IF there is a type of hairstyle that has truly withstood the test of time, it has to be dreadlocks. Since time immemorial, probably from when people started growing hair, dreadlocks have always been considered a mark of distinction.
Today locks are a trendy style which people pay a lot of money in hair salons to acquire. However, they are still largely misunderstood by a society that associates them with dirty ruffians, writes Cecilia Okoth.
It is fascinating to watch a hair trend that starts in the earliest historical times and grows to become popular till it eventually becomes a fashion event. Look around and you will not fail to recognise teenagers, business professionals and the old wearing dreadlocks.
Also called locks or simply dreads, dreadlocks are simply matted coils of hair.
Of course, in the recent past, dreadlocks have received a great boost from the various sub-cultures that came to adopt them as part of their identity; a common example of these being Rastafarians who started in the Caribbean islands before spreading to the rest of the world, as well as rock musicians.
But these same people have made many others detest dreadlocks. This is because a lot of them do not know how to take care of natural locks. They end up looking very untidy, unkempt, overgrown and downright disgusting.
This, coupled with their way of life, which normally upholds the abuse of illegal substances, has made some associate dreadlocks with bayaye.
Vagrants and lunatics, because they neither cut nor comb their hair, have been seen sporting (rather filthy) dreadlocks.
The natural way to create locks is the obvious: â€œIf combs, brushes, and scissors are not used on the hair, the hair will tangle together as it grows, eventually resulting in the twisted, matted ropes of hair known as dreadlocks,â€ Fabrice Babu, a hair stylist popularly known for locks in Kampala, says.
Yet, somehow, especially for the young and stylistically adventurous, locks represent a hot new fashion trend.
Joseph Lukwago, the proprietor of Jose World of Dreadlocks in Kampala, says unlike the natural locks, maintaining these stylist locks requires regular washing with honey, use of bees wax oil, Jamaican rum and sprays (splash).
Babu says various methods are used in the formation of locks leading to various types of locks depending on oneâ€™s hair texture.
The comb twist, where a comb is normally used to lock the hair, permanent dreads (can only be removed by shaving off the hair), extension dreads (hair extensions are added to make the dreads appear longer) and colour dreads.
These vary in size, length and appearance. A lot of labour goes into treating and braiding the hair to grow into the desired locks.
Yet all this notwithstanding, social stigma still remains the greatest hindrance to this style. Unless you are an entertainer, it is still not respectful enough to wear dreadlocks. No girl wants to take a dreadlocked guy to her mother. But promoters of this style see things rather differently.
Sheila Nakintu, a hairstylist in Kampala, says: â€œDepending on the way you wear them, locks could be viewed as just another type of hair style.â€ While Lukwago, who is also a Rastafarian, insists that growing locks helps one maintain high standards of discipline in society.
â€œIt is very rare to find a Rastafarian misbehaving because when you get arrested, the first thing they do is cut off your hair. No one wishes for their hair to get cut off unwillingly.
Costs of the various dreadlocks hairstyles
Comb twist sh40,000 to sh80,000
Permanent dreadlocks sh100,000 to sh150,000
Extension dreadlocks sh150,000 to sh300,000
Coloured dreadlocks sh10,000 to sh30,000
Dreaded no longer