Why I'm loc'ing my hair
Natural hair is hard to maintain but that's not why I want dreadlocks.
You may or may not be wondering what that means but it's okay, I'll tell you anyway. Afro-textured hair, when left unmanipulated, tends to intertwine together and loc, creating a unified unit that is commonly known as a dreadlock or simply a loc.
The journey of natural hair can be a painful and horrifying one and it may be easy to scoff at this. I mean, it's just hair, right? However, hair is a powerful thing. It tells a story, it defines and it gives character and adds to personality.
My hair and I have always had a love and hate relationship. Hate, because it was never like my fellow peers, it was difficult to maintain and understand and not many approved of it. Then love, because it would grow fast, it wouldn't take much for it to be long and it was thick and always healthy.
The Big Chop
Over the last several years, the big chop has become almost like a movement of sorts. Showcasing empowerment, emancipation and self-love. Black women, who for the longest time have turned to products to straighten their naturally curly and kinky hair have started to move towards embracing it by chopping off all the chemicalized hair and re-growing it to keep it in it's natural state. This move is seen as a courageous and empowering one as hair is such a personal thing. It's the start of a new beginning for many and more importantly, a symbol of self love.
The last time I cut all my hair was in December of 2018. There was no spectacular reason behind it other than a mental breakdown that saw me struggling to keep up with the demands of my own hair. So, shave it I did and that was that. Since then, I have bleached my natural hair once, I've also dyed it after some persuading from my sister. I've taught myself to plait my own hair and I've discovered the world of lace wigs. Not just that but I've had to study and learn my hair. From the type of curl pattern to it's needs. This has involved a lot of trail and error and it's that trail and error that leads to me feeling like chopping it all off again but I've controlled myself because this time around, I've managed to learn a lot more about my hair, even if I'm not quite close to fully understanding it yet.
The History of Dreadlocks
For decades upon decades, dreadlocks have been associated with negative connotations. They have been seen as unkempt and unhygienic, giving the idea of a high-risk lifestyle. I recently learned that during the times of slavery, slaves had no means to cater to their hair and this would lead to the matting and unifying of the kinky texture leading to robust locs - adding to an appearance that was described as "dreadful" hence the name dreadlocks. However, they existed even long before the days of slavery.
The mummified remains of ancient Egyptians have been recovered with locs. Ancient Greek sculptures that date back to 3600 BC depict sculptures with dreadlocks.
They have been around for centuries and today, millions of people turn to dreadlocks for numerous reasons, each carrying a meaning of it's own and sometimes, it's not even that deep. Some, just like the look or simply appreciate how simple and manageable they can be. So, I turned to locs after a long and tedious battle with my hair. Let me tell you why.
The journey of my own hair has been rooted in self hatred and confusion. Being African but growing up in a European society, my hair was not only misunderstood but those that surrounded me but by myself entirely. I was never taught how to take care of it. I was never taught that every black person didn't have the same hair. I was never taught that my hair, as it was, was simply okay or was how it was meant to be. Instead, I was taught how to lather my hair in chemicals that would alter my natural curl pattern. I was taught that in it's natural state, it was untidy and unpresentable. I grew up believing that my hair was ugly and that it could never be long or pretty unless it was relaxed.
I can recall during a bout of depression that saw me neglecting my hair, it matted together and knotted in a way that I could not longer undo. This was something that happened over months and not just weeks. Once I decided to tend to my hair and discovered the mattifying that was now impossible to unravel, I cried. I cried and hated my hair even more and it had to be cut.
I look back at that time and what I know now is that my hair did what it was meant to do. With no manipulation of any kind, freeform locs were born and because I had no understanding of my own hair, instead of embracing it's natural formation, I despised it and cut it off like it was rotten.
Freeform or organic locs form naturally, without any or little manipulation. The hair is simply left alone and at the most, it is parted, washed and oiled. The hair will form in it's own way, taking on different sizes and directions and shapes.
Manicured locs are purposefully made, either through two strand twists or the coil method with fingers or a comb. This results in a more uniformed and even layout of the locs. The new growth simply has to be re-twisted at the root to keep the parts clean.
Why I decided to loc my hair
My hair journey has seen me try almost everything to maintain it but the one thing I never tried was to leave my hair alone. Dreadlocks are the ideal suitor for my 4c kinky hair and not because I am giving up on putting in the effort but because I want my hair to do whatever it wants to do.
In allowing my hair to lock, I not only embrace it's natural state but I let go of a lot of societal expectations. I let go of the thoughts that aren't my own and it's a way of re-learning to love my hair. This journey allows me to let go of the obsessions that many have with appearance and it's not an easy journey to begin, especially when your hair is short and in the early stages of the process. It can be awkward and even disheartening, not knowing how to style it or even what to do with it but that's the phase that needs to happen. That's where the embracing begins.
I started to keep my hair in twists and I just left it that way one day. Days became weeks and in leaving my hair in these twists, I had created what is known as starter locs. Over the last several months, my locs haven't formed fully because I undo them, interrupting the locking process. I'm still trying to figure out how to retwist the new growth on my own and part my own hair in a way that suits me but even if I start again and again, I've learned so much about myself and my hair.
I have a new appreciation for my hair, one that I did not have before. I acknowledge my curl pattern, it's thickness, it's appearance and I am learning to love it. The journey will continue and so will the formation of self love and acceptance.