Answers from a Dread Head-1-12-16

PictureAbout 6 years ago I suddenly had a strange desire to get dread locks.  I don’t know where this even came from, except when I stopped to think about it, they made perfect sense for a girl like me.  I am kinda low maintenance (sweetie, don’t laugh!), at least as far as I put into looks.  I was embracing my freestyle side, wearing long skirts, finally feeling more comfortable in my own skin (confidence in motherhood will get you there).  I never paid dreads much notice, and perhaps was a bit judgy when I did see them.  But all of a sudden, I wanted them!  I wanted something that would both define me and be an enigma.  I was worried about how I would be perceived but also felt I could pull it off.  On my most confident of days I feel like I can pull off anything, other days, I feel like I am the last person that wants to draw attention to myself.  I talked to an acquaintance that had long, gorgeous dreads about the basics, and she was quick to assure me it wouldn’t have any weird hidden meanings and I would look great.

So the first set of dreads I got done, my friend helped.  They were long, wild, “natural”, and I had a love/hate relationship with them.  They were beautiful but I spent more time worrying about them than anything.  This “carefree” hairstyle caused me a lot of stress!  I had this “set” for 2 years.  I’m going to answer all the basic questions about dreads in a moment.  When I was pregnant, and had #4, they were driving me bonkers, and like all postpartum decisions, I had to get rid of them STAT!  I was able to cut them to chin length, and, since I didn’t think I would look good with a shaved head, I painstakingly brushed each one out.  It took me 3 whole days.  I was happy for a year, but then missed them terribly.  So 3 years ago I decided to redo them.  If you are thinking there seems to be a whole lot of deciding going on, it’s because dreads are a lot of startup, maintenance, and about as permanent as hair can be.  Now, I typically ascribe to the “it’s just hair” mentality, but deciding to put in or take out dreads is a big, big deal.  It’s not something you just take out one day or redo on a whim.

It took me a good year or more to not feel entirely self-conscious wherever I went.  I could feel eyes on me, and don’t usually perceive that as good attention (I tend not to think they are thinking, “wow!”  I tend to think they are thinking “freak!”).  Now I know this is strange since deep down I think I do rock them, and I get just enough compliments to keep me feeling positive.  And strange if this is my self-talk, that I am purposely drawing attention to myself.  Not many hairstyles elicit a stranger to come up to you in the store and tell you they LOVE your hair.  People also feel confident enough to ask me questions, and I often hear, “I’ve always wanted to do that, I’m just not brave enough”.  So, if that is my purpose in life, to give people the confidence to do crazy hairstyles, then mission accomplished.  Now that I’ve had them for several years, I rarely even think about them.   I also live in a college town, and while I know all the people that have dreads, it’s more acceptable here.  I’ve walked into a grocery store in Nebraska and it’s taken me a while to figure out why everyone was staring!

One of the best explanations I have about my dreads is that I love that they elicit a snap judgement about me, and it’s not the real one.  That’s weird, I know.  But I figure it’s a great way to weed out judgy people.  The people that get to know me find I’m not necessarily the stereotype that is dreads.  Truth:  I’ve never smoked pot.  Never even been around it.  I’m not New Age, own any crystals, smudge my home, or anything like that.  I enjoy bathing.  I hold a lot of alternative and liberal views but surprisingly conservative ones as well.  I don’t link myself to any one group, as I like to think through each and every issue.

Anyway, let’s get to the facts that you are dying to know about dreads!

Q:  How do you get dreads?  There are 3 main ways:  Never washing (which leads to pretty messy bedhead)  This is the grunge college route and usually only lasts til you outgrow this phase in your life.  The second is chunk by chunk of hair tangling, ratting, and then waxing (the typical method and this takes a good year to “mature” into actual dreads).  Or chuck by chunk ratting, tangling, and basically crocheting your hair into instant, tight locks of hair.  The first set I had was done by waxing.  This took about a year to mature, and I constantly stressed that the dreads weren’t locking, had lots of bumps, etc.  The set I have now I had a friend crochet into instant dreads.  They are more uniform.  I was more dedicated to having perfect looking dreads this time around.

Q:  How long does it take to make dreads:  First set was longer hair, and it was 8 solid hours.  Second set was short hair and it took around 6.  Either route takes 6-12 months of maturing to look like they are awesome and natural.

Q:  Do you wash your hair:  YES!  I am hygienic!  I am not offended by this question but love to set the record straight.  Dreads aren’t usually dirty.  They are most likely cleaner than most hair for a couple reasons.  First, you do stretch out time in between washing.  Your head learns not to be oily and rebalances itself.  While I wash my dreads every week or 2, I could go much, much longer without them smelling or feeling oily.  It’s not good to be washing your hair all the time and my scalp is never oily or has buildup.  The other reason is that there’s a cool bar soap I use ( that is made with all natural essential oils that really cleans and doesn’t leave any residue.

Q:  What if you don’t want dreads anymore?:  it’s a hard decision.  The set I have now would be very difficult to brush out since they are really, really, tightly tangled.  I could probably get away with leaving a few inches and brushing out, but it would be pretty short.  I’ll leave that look to my better half for now.

Q:  How long to you keep dreads?:  Forever if you want.  But, I get bored, and sometimes they drive me crazy.  My 3 year old dreads were getting long, heavy, and annoying.  I was stressing about loving the look but being frustrated by them constantly.  Also, when you’ve had dreads for so long and are known for them, it’s hard to cut the identify.  So, the other day I chopped them off.  I was going to cut them to 5 inches and brush them out, but loved how crazy they looked, so I kept them.  I realized by cutting them short I didn’t have the annoying part about them, and could keep the identity.  Identity crisis solved!!!!  For now.  Till I get annoyed with them again.  There are big debates in the dread world about cutting them, but hey, I have dreads.  I can do what I want, right!?

Q:  SO they are really no-maintenance?  I wish!  That was the biggest misconception I had.  The day-to-day care is almost zero, that’s true.  I do have to decide how to wear it, but that would be the same as having long hair.  I like to shake things up.  So every morning I spend about 25 seconds with my hair.  After I wash it, it helps to “palm-roll” each one to keep them looking nice.  The biggest investment is that the new hair growth at the top rarely finds the right dread to join up with and is sometimes loose or crosses over, and thus starts dreading with other dreads.  Every 6 months or so I have to cut dreads apart and tuck loose hairs in.  However, for the most part, dreads actually keep dreading themselves at the top.

Fun facts:  There are a couple big resources out there for dreads: and  They have videos, tips, etc.  Knotty boy is actually a company in Canada and you can go and train how to do other people’s dreads.  You are then called a LOCKTICIAN!  You can go to a locktician but you spend about 50$ an hr on it (do the math!).  You can do them yourself.  I finally figured out how to maintain them myself so I don’t have to pay or bug a friend all the time.  Sometimes it’s worth paying for, however.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, getting dreads is not an exercise in trying to be African American.  No matter what kind of hair you have, dreads are beautiful but they all look different, and it’s simply an effort in having fun looking hair.

Another fun fact:  When my better half and I were just friends, I was tempted to ask her if I should cut my dreads so I could look more professional (I tend to believe that I am professional with them but get self-conscious sometimes!), but I didn’t really want to know her opinion because she’s pretty straight-laced and figured she would break it to me that my hair was holding me back.  Turns out, she loves and always has loved my dreads!  This was quite surprising!  🙂

Any other questions?  The floor is open.  If you haven’t already noticed, I’m kind of an open book.  I share!

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