Why We Call Them Locs

In Educate by El Sicario12 Comments

We Don’t Call Them “Dreadlocks”

The average English-speaking person uses about 800 words per day. It’s impossible to know the origins of every single word we use, especially ones that are so commonplace like the term “dreadlocks.” Regularly used to describe a prevalent natural black hairstyle, the term is often used, but worth further consideration of where it came from.
Locas tied up with a longhairs thing headband

What’s Wrong With “Dreadlocks?”

According to authors Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps in their book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, “dreadlocks” was coined by British soldiers who encountered Kenyan fighters with matted bunches of hair during their period of colonization in the 1900s.

The term was apparently used in a derogatory way to disparage the Kenyan fighters who were protecting their homes.

Perhaps this theory challenges other theories you might have heard, like “dreadlocks” being a representation of the “dread of god” in certain religious circles. Or maybe you never really gave much thought to where the term came from.

Either way, it doesn't sound so farfetched when you consider the widespread discrimination against people with locs that has run rampant over these many decades, and even to this day.

Man tightening dreadlocs

Locs Through History

Locs have been documented in various cultures as far back as 1600 BCE. It’s undeniable that many civilizations have worn this hairstyle for various reasons. Locs are even considered proclamations of devotion in religions such as Rastafari and Hinduism.

For decades people with locs have faced open discrimination for their hair. Students have been rejected or removed from schools of all levels, people in the workforce have been denied employment or fired, and institutions like the military are still holding their stance against men with locs.

Why their are called locs

Locs Today

Thanks to public figures like Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz, J. Cole. and so many more, locs are very much in the mainstream of men’s long hairstyles. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for institutions to make a case against the acceptance of this natural hairstyle.

The internet, particularly social media, has enabled people with this hairstyle to slowly but surely shed stereotypes about things like cleanliness and professionalism. As a matter of fact, there’s an entire industry devoted to proper care for locs and specialists referred to as “locticians,” who even make a living from it.

Appropriation vs. Appreciation

We’re not here to say anyone owns a hairstyle. It’s your hair, do with it what you will. We just feel it’s important to know where this natural hairstyle came from and acknowledge its rich history.

At The Longhairs we aim to celebrate all long hairstyles and cultures. Part of that is advocating for the people that have not been able to celebrate their hair like we have. We get eye rolls from some people when we talk about hair equality, but it’s usually from people that have never had their hair discriminated against.

Locs are many people’s natural hair. Can forcing someone to alter their body’s natural state in order to be accepted really be called equality? After all, short hair cuts were mainly popularized in the United States in the early 20th century. That’s really only two generations ago, and these new public grooming standards were largely developed without people of color in mind.

History of dreadlocks

We Just Call Them Locs

At minimum, this is clearly a thought-provoking matter. Whatever the origin of the term “dreadlocks,” to us it’s just long hair, and long hair makes us community. Out of respect for all people and cultures, we simply call them locs.