Dreadlocks or locs are a black hairstyle and has been for thousands of years. Unfortunately, in recent years, non-black people have been trying to style their hair in the form of “dreadlocks.” It came out recently that Free People is now selling “clip-on Dreadlocks,” which many are seeing to be cultural appropriation.
It seems that designers are once again ignorant on major issues, this one being race. There is much discussion online about cultural appropriation: what it is, why is it harmful and the who is affected by it. Companies are either ignoring it or just don’t care.
What many people fail to realize is that locs have cultural significance and like to argue that dreadlocks are seen in non-black communities. This is incorrect, what is seen in other communities is matted hair held together by dirt tangles. In Ireland a matted hairstyle that resembles locs is called Glibs or Glibbes and in India matted hair is called Jata.
Locs are specific to the cultural identity of many black ethnic groups. Black hair naturally locks together based on its texture, which ranges from curly to kinky. What non-black people have is matted hair and has appropriated the name and hairstyle from black people.
The term dreadlocks is horrible, as it was used to describe the hair of enslaved Africans because their loc’d hair was full of dirt, blood and urine. Today, dreadlocks are stigmatized and have forced some black individuals to cut them off. They have been perceived as unprofessional, limiting the employment opportunities of those who have them. Locs are seen as dirty, even when they are washed and cared for.
It’s time, many believe, for companies to stop profiting off of cultural appropriation. They need to stop perpetuating the oppression and marginalization of ethnic groups.