“Locs can be dated back to early civilizations in Egypt, Greece, India, and amongst certain groups of people,” said Tamara Albertini, owner of Ancestral Strands in Brooklyn, NY, she further tells us. “Many ethnic groups of people all over the world wear their hair in locs for spiritual and cultural reasons, from Hindu holy men in India, to Rastafarians in Jamaica and Ethiopia.
the word "dreadlock" is said to originated from Ethiopia. “During the Invasion of Ethiopia and the exile of Emperor Ras Tafari, the gorilla warriors swore not to cut their hair until the emperor was reinstated,” Albertini notes. “It was seen to be a threat to Christianity by the Europeans.
In Rastafari culture, locs are seen symbolically as a natural connection with oneself and the earth. Therefore, manipulation of the hair is discouraged, instead you’re encouraged to let your hair grow freely and without constraint of maintenance and appearance. but the Rastafarians locs were feared and looked at as being disgusting by europeans colonizing Jamaica, which is where the ‘dread’ is also said to originate comes from.”
But the word "dreadlock" became popular with the trans-Atlantic slave trade in full force during the 1600-1800s, Africans brought to America (and other places around the globe) were unable to perform their normal hair grooming practices, and therefore arrived looking unkempt. After traveling months on ships with no hygiene available, it's unsurprising that their hair appeared matted and locked. It's said that slave owners referred to the "dreadful" sight of the captives, thus the term dreadlocks and its negative association became a social norm
Although the matter of who should wear locs is constantly up for debate, the style hasn't historically only been worn by people of African descent. Locs have a long history dating back at least as far as ancient Greece, and have been worn by people of various religions and cultures, including Hindus and ancient Israelites over the years. Regardless, that doesn't mean it's appropriate for people of all cultures to wear locs, particularly without respect to the more recent history of the style.
Nowadays, people are beginning to refer to the style simply as ‘locs’, removing the negative connotation and stigma that has long been attached to the hairstyle.