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Locks history

Wether it follows a particular fashion trend, an ethnic or tribal heritage, one’s personal beliefs or culture, hairstyle always symbolizes a specific identity. Being much more than a mere fashion statement, hairstyle has proved throughout centuries and accross continents to be a genuine cultural expression.
Centuries ago, hair conveyed a strong religious connotation symbolizing both spiritual and physical strength as demonstrated in the story of Samson and Delilah. Indeed, discovering that it was the source of Samson’s exceptional physical strength, Delilah cut off his hair.
In India, for millenia, maybe as far as prehistory, the majority of sadhus, holy men seeking spiritual energy, has grown their hair long as a sign of manliness and strength. Their hair is sacred and is a reflection of the powers believed to be vested in the divinity of Shiva. Their hair is let to grow freely and with time passing turns into little strings falling down to the sadhus’ feet, reminiscent of the dreadlocks commonly grown today throughout the globe.
From the Nazarites to the Egyptians, numerous peoples, throughout the times, have adorned hairstyles resembling dreadlocks.
In Africa, many ethnic groups and tribes used to grow their hair in fashions similar to today’s dreadlocks. Among those: the Mau-Maus from Kenya, Massai, the Tveddo soldiers (pre-Islamic Woloffs), the Bonos, the Oromos, as well as certain Ethiopian Coptic priests.
For others, the way they styled their hair enabled them to identify with an ideology or even a social class. In Jamaica, in the late 1940s a new generation of Rastas began to let their hair grow freely, following recommendations to be found in the biblical Leviticus (XXI-5).
Furthermore, Rastas associated their dreadlocks to the mane of the lion, the symbol of Ethiopia and humanly manifest in the person of the Emperor Haile Selassie I. This generation of Rastas made a comparison between their lot, as descendants of slaves living in Jamaica and that of the Jews’ exile in Babylone. Their dreadlocks (the original aim of which was to make their look ‘dreadful’) were thus an obvious sign of rebellion and a way to show their opposition to capitalism. This philosophy has managed to draw worldwide attention partly thanks to reggae artist Bob Marley who in his songs made constant references to Rastafarianism and Haile Selassie I.
Later on, growing dreadlocks took on another meaning throughout the African Diaspora that mainly includes the Americas and Europe. In these locations, dreadlocks may symbolyze a return to the source, to the African roots.

It can be somehow surprising to learn that dreadlocks have actually crossed times, continents, and peoples. Rastas do not necessarily grow dreadlocks and these, today, do not automatically mean that one is a Rasta.
By way of the various interactions between races and cultures, growing dreadlocks is now spread worldwide and does not call for any type of justification: “dreadlocks do not make the man, man makes dreadlocks”.


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