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What Is a Natty Dreadlocks?

By R. Bargar
Updated May 23, 2024
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Natty dreadlocks — referring to the natural dreadlocks of many of the members of the Rastafarian religion — is a term used to indicate both someone who adheres to this religious faith as well as the hairstyle itself. Made known through popular Reggae music, the Rastafarian movement and dreadlocked hair are familiar to people around the world. The term natty dreadlocks or natty dread is heard in Reggae music lyrics. It refers to the link between spirituality and dreadlocks in the Rastafarian community. As dreadlocked hair has become increasingly popular around the world, this term differentiates between those wearing it just as a hairstyle and those who grow locks for religious reasons.

The Rastafarian religion developed in Jamaica in the early 1900s. It emphasizes a deep spirituality reflected through lifestyle. Members of the Rastafarian movement eschew much of Western culture, seeing it as the culture of oppression. They wear their hair in natty dreadlocks because it is natural, and to them, represents the independence and strength of their religion and culture. Biblical passages are cited to support the wearing of uncombed and uncut hair.

Dreadlocks, although worn by many Rastafarians, are not worn by all. They are viewed more as a part of the whole Rastafarian lifestyle rather than as a hairstyle and represent the movement’s deep roots and pride in African culture. Rasta dreadlocks are thought be inspired by the Masai and other tribes of Africa. They also symbolize the mane of the Lion of Judah, as seen in the Ethiopian flag. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia is believed to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and the lion is seen by the Rastafarians as his symbol.

Many adherents of the Rastafarian religion view the growing of dreadlocks as a spiritual process. It takes years to grow long dreadlocks, and the process involves patience. This is seen as a virtue by the religion. Natty dreadlocks, those who wear the long tangled locks, believe the razor and comb are implements of oppression. By wearing their hair in its natural form, members of the Rastafarian community show their commitment to their beliefs.

Not all who wear dreadlocks are Rastafarian; in fact, very few are. Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle and can be found all over the world. Although people of African descent have hair that naturally forms dreadlocks, the hairstyle is also popular among other ethnicities. Special products and hairstylists are frequently used to create and maintain the dreadlocks.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1006209 — On Feb 12, 2022

It's unfortunate that so many lack knowledge and dwell so deeply in ignorance without any shame whatsoever. If you don't know about a particular subject, do some research and even then be cautious in your presentation regarding that subject. If you haven't truly gone through the process of personal experience within that particular situation/ culture or religion, then it would be wise to exercise patience in your explanation of such matters.

It's easy to pass judgment on those situations that are unfamiliar. It's human nature to try to elevate oneself with the attempt to oppress another and embrace feelings of superiority becomes like an "automatic thought" which is based on insecurities and personal experience. It is the root of prejudice and other "isims" and "schisms."

By anon306511 — On Nov 30, 2012

@SZapper: A wise man once told me speak on what you know. Where you see laziness, I see patience. What you perceive as gross, I see as regal. Your preconceived notions have no basis and seem to be more stereotypical with non African wearers of the hairstyle.

Typically, those of other ethnic groups refrain from washing their hair as straighter hair has a hard time "locking". This is why they use wax, and all these other types of products to maintain it. As a black person, my hair grows curly. So, my hair, as it grows, corkscrews into itself while forming the locks giving it strength and resilience from the issues you speak of.

As for laziness, I don't think so. They grow their hair as a form of the Nazarite vow.

And lastly, we are not our hair, and we are not our skin, but we are the soul that lives within. Keep your judgements to yourself.

By JessicaLynn — On Feb 08, 2012

This was a very interesting article. I had no idea that not all members of the Rastafarian movement wore dreadlocks. I knew it was important to the religion, so I thought everyone did it.

Also, I find the idea that growing your hair out can be a spiritual process kind of interesting. I've never grown dreadlocks, but I did grow my hair out very long when I was in high school. It was definitely an exercise in patience, although I don't know if I would consider it a spiritual experience!

By indemnifyme — On Feb 07, 2012

@SZapper - While I understand that natty dreadlocks might not fit your personal preference, I think your viewpoint is a bit disrespectful. Who are you to judge the validity of someone else's religious beliefs?

There are a lot of aspects of many religions that might seem a bit ridiculous to an outsider. However, you should still respect everyone's right to their own beliefs.

I think if someone wants to rock a natty dread, Bob Marley or otherwise, who am I to judge? It's not like they're hurting anyone.

By SZapper — On Feb 06, 2012

I don't know much about the Rastafarian movement, but I just don't see what could be religious about not combing your hair. I think it's a bit lazy, and it looks a bit gross, too.

Yes, certain ethnic groups can get dreads naturally if they just leave their hair alone. But there is a big, big different between the natty dreadlock look and the look of well maintained dreadlocks.

In order to maintain dreadlocks you have to wash them and use product and go to the salon. Then you end up with dreads that are all the same shape and don't smell horrible. The results just aren't the same if you just stop combing your hair.

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