I would hate for dreadlocks to become the fashion and beauty standard I've spent a decade trying to eschew.
Dreadlocks are a natural hairstyle that have existed for many thousands of years, from hairy, scary neanderthals, through many different religious traditions and spiritual practises, in all different ethnicities, from Coptic monks to Vikings and Celts to Rastafari to straight-up hippies. Historically, with the exception of cavemen, they've always been a manifestation of strong identity, be it individualistic or collective, be it spiritual or ethnic. It's plastered all over the internet that there is no wrong reason for getting dreadlocks, even if that reason is simply because it's fashionable or it looks good - "don't let anyone tell you there's a wrong reason for getting dreads!" - those sites go on to tell you to buy their products and fill your hair with disgusting wax and chemicals.
I realised I was meant to have dreads much in the same way I came to terms with every other aspect of my identity. Difference is something that has shaped my life. When I was about nine, my intelligence sank in and I began to understand the notion of difference. First, I realised that my family was slightly different because we were Buddhists and those ideals permeated our household. Then, I realised that I was slightly different because I was adopted, in a melée of bizarre occurences. I was visibly, but unconfirmedly, not caucasian (as it emerged, I'm a ethnically a Roma gypsy). I became a vegetarian when I was seven. I began realising when I was nine that I wasn't straight. I repeatedly insisted that I was a tomboy (a word which became genderqueer when I learnt enough about gender to assert my gender identity). I had an English accent in Scotland. Even being left handed felt abnormal (there are fewer left handed people than there are gay people).
There is not an aspect to my identity, since I began developing into a young person, that has ever been what you would expect of someone living where I live. There are no Buddhist neighbourhoods and in 1989, the year I was born, only 843 adoption applications were granted. It's actually difficult to fancy Sporty Spice when all your friends fancy Matt Le Blanc and Peter Andre. But it's own your identity or bust. If you're being bullied in school because of your "scadgy" clothes and "dirty" skin colour and the fact that you accidentally kissed a girl on the cheek, you have to own your identity, because you can't change having patchy pigmentation, how much money your parents have, or the fact that you feel a little dizzy when someone in particular says hello.
I was fighting the notion of popularity that my classmates were drowning in, in Primary 6. The fact that the privilege of the conventionally good-looking can exist in a class of 10 year olds sickened me even then. So when we picked our Viking names, I decided on Miriam the Gaptooth. I stopped brushing my hair and it was never cut or styled in the way that other girls had theirs. I wore tie dye t-shirts and listened to Queen and spoke out against homophobia and meat-eating and the controversial wasp-killing that my teacher engaged in. I was a one-child army, dealing everyday with intrusive accusations and quite extreme loneliness. Like many dreadheads, I decided at that relatively young age, that I wanted dreadlocks and like many dreadheads, this desire was rejected by my parents, on account of my young age. I wore my hair in 30-odd thick pleats at least once a week for about four or five years and the idea of having dreadlocks never left my head or my intentions.
You have to manifest your differences, because visibility is important. I've never been to a hairdresser in my life, because I don't like the idea of sitting in a shop window having someone else control how an extremely visible part of my body appears to everyone else. Dreadlocks are an organic, continuously growing manifestation of one's difference or identity. They require patience, time, dedication and the ability to put up with an awful lot of intrusive questions and people touching your head at random when they think you won't notice. More importantly, they are a rejection of popular standards of beauty and fashion. This is true of the existence of dreadlocks in a wide variety of cultures. Celts and Vikings were "barbarians" and "heretics," monks and ascetics wear dreads to ward off vanity and attachment, Rastafari reject the infliction of caucasian hairstyles onto people of African origin. When dreadlocks regained popularity amongst new-age and/or hippy types, it was a rejection of conventional standards of beauty. I wear dreads now because I'm still actively saying "no" to the idea that a person has to appear a certain way. I understand that quite a number of people think that this hairstyle makes me intimidating and/or "cool" and I also understand a large number of people think that dreadlocks are disgusting, messy and unwashed. At the end of the day, however, I genuinely don't care what anyone, friend or foe, thinks of my hair. The knowledge that dreadlocks would be a part of who I'd become has outlasted any of my acquaintanceships, friendships or relationships. Having dreadlocks is something which is, ultimately, contained within my own personal sphere and remains unaffected by other individuals.
So, yes, it's a very personal view of mine that to subscribe to a view of dreadlocks as being something which is merely fashionable and nothing more than an aesthetic pleasure would sadden me very, very much. I'm certainly no elitist or purist, but I think it's okay to not want dreads to lose their meaning, the way the Palestine scarf is now sold in multicolours in Topman. I think it's okay to understand that they mean many different things to many different people, and that they can be extremely visually beautiful, but to draw the line at dreadlocks becoming the next big thing, the disposable thing you see someone else wearing and want for yourself, before writing it off as crap in a few months. Dreadlocks, just like tattoos and other body modifications, require thought, understanding and a stable reason for wearing them.
Agree/Disagree? Personal experiences or insight? I'm made out of ears.