Are dreadlocks cultural appropriation?

Who gets to wear dreads, and why?

The Overtake
6 min readJun 29, 2018


At six-years-old, I would beg my mother to straighten my hair. Everybody at school asks to touch it, I’d say, bothered by how classmates told me I had fluffy sheep hair. I want straight hair.

Later, as a teen, the Bieber was plastered on every wall, every bus and every screen. It became difficult to embrace the roots of my Caribbean heritage when the white ethnocentric society I lived in did not represent my people.

Then, in college, the curly haired, white-boy look became increasingly popular to the point that I took to my hair with a curling iron to curl my hair more than it naturally needed. How come when they do it it’s nice, but when I do it it’s ugly? When hairstyles seem meant only for white people, people of colour end up going to a lot of work to feel like they fit in. But when white people adopt something they previously did not care for, it causes debate.


Though used by people of all races and religions, it is considered cultural appropriation for white people to wear dreadlocks. Why?

Dreadlocks are rope-like strands of hair formed by matting or braiding; ways to achieve this style include the twist and rip, backcombing, rolling, the crochet hook method and the “neglect” technique, from which derives the Western perspective that dreadlocks form from unwashed hair — just one way the ethnic identity has been lambasted by the white figure without an attempt to understand it.

This style has been worn for thousands of years, and in the last couple of decades, the trend has grown among white people after being popularised by hippie counterculture of the ’60s and ‘70s.

But, when somebody styles their hair this way, it is more than a trend. It’s heavily rooted in history and along with it comes context and entire civilisations.

Some people feel dreadlocks belong to specific cultures

This argument is simplified on Twitter; the dread is heavily associated with black identity and the cultural appropriators are white people. Though this is an uncomplicated narrative, it is only one of numerous examples of why white people should not wear their hair this way. African-American culture, for example, has been heavily criticised for years for their use…



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