We Asked White People With Dreadlocks 'Why'

"I just think comments like 'dreads are for black people only' are the opposite of cultural progression."

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Nov 28 2017, 12:00pm

Of all the unpopular white-people fashion choices floating around in 2017, dreadlocks is definitely a key one of them. Either because dreads signify unwashed, pot-powered uselessness, or because they’re culturally offensive. Particularly the latter.

As Miley Cyrus discovered when she mangled the traditional Mapouka dance into something called Twerking, or when a Victoria's Secret model donned Native American headdress in 2012, or when a whole bunch of Victoria’s Secret models donned African beads in 2017, cultural appropriation just isn’t acceptable anymore. In fact, it‘s a very effective way to make people mad.

So how do white people with dreadlocks feel about all this? Do they see their dreads as unwashed, or culturally inappropriate? We asked some to find out.

Tasha, 25
Has worn dreads for nearly two years

VICE : Hey Tasha, so I’ve seen heaps articles like 7 Reasons Why White People Should Not Wear Black Hairstyles or Dreadlocks Are Not OK for White People to Have. Period on the Web. What’s your thinking on all this?
Tasha: I have never heard anyone say something like that. Dreadlocks are a hairstyle that has historically spanned cultures from Ancient Greece to Egypt, with one of the first depictions of dreadlocks being in images of the Hindu god Shiva. And yes, dreadlocks are popular today in Rastafarian culture, as well also a very effective way to style Afro hair, but they did not originate from that. If it was created exclusively from their culture, I would understand. The thing that annoys me most about this comment is that I have spoken to many black people about this issue and no one has ever had an issue with white people with dreadlocks. In fact, I am also nearly always complimented on my dreads by black people. In my experience it’s only white social justice warriors on the internet looking for a reason to moan who have an issue.

Tell me about the story of your dreads. How did they get there?
I always loved the way they looked and wanted them for about five years and hated brushing my hair. Then, when I went travelling, I decided to finally get them made to keep my hair neat and low maintenance. Well, low maintenance in the short term anyway. Dreads are comfortable and they make me feel comfortable. I also shave the sides of my head because it’s nice to feel the breeze and not have those dreadlocks falling into my face. I would like to see dreadlocks become more of a mainstream hairstyle and not always be affiliated with hippies. A lot of the time people just get them because they look good and feel practical.

Okay, full disclosure: in my mind, dreads are for bong smokers who smell like patchouli oil and sweat. I’m sorry.
Look, I don’t smoke weed. I shower every day and I’m a clean freak and I hate sitting around all day and I hate those who do. Also, most of the people I know who are those typical kinds of stoners actually don’t have dreads. That might be the case in some countries but not in either of my lives in the UK or Australia.

What would be your advice to anyone who reads your answers and feels so convinced that they decide to get dreads?
Think about it for a while, and if you still want it, do it. It’s a big commitment, but now I don’t think I can go back to normal hair.

Gregory, 25
Has had dreads for eight years

Hey Gregory, do you ever feel culturally inappropriate wearing dreadlocks?
I have never had anyone had a direct issue with my dreadlocks. I grew up on the surf coast, swimming in salt water every weekend with curly hair. It’s pretty impossible to not get matted hair so dreadlocks were a very practical solution. This was before I was even old enough to know what Rastafarianism was. I also had no idea that dreadlocks were significant to black people because I just saw them in my everyday life as I grew up on the beach. The only times I have seen this brought up was after those issues with the Indian headdresses. We are in the 21st century and are way past holding onto cultural semantics. I think instead of nitpicking at political correctness we should be celebrating cultural diversity. So until a black person approaches me with some valid points as to why I’m being insensitive, I'll keep them. Also I just think comments like “dreads are for black people only” are the opposite of cultural progression.

And you’ve worn dreads for eight years. It’s a lot. Like a lot.
I started getting dreads when I was 17. I wanted them for years and Mum said I couldn’t get them. She also said I couldn’t get tattoos or smoke cigarettes and all of those things happened so maybe it was a sign of rebellion. I’ve been in two minds about them recently, coming close to nearly cutting them off, although now I'm glad I kept them and have fallen in love with them again. I just find them comfortable and I like the aesthetic. After having them for a long period of time I now feel they are part of my character and I’m glad I’ve kept them.

Would you describe yourself as a neo hippie?
Look, stereotypes exist for a reason and I’ve definitely known some dirty weed-smoking hippies with dreadlocks. However, I’m not one myself.

Katie, 26
Has worn dreads for three months

Hey Katie, do you think dreads are for black people?
People automatically assume that dreads are part of the Bob Marley/Rasta culture. But I think they’re a personal choice, and not so much to do with culture. They’re pretty mainstream now: basketball players, singers, they all have dreads.

Why did you get them?
I just wanted dreads since I was a kid, growing up surrounded by surfer girls and guys with blond dreads and stuff. Dreads are soooo convenient. You wash your hair once a week, put in a spray, and that’s all. Actually, I want to get them longer.

What’s the worst comment you received about them?
That people with dreads aren’t hygienic, don’t shower, or wash their hair.

When was the last time you showered?
I shower every day.

Good to know. Now, you told me your mum’s family is Russian and your dad’s side is German. That’s a weird combo for someone who has dreads.
I’m probably the first Germanico-Russian to wear dreads. I reckon I can’t go to Russia. I’ll be stoned in public with this haircut.

Josh, 21

Hey Josh, for how long have you had dreads?
Shoulder length.

What? No—how long have you had dreads?
Oh. Since December last year.

Why did you get them?
Have you ever seen a person with dreads and it hasn't suited them? No, you haven’t. Dreads suit everyone, they're amazing. I love them.

What about Justin Bieber? He looked like a giant mop.
I think they suited him really well. Like, seriously.

Do you think dreads would suit me, with my blasé-pretentious-French face?
I could actually picture you with dreads and it would look amazing. Seriously!

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