Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Dreadlocks Myth

Dreadlocks refer to interlocked coils of hair which may form naturally or through manipulation. It is a symbol of a religious movement, notably the Rastafari movement, although an increasing number of people from different religions and cultures wear dreadlocks nowadays. Is it just another hairstyle?

Today, unfortunately, this unique hairstyle - with a long tradition of spirituality, is closely associated with defiance, guns, crime, irresponsibility, insubordination, untidiness, you name it. Even in the U.S, where there's a lot of talk about freedom and the dream of not judging people from appearances, dreadlocked folks have constantly come under attack! I was appalled when a judge in a New Orleans court ordered a teenager wearing dreadlocks to cut them. What happened to freedom? Do ideas about personal appearance cloud your judgement? Why do you think dreadlocks is constantly being associated with negative connotations? Is the dreadlocks myth a reality?

I have been wearing dreadlocks since 2003 - one year after I was admitted to study law in the University of Buea, Cameroon. Initially, people were surprised to see a law student with dreadlocks, but after sometime, it kind of became my "trademark". People described me as the "guy with dreadlocks" and I managed to literally get myself some fans and followers (I still have some today). Fortunately or unfortunately, many people became aware of the fact that it's okay to wear dreadlocks, provided you don't compromise your values and don't show up for a high-profile job interview (at least for now).

At home, I encountered some initial resistance from my mom. I remember she always told me that lawyers don't wear deadlocks. Her fear, which I understood, was that I was going to "change" and compromise the values tirelessly instilled in my siblings and I. However, she let me get away with wearing dreadlocks when she realised it was really what I wanted. It is worth mentioning that her worry was genuine, but I knew better, and never indulged in the things commonly associated with dreadlocks; I never smoked a cigarette ( not in my lifetime!), never dropped out of school, never became a criminal and neither did I negate my christian values or join the rastafari movement. As a matter of fact, I can look you in the face and reaffirm the fact that I've never confirmed any of the dreadlocks myths.

Do you know anyone whose behaviour or goals plummeted, when s/he started wearing dreadlocks? (I don't know any!)

Do you know anyone who has been profiled because s/he wears dreadlocks? (I know a few)

More importantly, have you ever regarded someone who wears dreadlocks as a "loser"? These are tough questions that should be answered in an effort to dispel the dreadlocks myth.

When I started wearing locks, I promised myself that I'd cut them after my Masters degree. As the day draws near, I can't help, but look back with nostalgia at the high and low moments of my 7-year dreadlocks experience. There were moments when, because of my dreadlocks, I was regarded as a local icon. Some friends and acquaintances called me "Icon for Town" - a slang we used at the university, to refer to a trailblazer or someone who stands out from the crowd.

Like I said, there were low moments too - when people MISTAKENLY thought I was just another uneducated, low-life criminal with dreadlocks. I always like the look on their faces when I "blow my cover", though.

Regardless, I've never regretted my decision to wear dreadlocks. I'm happy to have represented the many responsible folks out there who wear dreadlocks, and to have "busted" the dreadlocks myth.

From this day on, before you prejudge someone who wears dreadlocks, bear in mind that you might be going in for another big surprise because s/he might just be more educated, more successful, more cultured and generally a more dedicated citizen of the world, than you're! Get to know the dreadlocks carrier before you jump into hasty conclusions.

I'll leave you with the words of the legendary dreadlocked Bob Marley - "One Love."

The dreadlocks myth has been busted!


  1. We got the same problems,actually wearing dreads now for two years,i find it so difficult to cut them down,my people back home are affraid i joinned some smokers,jonkies..but for real i don't smoke,i don't really listen to reggea musik,i just love the style,for me it's a style like the others,lot of people when they see my pic when i had no dreads are shock,got my self all pimped with the dreads....My dreads don't disturb me from my education,i am the educated type i must say so,holder of a degree in law and political sciences from the Douala University,now student engineer at the politech of Milan with major Mechanical and Production engineering i am slowing making my way out,doing my things without any problems....proud of my look,my style.....Big Up Tegha....!

  2. Zuzeeko I must first of all congratulate you for your achievements and for attaining such heights. It is not for nothing that your elder sis puts you at the helm in your family academic achievements. She’s rightfully proud of you and everyone else should, especially your mum.
    Your “dreadlock myth” is such a beautiful piece. I can imagine what false impression people not so close to you might have developed about you all these years. You must also have gone through a lot of temptations of indulging into the other side of dreadlock wearers like smoking even ordinary cigarettes and “the other type”. Kudos for resisting!
    Reading this piece can actually change the way some people view dreadlock wearers just as it can change the minds of those intending to wear it for the "dirty side". I suggest you get lots of your friends to read this; even those you suspect are having special thoughts about dreadlocks. I am one of those who hated dreadlocks for the sole reason that it made wearers look unkempt until I met a few fellows looking very neat in dreadlocks. Your "dreadlock myth" comes to increase the positive perception I now have for some wearers. But be reminded that the negative perception people have about wearers will not easily fade away, a lot of education needs to be done (you are already educating!!) I guess you have throughout your life been constantly reminded by the meaning of your name "Zozeeko" :). Keep it up Master.

  3. Great read...
    I got born again &nd couldnt be actually accepted cuz I had dreadlocks...
    I am a very cultured, morally upright and very educated Cameroonian...
    Too bad for prejudice!
    Stay Blessed in the Lord...


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