Locs vs. Dreadlocks: Which Term Should You Use?

Locs vs. Dreadlocks: Which Term Should You Use?

Hey, loc fam!

Being part of the natural hair community, you’ve probably heard the terms locs and dreadlocks used to describe curly or kinky strands of hair that are allowed to grow out without cutting or chemically treating them. Many people use the terms dreadlocks and locs interchangeably, but there's a difference between the two. Dreadlocks and locs are different in forming, maintaining, and styling. Let's dig into the differences so you can decide which term is correct for your hair type.

What's the Difference Between Dreadlocks and Locs Anyway?

It’s no surprise that many people confuse dreadlocks and locs. The two words sound a lot alike, but the results are different. But what exactly are they? How are they different from each other? And where do they come from? You can use multiple methods to form locs. Jamila Powell, owner, and founder of Maggie Rose Salon, told Byrdie.com, “You can start locs with a two-strand twist, comb twist, or with an interlocking method. You can also let locs form on their own, which is known as free-form locs.”

Knatty Dread notes, “First, when hair is in dreads, it doesn’t grow straight out and down so that every inch that grows makes the hair an inch longer. Instead, it turns back and forth, weaving through the dread.” This shows that the uniform loc style you may typically see in your everyday life is not dreadlocks but locs. Vic Dicara of Knotty Boy, states, “Left to its own devices, hair will naturally knot together and form mats or “dreadlocks.” Dreadlocks don’t require manipulation to get started. With dreadlocks growing out on their own with no manipulation, it would look similar to Bob Marley’s hair. Whereas singers Halle and Chloe Bailey’s hair would be considered locs because they are more defined and very meticulously maintained.

The History of Dreadlocks

A quick search for the origin of dreadlocks will result in multiple hits from different sources, all of which have a common conclusion: dreadlocks have been around for years among countless civilizations and different people. Chimere Faulk, a natural hair stylist based in Atlanta, GA and owner of Dr. Locs, told  Ebony, “Dreadlocks can be traced to just about every civilization in history. No matter the race, you will find a connection to having dreadlocks for spiritual reasons.” 

Having a spiritual connection to hair is one of the most notable differences between dreadlocks and locs. Jamaican Rastafarians, also known as Rastas, are well known for their religious beliefs and their sacred dreadlocks. The Guardian writes, “During the early days, Rastas, looking for meaning in the Old Testament, found the following passage in Numbers 6:5: "All the days of the vow of separation, no razor shall pass over his head. Until the day be fulfilled of his consecration to the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the hair of his head grow. And so, in emulation of the Nazarites, religious ascetics with whom Rastas identified (they also saw themselves as "chosen ones"), they adopted dreadlocks as a tradition of the movement." As time has evolved, people have adopted the dreadlock hairstyle without taking part in its religious origin.

Dreads or Locs?: The Verdict

If you’re a Rasta or a fan of Rastafarianism and want to pay homage to this religious movement, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the term dreadlocks.  Locs, on the other hand, are not usually associated with any religious practice and tend to be very defined from root to tip.  While some people may use both terms interchangeably, the differences mentioned above should help you determine which term works best. Dreadlocks have quite the history. When people say, “it’s just hair,” that’s not true. Whether you’re rocking locs or dreadlocks, how you wear your hair is a personal decision that everyone should respect.

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