Caribbean Image: Dreadlocks

Go Lean Commentary

Dread Locks“You don’t get a second chance for a first impression” – Old Adage.

Think quick! A family member is involved in a traumatic accident and is rushed to emergency surgery. The surgeon comes out to greet you; he is wearing dreadlocks. How confident are you of his surgical skills? On a scale of 1-to-10, are you anywhere near a 10? Is it the dreadlocks? Without the surgeon speaking a word, what are the chances he is of Caribbean heritage?

This scenario depicts why image is so impactful in the management of Caribbean economic and cultural affairs.

Caribbean image is in crisis! Many people (not a majority) in the region, despite their occupation, wear dreadlocks. As stated in the encyclopedic reference below, these “locks” can be an expression of deep religious or spiritual convictions, ethnic pride, a political statement, or be simply a fashion preference.

Consider the above medical drama again, but now substitute a Sikh Indian turban, or a Jewish yarmulke (beanie hat), or an taqiyah (Muslim beanie cap). Look, there is little question of competence or defamation in these scenarios, despite their religious connotations. Consider this …

… Encyclopedia Definition:

Dreadlocks, also called locks, dreads, or Jata (Hindi), are matted coils of hair. Most dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing. Additionally, leaving long hair to its own devices by not brushing or cutting the hair will encourage it to tangle together as it grows, leading to twisted, matted ropes of hair known as dreadlocks. The latter method is typically referred to as the neglect, natural, organic, or freeform method. A common misconception is that those who have dreadlocks do not wash their hair, but this is usually not the case. Many dreadlock care regimens require the wearer to wash their hair up to twice a week.[1]

Dreadlocks are associated most closely with the Rastafari movement, but people from many ethnic groups have worn dreadlocks, including many ancient Hamitic people of North Africa and East Africa (notably the Oromo of Ethiopia, and the Maasai of northern Kenya); Semitic people of West Asia; Indo-European people of Europe and South Asia (notably the ancient Spartan warriors of Greece, and the Sadhus of India and Nepal); Turkic people of Anatolia and Central Asia; the Sufi Rafaees; and the Sufi malangs and fakirs of Pakistan. Some Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon were also known to have worn locks as described in paleolithic cave art in Europe, perhaps for spiritual reasons.

Dread locks #4

The book Go Lean … Caribbean recognizes that image is an important intangible factor that must be managed to optimize value of Caribbean contributions. As such the book is submitted as a complete roadmap to advance the Caribbean economy and culture with the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This will be the sentinel for “Image”.

The CU strives to improve image & impressions that the world gets of Caribbean life/people. Sometimes, the “world” only needs the facts. There is no agenda to curb freedoms of speech or the press, but there are many opportunities to elevate the impressions that the wide-world gets of the Caribbean, including dreadlock hair styles.

Consider the experiences of an actor on

Q. Can actors with dreads get a lot of work in Hollywood?

My cousin has dreads that are at his neck and wants to become an movie or tv star, he is a very good actor and has even won a few local awards for his performances, but he does NOT wanna play a gang member or drug dealer or any role like that, just the normal roles, how likely is that?

A1. “Starry Eyed Fred” answered – 4 years ago
“[So] he does NOT wanna play a gang member or drug dealer or any role like that. Guess what? You/he have already pretty much answered the question… dudes with dreads are ‘typecast’ as mentioned above: his looks are going to be what gets him auditions for specific roles, such as “a gang member or drug dealer or any role like that”.

A2. “wickedjacob” answered – 4 years ago
Anyone who is serious about becoming an actor is going to have to be prepared to change their appearance to fit the role. So even though he might have dreads right now, there will come a time sooner or later where a job will require that they be cut off.

A3. “Me not you” answered – 4 years ago
He might get roles because of his talent, but they will probably make him cut his hair if its not appropriate for the part.

(Source: Retrieved May 10, 2014 from: 20100617064412AARJkBh)

The Go Lean roadmap has a heavy focus on media. The plan calls for consolidating the 42 million residents of the region, despite the 4 languages, into a Single Market. This size allows for some leverage and economies-of-scale, fostering a professional media industry. This allows the CU to electronically send our culture to the world, 10 million-strong Diaspora first, controlling the image and impressions that the world gets of Caribbean life and people. Consider more of the encyclopedia definition here:


Dread Locks #2The first known examples of dreadlocks date back to North Africa and the Horn of Africa. In ancient Egypt examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs have appeared on bas-reliefs, statuary and other artifacts[2]. Mummified remains of ancient Egyptians with locks, as well as locked wigs, have also been recovered from archaeological sites.[3]

Maasai men found in the regions of northern Kenya claim that they have been wearing dreadlocks for as long as they have survived. According to their oral history, the Maasai originated from the lower Nile valley north of Lake Turkana (Northwest Kenya) and began migrating south around the 15th century, arriving in a long trunk of land stretching from what is now northern Kenya between the 17th and late 18th century. Even today, Maasai men can be found donning their dreadlocks, with a tint of red color from the soil.

