So it’s been 9 months and 23 days since I removed my dreadlocks.
I can’t believe it’s been that long.
The people who I haven’t seen in the time I’ve had ‘normal’ hair can’t imagine me without them, and the people I’ve met in the last 10 months can’t imagine me with them.
Okay I apologise this isn’t really travel related but I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and hopefully I’ll not only bust some dreaded myths, but I’ll describe what I’ve learnt about our judgemental and stereotypical world.
What I thought then, and what I know now.
My younger self thought that being different and standing out was the key to success.
My current self knows that it’s not about what you look like, but what you offer to the world and the people around you.
Anyone who has or has had dreadlocks will know that not only is it a hairstyle, but an identity. A part of yourself and a weight that you carry around every day (literally, they’re pretty heavy).
I quickly became known for my dreadlocks and had grown an Instagram following based on my hairstyle (that’s how I started off on Instagram, as a dreadlock page not a travel page).
This is when I started to feel like I belonged, I could help others and spread awareness about thing I care about.
At 17 I became a regular musician on the UK Bournemouth music scene and was earning most of my money playing guitar and singing in bars and at music festivals.
At the time I had very low self confidence and was putting my success down to just standing out and being different. But now I know that in reality it was down to hard work, practice and persistence.
In November 2014 after having my dreadlocks for a few years, I decided to book a one way ticket to New Zealand. There were so many other travellers with dreadlocks and I felt an even bigger sense of belonging. It was easy making friends and I had decided that my hair was a conversation starter.
If I could I would go back in time I would tell my younger self to have confidence in her personality. Stop wearing so much damn makeup everyday, stop hiding behind your hair and please stop thinking that it’s the only thing that makes you interesting.
Okay so let’s fast forward to the removing process.
It was mid September 2016 and New Zealand summer was well on its way. I was working on a boat as a photographer and thanks to the lack of ozone layer the heat was insane. My dreads had become so long and thick it was like wearing a permanent wooly hat. The years of neglect meant that my scalp had become sore and dry. That’s when I removed my first ten. If you’ve never shaved your head it’s something I really recommend, as weird as it sounds the feeling of stroking your own bald head is actually bloody wonderful.
It wasn’t until 22nd July 2017 that I removed my dreadlocks completely.
I was back in England with my family for the first time in three years. I had only two weeks at home and thankfully my mum was willing to help me out. Despite the fact that mum has tried to stop me from getting them in the first place, even she had grown to love them and couldn’t imagine me without them.
We chopped them to shoulder length and I danced around feeling as light as a feather.
It took around 10 hours to remove them and afterwards my hair was a dry frizz ball with years of fluff and dirt stuck inside.
Straight after the last one had been taken out I ran a bath to soak my hair. The tears rolled down my face as I shook my head under water feeling an overwhelming sense of freedom. It’s safe to say when my head touched the pillow that night it was the most comfortable sleep I’d had in years.
Now let’s bust some of those dreaded myths and while we’re at it, hopefully I’ll answer all the questions from my lovely instagram followers.
Do I regret having them?
No. They are still a part of who I am today, they shaped me into the person I wanted to be. They made me understand myself and learn about what self confidence really meant. I had problems with my skin for years and hid under layers of foundation and heavily drawn on eyebrows. Thankfully I don’t hide anymore.
With my new hair came new beginnings, I threw away my foundation at the airport on the way to Australia and haven’t touched any since. My skin cleared up within a week and I have been the happiest I’ve been in years. Getting ready in the morning used to take over an hour and now it takes no more than three minutes.
Do you wash dreadlocks?
Yes, and there are two ways I used to wash mine. Most of the time I would wash them in the shower with non-residue soap (must be non residue as you don’t want them going mouldy). For a deep clean I would fill a bucket with water and bicarbonate soda and soak them. After that I would rinse with apple cider vinegar to balance the PH. They would come out squeaky clean.
Do you have the shave them to remove them?
No. You can coat them in conditioner and tease them apart. Shaving it off it just much quicker!
Are they easy to maintain?
I’ll be honest the first couple of years took a fair amount of maintaining, I used to use a crochet hook to neaten up the roots. But the final years took little to no maintenance at all.
Do you miss them?
Yes and no. I miss being the wild child, having long hair and being different. I felt like my dreads were very photogenic and always looked pretty good in photos and I do miss that. However I don’t miss not being able to scrub my scalp and comb my hair. I definitely don’t miss how long my hair used to take to dry after swimming in the sea. There are so many pros and cons.
Why did you take them out?
There are so many reasons for taking them out. I knew I was moving to Australia and would be swimming in the sea a lot, I knew I would be working on a farm and was genuinely concerned about getting spiders and insects stuck in my hair. During my final year of having dreads the hair got so heavy it had started to pull on my scalp creating a small bald patch, which still hasn’t fully grown back.
But most of all it was the right time in my life to have a change. Change is so important throughout life and I believe it helps us learn and grow as humans.
Do you feel like you have lost uniqueness and originality?
Sadly I do sometimes. I try and remind myself that my fiery soul and goofy personality is much more an asset to my life than a hairstyle.
We are all unique and original because of our very different journeys, thoughts and styles. And what I’ve learnt is that the way you look does not define you.
Were you judged for being a while girl with dreads?
Yes, but surprisingly only by other white girls. In the time I had dreadlocks I explored so much of the world and met so many people from so many different cultures.
Yet the only people who ever judged/ shouted abuse were other white girls and only in my home country, England.
What are your thoughts about cultural appropriation?
Ah I was really avoiding this question but it did come up a few times when I asked my Instagram followers what they would like me to answer. I don’t want to offend anybody so please read this with an open mind, because that was how it was written. These are just my personal thoughts and opinions.
Welcome to 2018 where we can wear what ever hairstyle we want. I wish!
People have always got a problem with other people. Whether white girls are getting dreadlocks or black girls are straightening their beautiful natural afros.
NEWS FLASH – We are all the same, we are all human.
For some the hairstyle has a spiritual or religious meaning, for others it’s just a hairstyle
Dreadlocks are just tangled pieces of hair which have no need for a hairbrush. Personally I think that it’s hard to tell who had them first. Early humans had no tools to brush their hair and most likely wandered around with matted hair.
There is also evidence that twisted locks of hair were documented in Indian cultures as far back as 1800BC. There is also evidence of dreadlocks in ancient Egypt, Vikings, Pacific Islanders, early christians, aborigines, Somali and tribes in Africa.
So the question is, who exactly owns the hairstyle? Answer: nobody/everybody.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you’ve learnt some stuff about dreads.
For those who have dreadlocks and are reading this because they are considering removing them, I hope this helped.
You know where to find me if you have any more questions.
-The Lost Girl