Dreads, dreadlocks, locs, regardless of the name, you could call them the original hairstyle.
The origin of the term “dreadlock” has been widely discussed. Some say the term came from slavery, when slave ship owners would look at enslaved Africans’ matted hair and say they looked “dreadful.” However, etymologists say the word “dreadlock” didn’t show up until 1960; with some saying it originates from the Rastafarian culture. The rastafari grew their hair to mimic a lion’s mane as a religious nod to the Lion of Judah, the symbol of a powerful leader.
The earliest evidence of locs dates back to India in 1800BC. The first evidence of the style in Africa came around 500 BC. While locs have been around for millenia, in modern times the style saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s and we haven’t looked back since.
Unlike wash-and-gos, two-strand twists, cornrows, or any other natural style, locs take dedication, patience, and TIME. Ask any of your loc’d friends and they’ll talk about their “journey” and that’s exactly what it is. Making the decision to loc one’s hair can be cultural, spiritual, or purely for aesthetic reasons; either way there are a few things to know about locs, before you take the plunge.
What are locs?
Per Wikipedia, “locs are ropelike strands of hair formed by matting or braiding hair.” There are several different types of locs.
Larger size locs, sometimes grown as freeform locs.
A trademarked pattern style loc, about half the size of traditional locs.
Extremely small locs that resemble strands of hair, usually installed using two strand twists.
A temporary style, using braiding and marley hair.
Each one of these styles has a unique look and “feel” to them and depending on what you want, you’ll start the locs in different ways.
Starting Locs (traditional methods)
Aside from faux locs, many begin their locs on short to medium length natural hair and there are several ways to start the loc process. Here are the most common ways:
This is the easiest way to start your locs, especially if you’re going for a freeform style (think J. Cole). You can start this process by not detangling your hair when you wash it. Simply, wash, condition, and moisturize but NEVER comb or brush your hair. Alternatively, if your hair is on the short side; you can use a curl sponge to create small free form locs that will begin to train your hair. The key to this method is PATIENCE.
Note: Those with tighter curls and coils will see their hair loc-up faster than those with looser curls.
The Queen Po walks us through the process.
Princess Platinumm shows us how to wash freeform locs.
Starting With Two Strand Twists
This method is probably one of the most popular and recommended ways to start your loc journey. Start by putting your hair in two strand twists but make sure you like the parting and size of the twists. One of the great things about starting locs this way is in the beginning you can change your mind. You can change the parting, change the sizing, or decide you don’t want locs and simply take out the twists. If you stay on it, the lines in your twists should disappear within one year.
Starting Locs With Braids
This method is similar to the two strand twist method with a few differences. Those that start with braids tend to have less shrinkage overall, also the loc is more flexible and less frizzy. However, the braiding pattern can remain very visible after years of wear.
Starting your locs with comb coils is almost always done by a loctician. Some will use gel and wax, while others suggest not using anything but moisturizer. The loctician will section your hair and use a rattail comb to tightly coil the hair, officially starting your journey.
How do you take care of locs?
Once you’ve started, you’ll need a few tips on taking care of your locs, especially in the beginning. You’ll often hear advice about not putting water on your locs for the first two weeks after they’re installed; however, depending on which method you used, you could use water sooner than later.
WestIndieRay used a mixture of salt water and regular water soon after beginning her loc journey with two-strand twists, claiming it caused her hair to loc up faster.
If you’re worried about your locs unraveling, especially if you have comb coils, Callmetoocute has a great way to wash your locs with minimal manipulation.
To moisturize your locs use leave-in conditioner spray or light oils; heavy products can cause build up and odor. Hallease has a great DIY loc moisturizer with ways to customize as the seasons change:
After a month or two it will be time to retwist your locs and you’ll be faced with another decision to make in your journey: palm rolling or interlocking.
Palm Rolling vs. Interlocking
Palm rolling is exactly what it sounds like; to retwist your locs you use moisturizer, locking spray (optional), banana clips, and your hands to roll them. The main thing to remember is to roll the hair in the same direction. (AKA: Don’t rub your palms like you would in front of a campfire, rub them in one direction) Braids By Rah has a great video of how its done:
- easy to do
- could potentially cause bald spots from over-manipulation
- tendency to frizz or unravel
Frequency: once a month
Interlocking is different; it’s basically like sewing your loc together. You need a lightweight moisturizer and a crochet hook or interlocking tool. To interlock your locs you’ll need to follow a pattern and never “sew” the same hole twice. Glamnaturallife has a really good tutorial on how to do interlocking:
- maintenance lasts longer
- will work with all hair textures
- better for smaller/thinner locs
- if done incorrectly could cause holes and loc damage
Frequency: 6-8 weeks
No matter which method you choose, the way you start, maintain, and grow your locs will be all your own. Like we said before, this is a journey that takes time and patience, but is very rewarding. Did we mention the style possibilities are endless?
Still not sure if you want to start your locs? Here are a few women that talk about why they started their locs.
Five Signs You’re Not Ready
Five signs You ARE Ready
What you Should Know Before Starting Locs With Two-Strand Twists
Are you going to start your journey? Or have you been on your loc journey for years and have tips to offer? Share your stories on our Instagram.