Natty dreadlocks — referring to the natural dreadlocks of many of the members of the Rastafarian religion — is a term used to indicate both someone who adheres to this religious faith as well as the hairstyle itself. Made known through popular Reggae music, the Rastafarian movement and dreadlocked hair are familiar to people around the world. The term natty dreadlocks or natty dread is heard in Reggae music lyrics. It refers to the link between spirituality and dreadlocks in the Rastafarian community. As dreadlocked hair has become increasingly popular around the world, this term differentiates between those wearing it just as a hairstyle and those who grow locks for religious reasons.
The Rastafarian religion developed in Jamaica in the early 1900s. It emphasizes a deep spirituality reflected through lifestyle. Members of the Rastafarian movement eschew much of Western culture, seeing it as the culture of oppression. They wear their hair in natty dreadlocks because it is natural, and to them, represents the independence and strength of their religion and culture. Biblical passages are cited to support the wearing of uncombed and uncut hair.
Dreadlocks, although worn by many Rastafarians, are not worn by all. They are viewed more as a part of the whole Rastafarian lifestyle rather than as a hairstyle and represent the movement’s deep roots and pride in African culture. Rasta dreadlocks are thought be inspired by the Masai and other tribes of Africa. They also symbolize the mane of the Lion of Judah, as seen in the Ethiopian flag. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia is believed to be a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and the lion is seen by the Rastafarians as his symbol.
Many adherents of the Rastafarian religion view the growing of dreadlocks as a spiritual process. It takes years to grow long dreadlocks, and the process involves patience. This is seen as a virtue by the religion. Natty dreadlocks, those who wear the long tangled locks, believe the razor and comb are implements of oppression. By wearing their hair in its natural form, members of the Rastafarian community show their commitment to their beliefs.
Not all who wear dreadlocks are Rastafarian; in fact, very few are. Dreadlocks have become a popular hairstyle and can be found all over the world. Although people of African descent have hair that naturally forms dreadlocks, the hairstyle is also popular among other ethnicities. Special products and hairstylists are frequently used to create and maintain the dreadlocks.