Dreadlocks: A Hairstyle or does it mean something?

Whenever I am out and about, running my errands and I see someone rocking dreadlocks on top of their heads, I'm always awestruck and wonder if I could pull off such cool style (and mostly to just maintain my crazy curly mane of hair). Its cool, unique, and very versatile in how the dreadlocks are often times associated as someone who looks like a pretty 'chill' person. But recently, in Alabama, a black woman applied for a position with a processing company. She went in for an interview, wearing normal appropriate business attire but supposedly her hairstyle choice was not meeting the grooming policy standard of that company. This turned into a case in result banning standards in the grooming policy. The case claimed that racial discriminating a particular group of people and their choice of grooming and styling (You can read more about this story here).  

There's been a lot of conflict with the hairstyle like who is able to wear the style? Is it a negative style? So this got me wondering, what's the history behind dreadlocks? Why can't it be a hairstyle that is both an artistic expression, an appropriate grooming choice, or just a simply accepted hairstyle?

Dreadlocks have appeared in many parts of the world throughout history and is believed to have originated in India (although physical showing of the use of the hairstyle can be traced back to Ancient Egypt) and as a symbol of spiritual representation and a demonstration that our physical appearance are not important. 

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Dreadlocks became popular in the 1930's with the Black Jamaican communities and the Rastafarian movement (in which the belief had the combination of Old Testament, African tribal culture, and Hindu tribal culture) and the followers called themselves "Dreads" as a respect to God.  When the Ras Tafari was crowned the emperor of Ethiopia and later forced into exile, many of his followers vowed not to cut their hair until he was released. 

 

Later Bob Marley, reggae artist, made the hairstyle even more popular and mainstream due to his music and his following of the Rastafarianism. But because of his heavily use of marijuana the stigma of Black people wearing dreads and smoking marijuana, it became not so pleasing to the majority of Western society. This can still be an unfortunate negative stereotype to black men and women who choose this hairstyle. 

The hairstyle is very versatile based off of its history and from those who wore the hairstyle. It can mean an expression of spiritual connection, a political statement, a fashion preference, or just simply a desired way to maintain your hair.