Imagine a woman, Amy, who has had to relax her hair since she was three years old. While she is playing in her room, she can hear her mother’s echo in the next room, talking to her girlfriends about how she just doesn’t know what to do with her daughters hair. The little girl takes a look in the mirror, her hair is straight from the relaxer, the comb flows through it like melting butter. Then there are the ends, short…barely touching her chin, and stringy. She had curls in it just an hour ago, but her hair was so damaged the curls lost their shape. As she becomes an adult she goes to different hair stylists with different results when she looked in their mirror but right back to the same damaged hair by the time she came home. Fifteen years go by of her relaxing her hair, but this time she has cut it short and accepted ongoing stigma. After all, her peers are doing the same thing. Not only that, it’s the ONLY thing her peers are doing. Anything else would be like wearing a swimsuit on Christmas in Alaska.
Then take into account a young man named Charles who was told his whole life what to do and how to be. He and his three brothers received buzz cuts until they were grown, followed in the footsteps of their father, each unaware that they could create their own destiny. Whenever they stepped into individuality, their parents stepped in to grasp their vision back to uniformity. For these siblings, life was about societal and monetary achievements and one never came without the other. Art, spirituality, inner consciousness – these words seemed to be as unrealistic as cartoons in their households.
What do these two have in common? A life that was strongly dominated until the point that they were unconsciously blinded by influence. Like it or not, this is how most of society is – we are controlled down to our choice of appearance – even it is clean and manicured. Long hair for men is interpreted as a “hippie” look, artistically overindulgent or rebellious. Stereotypes about locks are no better – ranging from suspicions such as idle, aimless personalities, over-identifying with a specific culture, and the list goes on.
So why would these two choose a hairstyle like dreadlocks? After all, there is no doubt that they stand out from everyone else. Both Amy and Charles never knew what the natural characteristics of their hair was because like many things about them, it was hidden to blend in. One thing that locs represent and this holds high priority: to be able to embrace being unique. Being unique is nothing without the knowledge of how to be independent within being different. To know that you can achieve this simply by changing the look of your hair is astounding. We are most influenced by what we see, and what we see we categorize based on what society teaches us. It is amazing to see cultured, intelligent people who dress different, look different and act differently, not accordingly. It toggles the suggestive part of the brain and forces you to take a closer look. If I could choose one word that dreadlocks symbolize, I would say freedom.