Wednesday , April 24 2024
Difference Between Dreads And Locs

Dreads And Locs: Is There A Difference Between The Two?

Dreads and locks are hairstyles that remind us of rappers and reggae singers such as Bob Marley. They also look cool, and many people actually try to keep their hair as well, with varying levels of success. However, are dreads and locs different? If yes, how are dreads and locs different from each other?

Generally, locs are cultivated, while dreadlocks are not. Dreadlocks also have a religious connotation, as it is related to Rastafarian beliefs. Locs also have a tidier and neater look compared to dreadlocks, which are a lot more natural in appearance. Both are also equally popular.

This article discusses the difference between dreads and locks; We will also discuss related issues about keeping dreads and locks, such as if we can wash them and how long they last.

What Are Dreads?

Dreads are also known as dreadlocks. It is worn by many cultures and civilizations, although it is generally associated with African culture and the Rastafari movement. Dreads also have a darker connection with slavery, which makes the term less acceptable to some; they hairstyle may look unkempt compared to locs.

Dreads are rope-like strands of hair, usually formed by locking or braiding. It is commonly associated with African culture today, but dreadlocks have been around for a very long time. Dreads are also called dreadlocks in full.

Dreads could be seen worn by men back in Ancient Greece, from kouros sculptures from the archaic period. Pre-Spanish Aztec priests are also known to keep dreads, and their dreads are often clotted with blood.

Some Australian aboriginals are also known to sport dreads. The tribes around the North West, North Central, and North East have historically worn their hair in dreads. Some also turn their beards into dreads. The tradition is that these dreads are greased with fat and then coated with red ochre to help form. 

Dreads are also common in India, especially in certain Hindu communities. Dreads are called Jaṭā, and you may see some holy man, Sadhus, wearing them. Sadhus are holy men that follow Shiva. Shiva is one of the major deities worshipped in Hinduism and is also often depicted with dreads.

In the United States, dreads used to be connected to slavery. In fact, the word ‘dreadlock’ comes from the slave trade in the 17th century. As enslaved Africans were brought on ships for long voyages, they could not keep their normal grooming rituals. 

As a result, the hair grows longer, curls, and eventually gets locked. The hair also becomes dirty. This led to many slave owners looking ‘dreadful,’ leading to the name dreadlocks.

However, dreadlocks today are seen as an individual expression and are kept by many, not just African Americans. Dreadlocks are also seen as cool today, as many artists and athletes are also wearing them.

Dreadlocks can be made by backcombing, rolling, or braining. Some can just leave their hair to grow long and tangle up naturally. The hair may look tangled and messy, leading to an unkempt look. As a result, dreadlocks tend to draw polar opposite reactions from people who either love or dislike them. 

Dreads are also popular with Rastafarians, who wear them to signify their connection to the belief and help them to identify each other. 

What Are Locs?

Locs are an African hairstyle. It is similar to dreads, but more actively cultivated, managed, and grown. As a result, it tends to be cleaner and more neatly managed. They are seen as trendier, and the term itself is less associated with slavery, meaning it is more acceptable to African Americans.

Locs are an African type of hairstyle. Locs are created by creating rope-like strands of different widths. It can be done by coiling, braiding, testing, and palm rolling. This makes locs possible for people whose hairs do not form dreadlocks naturally. 

During the process of forming locs, the hair is not combed. Over time, the hair may lock naturally, forming locs. Once locked, it may be possible to unlock, although it may be difficult. 

Locks also carry a spiritual meaning to Africans and also may symbolize status. It may be connected to warriors and also Rastafarianism as well. Locs may have a more African connotation than dreads. 

Within the United States, locs are commonly worn by African Americans and are associated with cultural expressions. Some also see locks as a neater, cleaner version of dreads. As a result, locs are less associated with the history of slavery. 

This makes the term locks much preferred by African Americans, who may not like the word dreads. This is because dreads are connected to the history of slavery. 

You may see three general types of locs, such as comb coils, palm rolling, or braids.

Comb Coils

Comb coils usually involve using a small-tooth comb to twist and tangle small sections of the hair until they form coils.

Palm Rolling

Palm rolling is another technique to form locs, where your hairstylist takes the hair in small sections and then rolls it in their palms to tighten and lock up the hair.


Braids are also known for two-strand twists. You simply form two major groups of hairs and then braid them together by twisting. Cornrows may be a form of locs formed by braiding hairs. This method may work if you have long hair. 

