or Natty (natural) Dread, whilst those non-believers who cut their hair are referred to as baldheads.
BOB MARLEY THE LEGEND
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