Dreadlocks: Not just matted hair but a way of life

By Courtney Debrunner
Flapjack Chronicle

A collage of tapestries and colorful posters, including pictures of the iconic Bob Marley in green, yellow and red, cover the walls of Chloe Butel’s HSU dorm room. Butel, 18, sat cross-legged on her bed while she explained how she let a couple pieces of her own blonde hair form into dreadlocks.

“What happens is you don’t take care of it,” Butel said. “When you have dreads you can’t wash your hair out. A lot of people I know that have dreads don’t use shampoos.”

Dreadlocks, also referred to as dreads or locks, are matted, knotted and twisted strands of hair. This hairstyle has become misunderstood in modern culture and society according to Linda Aїnouche, director and producer of the documentary Dreadlocks Story.

“Hairstyle is one of the most universal and unavoidable forms of body art,” Aїnouche said. Her documentary researches the true origin of dreadlocks as part of the Rastafarian culture which was brought to Jamaica from African countries such as Ethiopia in the late 1800s.

Butel said the Rastafarian culture is fading from the dread movement because drugs such as marijuana have created a stronger link to this hairstyle. The growth and use of drugs aided in spreading dreads all the way to places such as Humboldt County. This developed the stereotype that people with dreads are also stoners.

“People think you are a stoner because you have dreads but it’s not really that,” said Butel. “It’s just a base of Rastafarian culture that has been an influence in our culture.”

Dorrean Jones, 18, who has dark brown dreads of her own, said she believes people with dreads understand the Rasta roots but they do not necessarily follow that way of life. Jones respects and is inspired by the culture but her dreads also have great personal significance.

Jones decided to transform her hair into dreadlocks after a spiritual moment promising to God she would keep her hair dreaded until she graduated college.

“[Dreads] represent my struggle and how I’m trying to get some self-control, move on, get the best out of life,” Jones said. “Since I’ve started dreading my hair I’m going to make it a quilt of my life.”

“Maybe since we moved up here from different cities [dreads] seem like something new and you’re just like ‘Whoa, this is a crazy phenomenon’ but I think it’s always been here,” Jones said. “That’s part of the Humboldt culture.”

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