Guest Blogger - Why I Wear My Hair In Dreadlocks, Wadzi P.
I am surrounded by gorgeous, well-educated and very opinionated young women. Some time ago I was having lunch with Wadzi and the maintenance of her hairstyle came up in conversation. I have in the past found that people wear their hair a certain way for a reason. As we were talking I thought to myself, this is a great article for IamTinashe.com!.
Wadzi is here now to share why she wears her hair in dreadlocks.
Hi everyone, my name is Wadzi and I wear my hair in dreadlocks.…
Why? The only way I can answer this question is by starting with why I choose to wear my hair natural.
Many young black girls across the globe will tell you the same thing: “before I started visiting the salon, my mum did my hair and ultimately my hair was in its healthiest state under her care.”
Despite being ‘unsophisticated’ there were certain basics that my mother understood and practised on me which were:
- Only ever comb using a wide-tooth afro-comb (not a tail comb!)
- Detangle starting from the tips down towards the roots, not from the roots up
- Give the hair an oil-treatment or steam-treatment once a week
Now most would expect that my choice to revert to natural was a bid to stay true to my African roots or not buying into the idea of wearing a straight look which I was never born with. While this may be admirable, for me, it actually came down to my hair health and the health of my hairline.
When my hair was chemically processed it wasn’t as healthy, luscious or thick as when I used to wear it natural. Over the years I started to notice a weakening of my hairline and when I became aware of this, I started to look around at other girls and older ladies who had been braiding and straightening their hair for years and it was evident that the weak/receding hairline was a more common issue than I had initially realised.
So I dare to ask, “Are you taking corrective steps to ensure your hairline is healthy regardless of the hairstyle you have?
It’s not too late to start doing your own research and using more ‘protective styling’.
As a young child I would look at all the African-American women on TV and would be confused at how their hair was so long and straight and mine only ‘looked’ long after being blow dried straight. This long hair don’t care dream was short-lived because my hair would start to shrink again due to the natural moisture in the air. I would often ask my mum why those women were so different and yet the African-American men looked more similar to ‘us’. She too didn’t really have an explanation and would often put it down to the fact that maybe they all had mixed ancestries, thus explaining the softer hair. However, with time as the curly perm phase was gradually overtaken by the ‘Dark & Lovely’ phase and finally the weave phase, that is when it all started to dawn on me. Then when black artists started to talk about their hair grooming tips and then the internet exploded and more started to singing about ‘patting their weaves’ it became evident that our hair is indeed more alike than I’d thought.
With this increasing popularity of the weave most hairdressers sought to up-skill in that area. You can have a conversation with a hairdresser or perform a quick search online and you will find that there are countless weave styles out there e.g. short, long with bangs, curly, asymmetric bob, straight, pony tail etc. On top of this, to achieve these different looks, one needs to master many techniques e.g. sew-in, glue-in, drawstring, half weave, fusion, clip-on, weft, flat-taping etc.
My point in mentioning these styles/techniques in detail is to lend the perspective that perhaps all of this was done to the neglect of the natural crown! The hairdressers’ collective immersion in the weave and straightening culture meant that very few were left who still desired to learn the skill of caring for the natural afro. Thankfully we have the YouTube ladies and natural hair bloggers that are a source of wisdom for many but this does not negate the obvious implication that this is NOT accessible to all those young girls who like me at one point, needed this growing up before joining the chemical bandwagon out of taming desperation.
Many assume that just because one is born black the ability to care for this hair is something innate, however, unless you have someone else/older in your life who already knows the golden rules, you will be unaware and only trial and error will eventually get you to a more knowledgeable state.
In my late teens when I first reverted back to a natural head, it took a while before I found a hairdresser who actually knew what to do when a head of thick afro hair was placed in a chair in front of them. I would take my ‘bad-hair-day’ hat off, revealing the dark wild mass and would usually be met with an exclamation, followed by “sista, wow, your hair is so thick!…you will definitely need a blow dry…this will take longer than I’d thought…” Then I would be passed on to an unfortunate salon trainee who would crank up the blow dryer and tear through my hair at lightning speed with the smallest comb – all the while with me protesting and insisting that she be more gentle.
Gradually, I realised I needed to take control at the hairdressers or else I would be left with breaking hair, a sensitive scalp and an even weaker hairline. When I eventually found my afro queen “Sharon”, who was a pro at caring for afro hair, I held on and whenever she moved salons I moved with her!
However, even after finding her, the desire to be dreadlocked soon took over and I had my first ‘tail-comb’ mini-dreads at 19. I combed them out after moving overseas only to go back to dreadlocks again a couple of years later. I cut these off at bob-length as I wasn’t happy with the grooming product that my initial Loctician had been using on my head. Third time lucky, I went back to the dreadlocks yet again and this time, at shoulder-length, I’m happy with them and for now I cannot see myself with any other natural style.
Why I choose dreadlocks over other natural styles is because my hair breaks with braiding and I admit to feeling “Ubuntu” in my dreads, (p.s. you can google this term), and I love how every time when I visit my country of origin there is an unspoken camaraderie when you meet people from all walks of life and their eyes light up when they look your way and say in the local slang, “Ndeipi Dread” (meaning: “Hello Dread”) as they pass you in the streets. Quite often it is a default ice-breaker!
Interestingly, there are still some misconceptions about dreadlocks regarding their hygiene, products that should be used and their connection to substance abuse amongst other things which often makes them less ‘commercially viable”. I can assure you that most of these are just that – stereotypes; and I don’t fit any of them.
I met a fellow African girl who once said to me, “In my country, only mad men who live on the streets wear dreadlocks.” Well, all I can say to that is – I bet they don’t wear them like this!
Thank you Wadzi for your contribution - it was insightful and well thought out. Readers our there, now you know…
Photo Credit: IamTinashe