How Do Dreads and Locs Differ?

Generally, dreads and locs differ in popularity, perception, and management. Dreads tend to be used more generally, although, to African Americans, the word is related to slavery. As such, they prefer the term locs. Dreads are seen as more unkempt, while locs are cleaner and neater. Dreads are more natural, while locs tend to be cultivated.

Generally, dreads and locks are not too different from each other and may, in some cases, be interchangeably used. They both come from the same word anyway, dreadlocks. 

However, there are subtle differences that gave rise to these two names. Generally, you may assume that dreads and locs differ in popularity, perception, and management. 


The term dreads are much more popular than locs. This is because the term has been in existence for probably longer than locs. 

As a result, the term dreads or dreadlocks tend to be used more generally. You may see the term dreadlocks being used to describe the hairstyle of Hindu Holy Man such as Sadhus, the Australian Aboriginals, ancient Greek men, or Rastafari people. 

The term locs is less known, as it may be a more recent term. The term may have been created to reduce the connection between dreadlocks and African slavery in America in the 18th century. As a result, African Americans may use the term more than dreads or dreadlocks.


In general, you may assume that the term dreads or dreadlocks tend to be associated more with slavery, dirtiness, and unkemptness. Locs on the other hand may be more related to trends, fashion, and African spiritualism. 

The term dreads or dreadlocks came from 18th-century slavery. Some Africans naturally have hairs that tangle much easier, which means they may need more combing to keep them. When they were on the ships to America, they were not able to do so. 

As a result, when they arrived in America, their hair was long, unkempt, and all locked up. When the enslavers see this, they refer to it as ‘dreadful.’ When you connect the locked hairs with the word ‘dreadful,’ you get the word dreadlocks.

This also connected the term ‘dreads’ and ‘dreadlocks’ with unkempt, tangled, and dirty hair. 

As a result, although the term dreads or dreadlocks are used more generally, it is not a term preferred by African Americans since they suffered more under slavery. Instead, they prefer to use the term ‘locs.’ 

Locs were also given a more positive image and related more to African spiritualism, such as Rastafarianism. Locs are also made to look neater, cleaner, well-kept, and less connected to slavery. 


The biggest difference between dreads and locks is perhaps in the way the hairstyles are managed. Generally, dreadlocks may be much more natural, while locs are usually cultivated. Dreads also take longer to form, while locs may be made by simply visiting a locking salon.

The word ‘cultivated’ here means that the person may need to do some work to create the hairstyle, such as actively tangling the hair or adding extensions to create the locs. Dreads are more natural in that the hairs are either left to tangle naturally or that there is less cultivation to it. 

The active management of locs also made it neater, as individual locks tend to be more even in thickness, shape, and size. Locs also may be cleaned more frequently than dreads. 

On the other hand, dreads are usually hairs left unkempt for so long that they naturally become tangled, locked, and form into locks. The unmanaged and uncultivated nature of dreads also made them uneven in length, shape, and size. 

Dreads also may be less cleaned, especially in the earlier stage, as washing may slow down the tangling process. 

What Are The Pros of Keeping Dreads and Locs?

The pros of keeping dreads and locs may be that you could be seen as trendy and cool in certain circles. The hairstyle may also identify you with spiritual pursuits, such as Rastafarianism and certain Hindu practices. You may have an easier hair care regime.

Fashion Expression

Dreads and locks may be seen as trendy, cool, and fashionable in certain circles; the hairstyle is also connected to hip-hop culture, as the hairstyle has been worn by popular hip-hop and rap artists, such as Rihanna or Snoop Dogg. 

Dreads and locs also made it into professional sports, with many athletes seen wearing hairstyles. Over 100 athletes in the National Football League (NFL) wear dreads and locs, although in general most of these players play in positions that do not get tackled much, such as cornerbacks or safety. 

Dreads and locks also made it into the National Basketball League (NBA), with players like Derrick Rose or Kenyon Martin sporting dreads. Dreads and locs are popular enough that non-African descent players also wear them, for example, Jeremy Lin in 2017. 

However, his decision sparked a war of words, as he was accused of cultural appropriation by Kenyon Martin, an African American player in the NBA. 