The Hindu deity Shiva and his followers were described in the scriptures as wearing “Jataa”, meaning “twisted locks of hair”. The Greeks and several ascetic groups within various major religions have at times worn their hair in locks, including the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazirites of Judaism, Qalandari Sufi’s, the Sadhus of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, among others. The very earliest Christians also may have worn this hairstyle. Particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, first Bishop of Jerusalem, who is said to have worn them to his ankles.[4]

Pre-Columbian Aztec priests were described in Aztec codices (including the Durán Codex, the Codex Tudela and the Codex Mendoza) as wearing their hair untouched, allowing it to grow long and matted.[5]

In Senegal, the Baye Fall, followers of the Mouride movement, a Sufi movement of Islam founded in 1887 by Shaykh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, are famous for growing locks and wearing multi-colored gowns.[6] Cheikh Ibra Fall, founder of the Baye Fall school of the Mouride Brotherhood, popularized the style by adding a mystic touch to it. It’s important to note that for centuries warriors among the Fulani, Wolof and Serer in Mauritania, and Mandinka in Mali and Niger were also known to have dreadlocks when old and cornrows when young.


There are many reasons among various cultures for wearing locks. Locks can be an expression of deep religious or spiritual convictions, ethnic pride, a political statement, or be simply a fashion preference. In response to the derogatory history of the term dreadlocks, an alternative name for the style is locks (sometimes spelled “locs”).

Africa and the Western World; Caribbean, North and South America

Members of various African ethnic groups wear locks and the styles and significance may change from one group to another.

Maasai warriors are famous for their long, thin, red locks. Many people dye their hair red with root extracts or red ochre. In various cultures what are known as shamans, spiritual men or women who serve and speak to spirits or deities, often wear locks. In Nigeria[7], some Yoruba children are born with naturally locked hair and are given a special name: “Dada”. Yoruba priests of Olokun, the Orisha of the deep ocean, wear locks. Another group is the Turkana people of Kenya.

Rastafarian’s locks are symbolic of the Lion of Judah which is sometimes centered on the Ethiopian flag. Rastafari hold that Haile Selassie is a direct descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, through their son Menelik I.


Dread Locks #3Similarly, among some Sadhus and Sadhvis, Hindu holy men and women, locks are sacred, considered to be a religious practice, an expression of disregard for profane vanity. The public symbol of matted hair, known as jata, is re-created each time an individual goes through these unique experiences. In almost all myths about Shiva and his flowing locks, there is a continual interplay of extreme asceticism and virile potency, which link the elements of destruction and creation, whereas the full head of matted hair symbolizes the control of power. Gangadhara Shiva captures and controls the river Ganges with his locks, whose descent from the heavens would have deluged the world. The river is released through the locks of his hair, which

prevents the river from destroying earth. As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, which is the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and resolved. Shiva’s long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a kind of pyramid, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.

Locks in South Asia are reserved nearly exclusively for holy people. According to the ‘Hymn of the longhaired sage’ in the ancient Vedas, long jatas express a spiritual significance which implies the wearer has special relations with spirits, is an immortal traveler between two worlds and the master over fire:

The long-haired one endures fire, the long-haired one endures poison, the long-haired one endures both worlds. The long-haired one is said to gaze full on heaven, the long-haired one is said to be that light … Of us, you mortals, only our bodies do you behold. …For him has the Lord of life churned and pounded the unbendable, when the long-haired one, in Rudra’s company, drank from the poison cup (The Keshin Hymn, Rig-veda 10.136)

The Shaiva Nagas, ascetics of South Asia, wear their jatas in a twisted knot or bundle on top of the head and let them down only for special occasions and rituals. The strands are then rubbed with ashes and cow dung, considered both sacred and purifying, then scented and adorned with flowers.


Within Tibetan Buddhism and other more esoteric forms of Buddhism, dreadlocks have occasionally been substituted for the more traditional shaved head. The most recognizable of these groups are knowns as the Ngagpas of Tibet. For many practicing Buddhists, dreadlocks are a way to let go of material vanity and excessive attachments.[8]

Western Styles

When reggae music gained popularity and mainstream acceptance in the 1970s, the locks (often called “dreads”) became a notable fashion statement; they were worn by prominent authors, actors, athletes and rappers, and were even portrayed as part of gang culture in such movies as Marked for Death. Dreadlocks aren’t always worn for religious or cultural reasons. People may wear them just for “style” which is primarily popular among the youth.

With the Rasta style in vogue, the fashion and beauty industries capitalized on the trend. A completely new line of hair care products and services in salons catered to a White clientele, offering all sorts of dreadlocks hair care items such as wax (considered unnecessary and even harmful by many)[9], shampoo, and jewelry. Hairstylists created a wide variety of modified locks, including multi-colored synthetic lock hair extensions and “dread perms”, where chemicals are used to treat the hair.

