Why Do Rastas Wear Dreadlocks?

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Why Do Rastas Wear Dreadlocks?

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Would you like to know the history of this symbolic Rastafarian mane? You have or would like to wear this hairstyle but you need to know more about its meaning first? Be able to explain its origins to your loved ones? Do you want to know why Rastafarians have dreadlocks?

You're in the right place! I'm Caroline, proud supporter of Rastafarianism for many years, I try through these articles to explain our culture in an objective way. Over the years I have met many people wearing dreadlocks. I myself have been wearing them for 10 years now. So I was curious to know why they adopt such a hairstyle. Of course the answer varies, but it was often a question of spiritual choice, a quest for freedom or aesthetic reasons. Let's explore all these different aspects together in order to offer you the answers to all your questions.

Justified in the Bible, the Rastafari community wears dreadlocks for spiritual reasons, as a sign of total dedication to God (or Jah). Also inspired by many world cultures, these Rasta braids are also a symbol of the desire for freedom and support for oppressed people.

In this article, you'll learn about:

  • The different origins of dreadlocks
  • Its various influences
  • How to wear them
  • The place of dreadlocks in modern fashion

Let's not dawdle any further and get to the heart of the matter!


1- Rasta dreadlocks, between ideology and spirituality

The wearing of dreadlocks has a spiritual aspect for some, ethnic or ideological for others. And to better understand the roots of this hairstyle and its different origins and influences, we have to make a little comeback in history.

We will first discover the Indian and African ancestry, which favored the appearance of Rasta dreadlocks in Jamaica. Then we will talk about the Young Black Faith movement and its influence.

a) les origines indiennes et africaines

Dreadlocks are a very old hairstyle, dating back to the Pharaonic era and it was mainly adopted by the MPs. This hairstyle is also very popular among African people, who adopt it to assert their identity, ethnicity and ideology. For African tribes, dreadlocks are a symbol of belonging, unity and brotherhood.

In ancient times, some people wore dreadlocks or braided locks because they thought it was more practical and less cumbersome. But it also has a spiritual side. Indeed, we find dreadlocks in the Hindu culture and more precisely among the sages called Sadhu, Shiva worshippers.

According to some researchers, it was the Indian immigrants in Jamaica who introduced this hairstyle in the country. They influenced the founders of Rastafarianism, namely Joseph Hibbert and Leonard Howell, who adopted it. The influence of Indian ascetics, with their braided hair called jatta, appeared as early as the 1930s.

Later, the Rastas or mountain rebels, also known as Rastafarians, were the ones who started the dreadlock movement in Jamaica. Indeed, the first locks appeared in the separatist camp of the first rasta, Leonard P. Howell. But it wasn't until the 1950s that dreadlocks became more popular among Rastas.


Another hypothesis explains the appearance of dreadlocks in Jamaica and this time it is related to the relationship of Rastafarians with Kenyan anti-colonists called Mau Mau. The latter were a group of fighters who fought against the British colonists. Their fighting exploits reached Jamaica. In fact, in 1953, demonstrations were organized by Jamaicans in support of the Mau Mau cause. And it was during this period that a movement emerged in Jamaica known as the Mau Mau gang, whose members wore dreadlocks.

The ideological character of wearing dreadlocks is very present in Jamaica, but it also has a spiritual connotation, which can even be called Rasta religion. In this regard, it is worth remembering that the word dread is synonymous with fear, which can imply a fear of the Lord. The expression dreadlocks can be translated as the locks that scare. That is why it refers to the lion of Judah.


Among the first to have advocated the Rastafarian dreadlocks, we find Marcus Garvey, preacher in the black district of Harlem in New York and considered as a prophet by the Rastas. According to a passage in the religious book, the book of numbers, it is prescribed to wear long hair and uncombed to devote it to God.

b) The influence of the Young Black Faith

The Jamaican anthropologist Barry Chevannes specifies that the wearing of dreadlocks by Rastafarians is rather associated with the Young Black Faith group. This movement appeared in 1949 and was against certain practices of the Rastafarians. This group as well as some former Rastafarians, decided to abandon the beard that they wore until then and that placed them at the margin of society, were influenced by the Nazirs of the Hebrew Bible. They had chosen not to cut their hair in order to devote themselves to God. Since then, the wearing of dreadlocks became more popular, especially among young people, especially under the influence of reggae. It even marked an important period in the history of Jamaica.


2- A hairstyle popularized by reggae music

Reggae has widely popularized the wearing of dreadlocks, which has become a cultural phenomenon. Among the great artistic figures of reggae music is Bob Marley. The artist has played an imminent role in the popularity of Rasta dreadlocks among the general public. In fact, this hairstyle has been the subject of several reggae songs including the famous hit "Natty Dread" by Bob Marley or "Too Much Commercialization of Rastafari" by Jacob Miller and "Natty Dread Band Wagon" by Al Campbell.



During the 70's, dreadlocks seduced many of Jamaica's youth with a rebellious spirit. These young people who suffered from discrimination, dreadlocks became the symbol of revolt and "negritude". Synonymous with freedom, Rasta dreadlocks have been worn naturally by many activists around the world. It is also a style that has crossed borders to be adopted for aesthetic reasons. Whether you wear them or not, check out the latest trends in Rasta hats and other reggae headwear!

3- How to style the hair in this style? 

Today, many people are adopting dreadlocks as a distinctive hairstyle. Whether it is for ideological, cultural, spiritual or simply style reasons, dreadlocks are increasingly being worn by the world's youth. This style consists of forming a lion's mane with long locks of hair. To achieve this hairstyle, you need to keep your hair long and tangled in such a way as to form twisted locks. Such a result can only be achieved if you avoid combing, cutting or shaving the hair.


4- The style of Rastafarians in the world fashion

The reggae culture as well as the revolutionary and anti-colonial movements around the world, have encouraged the development of Rasta dreadlocks on a global scale. Not only has the hairstyle been adopted, whether in the form of braids or twisted locks, but even fashion has been influenced by this concept. You can easily find original clothing and accessories featuring Bob Marley with dreadlocks. The world of jewelry has also been revolutionized with the appearance of beaded bracelets, necklaces and dreadlocks beads.  The fashion world highlighted the free, rebellious and revolutionary spirit, which resonated in the minds of young people and activists. A style that reflects their identity and their beliefs.


5- With or without braid, cultivate your rasta side

As you can see, dreadlocks come from a very distant history with clearly varied origins. Having international influences, this reinforces their meaning and their impact on modern society.

You now know the history of this haircut, how it has evolved over time inspired by many cultures and why Rastas proudly wear dreadlocks. You are also able to explain its place in our society today.

It's always a pleasure to see how our Rastafarian culture has evolved over the decades and we're really glad to see you here. Whether you wear dreadlocks or not, what matters is your love for others and your support for the Rasta cause. The best way to show your commitment to this ideology is to start with the way you dress. And for that, we can only advise you to opt for this cool little rasta sweater.

Discover it in detail by clicking on the image below:


if you want to know more about how to make African dreadlocks go to

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