Spiritual Connection

People who wear dreads and locs may be identified by many as someone on a spiritual pursuit or identify with certain spiritual movements. For example, many may associate those that wear dreadlocks with Rastafarianism, a spiritual movement connected to Ethiopia and reggae music. 

Dreads and locs may also be connected to Hinduism, as many Sadhus or holy men also sport the hairstyle. Those that sport dreads and locs may also be connected to the worship of Shiva, one of the major Hindu deities. In fact, Shiva is usually depicted wearing dreads and locs.

As such, you may be easily identified by similar people, and you may be able to connect with the community easier. 

Easier Hair Care Regime

On a more practical side, if you keep locs and dreads, you may have an easier hair care regime. This is because maintaining the hairstyle generally requires you to ignore hair care. 

For locs and dreads, you do not cut your hair but let it grow. You do not comb your hair but let it tangle and form locs. You wash your hair less frequently to avoid slowing down the tangling and locking of your hair. 

What Are The Cons of Keeping Dreads and Locs?

The cons of keeping dreads and locs are the generic perception of being dirty and unkempt. Some societies also relate dreads and locs with crime, which may lead you to be a suspect. Dreads and locs are also unprofessional and may not be acceptable in some professional circles.

Dirty and Unkempt

Dreads and locs, as a hairstyle, are kept up by leaving your hair as unkempt and unmanaged as possible. The hair looks tangled, locked, long, and sometimes unkempt.

The look is usually the other extreme end of the hair care regime to many people. Most people cut, wash, and comb their hair regularly and generally keep it straight. 

As a result, many people see dreads and locs as dirty, as they see that the hair may or may not be washable. The hairstyle is also seen as unkempt since the hair is not combed or cut to the point that it just tangled up and formed locks. Some may also equate locks and dreads with the matted hair on their pet dogs.

May Been Seen As Negative

Dreads and locs may be commonly associated with crimes and bad behaviors in society. It does not help that dreads, and locs are commonly worn by people with dark skin. 

In fact, such assumptions and perceptions extend into Africa itself. In Nigeria, dreads and locs are usually associated with gangs and criminal activity, with people with such hairstyles frequently profiled by Nigerian Police.

May Not Be Seen As Professional

Dreads and locs are long and unkempt and may not be well accepted in professional circles. These professional circles tend to be more conservative and value things such as order and stability, such as banking, law, or academia. 

Many also associate dreads and locs with drugs, reggae music, and the general hippie culture. People involved with these cultures may usually be seen as less responsible and dependable, making them a rather unsuitable fit for professional practices.

As such, people with hairstyles may find it hard to be successfully interviewed and accepted for positions within these professions. 

Can You Wash Dreads And Locs?

You can wash your dreads and locs. In fact, when the dreads and locs have matured, you can wash them frequently without worrying that they may detangle. Ordinary shampoos can work, although it is advised that dreads and locs be washed with non-silicon shampoo, which may cause the locks to become heavier. 

Despite the assumption that dreads and locs cannot be washed, that is not true. Dreads and locs can be washed. In fact, if your dreads and locks have matured, you can wash them as frequently as you wish without detangling them. 

You can use any shampoo to wash your dreads or locs. However, opt for softer shampoo that will not strip too many natural oils from your scalp and locs. You also want to avoid shampoo with silicon, as the silicon content may add additional weight to your locs. 

When washing your hair, you want to focus on ensuring the shampoo is applied and massaged onto your scalp, between the locks. You then lightly press and massage the shampoo into the locks and then rinse them away from your hair. 

When your locs or dreads are new, you may not want to wash your hair too often, as you may detangle it. Washing your hair once every 3-4 days is a good idea. Once your lock has matured, you will be able to wash it as frequently as possible without worrying that it may detangle.

Is Locs Permanent?

Locs generally are not permanent in the beginning and may be detangled. However, once it has matured, it is permanent, and the only way to remove it is to shave your head. It may take around 10 months to two years for your locs to be permanent.

Generally, locs are actively made by performing twists, braids, or comb coils to it. This means when these locs first made, they tend to be not permanent, and the hair may still be able to be recovered back to its original style. 

The degree of effort required to untangle your locked hair back to normal may depend on the length and duration of the locked hair. The longer the hair and the longer the locks have been made, the harder it is to untangle them. 

When the locks have matured, it is almost impossible to unlock them, as the individual hair strands have gotten too tangled. The only way to remove locs is to shave your head off. It may take around ten to two years for a loc to mature. 

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