Locked models appeared at fashion shows, and Rasta clothing with a Jamaican-style reggae look was sold. Even exclusive fashion brands like Christian Dior created whole Rasta-inspired collections worn by models with a variety of lock hairstyles.

In the West, dreadlocks have gained particular popularity among counterculture adherents such as hippies (from the 1990s onwards), crust punks, New Age travellers, goths and many members of the Rainbow Family. Many people from these cultures wear dreadlocks for similar reasons: symbolizing a rejection of government-controlled, mass-merchandising culture or to fit in with the people and crowd they want to be a part of. Members of the cybergoth subculture also often wear blatantly artificial synthetic dreads or “dreadfalls” made of synthetic hair, fabric or plastic tubing.

Since the rise of the popularity of dreadlocks, Blacks in the Americas have developed a large variety of ways to wear dreadlocked hair. Specific elements of these styles include the flat-twist, in which a section of locks are rolled together flat against the scalp to create an effect similar to the cornrows, and braided dreadlocks. Examples include flat-twisted half-back styles, flat-twisted mohawk styles, braided buns and braid-outs (or lock crinkles). Social networking websites, web forums, web-logs and especially online video-logs like YouTube have become popular methods for people with dreadlocks to transmit ideas, pictures and tutorials for innovative styles.

The book Go Lean … Caribbean introduces the CU to take oversight of’ much of the Caribbean economic, security and governing functionality. In summary, this roadmap promotes the Caribbean as a better place to live, work and play. We must therefore change the opinions of the world towards dreadlock-wearing Caribbean people. Jobs are at stake; jobs in the Caribbean homeland (and maybe jobs in foreign locales for the Diaspora). We need Foreign Direct Investors to be comfortable with industrial engagements in the region, knowing that the workforce is there, ready, willing and able to work, competently and confidently.

Change has come to the Caribbean. The people, institutions and governance of the region are all urged to “lean-in” to this roadmap for change. We need to educate and persuade people – everywhere -that there is excellence among Caribbean people; that a tropical accent or “locks” hairstyle does not automatically dictate sub-standard quality. The benefits of this roadmap, emergence of an $800 Billion regional economy and 2.2 million new jobs, become imperiled if business cannot proceed because domestic/foreign stakeholders have uncontested preconceived negative biases. This, image management, is among the community ethos the CU targets for elevation. The following list also details the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to optimize the region’s image:

Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact Turn-Arounds Page 33
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Caribbean Core Competence Page 58
Separation of Powers – Tourism and Film Promotion Page 78
Separation of Powers – Communications and Media Page 79
Separation of Powers – Truth & Reconciliation Courts Page 90
Implementation – Ways to Impact Social Media Page 111
Implementation – Trade Mission Objectives Page 116
Implementation –  Ways to Benefit from Globalization Page 119
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage Image Page 133
Advocacy – Improve Failed-State Indices Page 134
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Leadership Page 171
Advocacy – Ways to Enhance Tourism Page 190
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Hollywood Page 203
Advocacy – Ways to Preserve Caribbean Heritage Page 218

The foregoing encyclopedic source conveys that many cultures around the world practice the hair-grooming habits of locks, this should not just be a Caribbean image issue – but it is what it is. So change is needed on the world stage; not the change of hairstyles, but rather changes to the world’s impression of the hairstyle.

There is reason to believe that these empowerment efforts can be successful. The Go Lean roadmap conveys how single causes/advocacies have successfully been forged throughout the world (Page 122 – Anatomy of Advocacies). We, in the Caribbean, can do the same; we can succeed in our advocacy to improve the Caribbean image. 🙂

Download the e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – free … now!


Appendix – Citation References

In general: Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia – Retrieved 05-10-2014

1. “Making, growing, maintaining, and understanding dredlocks”; retrieved 16 July 2012 from

2. “Image of Egyptian with locks”. retrieved 9 May 2014 from

3. Egyptian Museum -“Return of the Mummy. Toronto Life – 2002.” Retrieved 01-26-2007 from:

4. Glazier, Stephen D., Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0-415-92245-3, ISBN 978-0-415-92245-6, p. 279.

5. Berdán, Frances F. and Rieff Anawalt, Patricia (1997). The Essential Codex Mendoza. London, England: University of California Press. pp 149.

6. “Locs By Yannie – The History of Locs and Rastas”. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from

7. “Dada or dreds”. “…the word ‘dreads’ is of Jamaican origin and was used to refer to the Rasta men who people feared and ‘dreaded.’”. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from:

8. The Dreadlocks Treatise: On Tantric Hairstyles in Tibetan Buddhism. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from

9. Beeswax Dreadlocks Controversy. Retrieved from

10. Photo Credit – Actor Uti Nwachukwu –

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