The History of Dreadlocks

The history of dreadlocks is ancint and extensive. What are dreadlocks? Where do dreads come from? Here you can find an brief summary of the history of dreadlocks.



For many people dreads are a symbol of rastafarian and reggae culture. But most people tend to believe in clichés since they only know very little about what dreadlocks really are. In this section we will show you with some of the many facades of the history of dreadlocks. Starting with a detailed explanation of the term “dreadlocks”, continuing to the historical origins of the dreads up to a view of the present.
Origin of the name

To be able to talk about dreadlocks, we must define, what exactly the term “dreadlocks” describes. The word dreadlocks (short form “Dreads”) consits of a combination of the terms “dread” (engl .: fear, terror) and “locks” (engl .: curls).

Although Dreadlocks, or dreads, were present long before the time of the rastafarian culture, the word “dreadlocks” probably developed in the course of this religious movement. For the Rastafari dreadlocks are far more than just a term or a hairstyle. They are an important religious symbol, with which they feel connected to their God Jah.

Because of the British colonial reign, the language of the Rastafari was and is heavily influenced by the English language and this is how “dreadful locks” became dreadlocks.

What excactly are Dreadlocks?

What exactly are we talking about when we talk about dreadlocks? What does the term “dreadlocks” mean? Many people confuse dreads with rastas, rastas with dreads, dreads with braids and so on and so forth.

But the term dreadlocks only describes matted hair. Rastas, Braids and similar creations are braided hairstyles. Dreadlocks, are created over a certain period of time, as the hair begins to felt in thick strands.With traditional natural dreadlocks, the hair is simply left to grow, without letting a comb or a crocheting hook touch it.

When dreads are professionally created, dreadstylists only offer the foundation for dreadlocks. The dreads themselves develop over time, as the hair strands begins to tighten.

Negative Association Dreadlocks

Common questions for dreadheads are: “Is it possible to wash your dreads? (yes)” “Can your dreadlocks get moldy? (not really)” and other questions like this. Most of these questions are based on prejudice or misinformation.

Up until today, many deem dreadlocks as not socially acceptable.While dreads may still have a bad reputation with some people, they are getting more and more accepted. This is one of our important tasks.


The first dreadlocks

The very first Dreadlocks have not been historically documented. For documentation the origins of dreads lay back way too far. But we can assume the prehistoric humanoids, that for long times did not possess combs, were the first human dreadheads.

Uncumbed hair begins to get matted after a certain time depending on the condition of the hair and the climate you are in. Dreadlocks probably are one of the most fundamental hairstyles of humankind.

The historical records pertinent to Dreadlocks are usually associated with spirituality and religion. They can be found anywhere in the world where dreadlocks played an important religious role, – whch they did almost everywhere – whether in stories, or directly in religious scriptures.

Dreadlocks in world history

Even beyond religion we can find plenty of documented dreadlocks. Julius Caesar said about the Germans, for example, that they had “hair like snakes”.

In European aristocracy, there was a rather involuntary form of dreadlocks. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway had a so-called Polish plait – an accidentally felted part of hair – whereupon his household emulated the hairstyle, probably to flatter him.

It is clear, even if the Rastatfari are undeniably who made dreadlocks popular, the origin of dreadlocks are much deeper.


Dreadlocks in Aztec hstory

For the Aztecs in Central America dreadlocks were a symbol of high ranking priests. Those who joined the priesthood, got their head shaven. From this point on, the hair was not to be cut or combed.

Traditionally, the hair was smeared with soot. The longer and moldier the dreads, the more powerful the priest. A priest who fell from grace lost the dreadlocks as a sign of public desecration.Afterwards the process began anew.

Dreadlocks in Hinduism

Dreadlocks are deeply rooted in the traditions of hinduism. In images the deity Shiva is shown decorated with dreadlocks. The Sadhus – the “holy men” – are also known to wear dreadlocks.


For the Rastafarian dreadlocks are an important religious status symbol. They have their origin on the numerous mentions of dreadlocks in the Bible.

Dreadlocks in Egypt

One of the oldest documented examples of dreadlocks is given to us by the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who supposedly wore dreadlocks in his lifetime.

The mummy of the deceased ruler, who died at the young age of 18, of Egypt still wears its preserved dreadlocks. Illustrations show how the dreadlocks of Pharaoh Tutankhamun were prepared.

Dreadlocks in the Bibel

In the Bible there are many references to dreads. The 4th book of Numbers (6: 5) states, for example:

„No razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.”

Also, many of the other characters like Samson (Judges, 16:13) and John the Baptist are associated with dreadlocks.